When you think of cliché relationship advice, it’s hard to beat the adage of “Never go to bed angry.” It might sound idyllic, but when you find yourselves still hashing out an argument at 2am you might start to wonder if it’s advice worth following.
Every couple is different, so if this rule works of you, that’s great! If it doesn’t, you’re not alone. In fact, there are times when going to bed angry – or with unresolved conflict – is okay. In fact, it might actually be in your relationship’s best interest. Let’s explore.
1. When you’re tired
If you're already sleep-deprived, staying up late to try to resolve an argument probably isn’t the most productive choice. Many people aren’t at their best when they’re lacking sleep, and if you’re both exhausted, conflict resolution skills might start to degrade. Your patience and empathy might be wearing thin, making it difficult to really communicate with each other in the way you want to. Getting a good night’s rest can help you feel fresh and ready to restart your discussion.
2. When you’re emotionally flooded
When strong emotions have taken over, your rational problem-solving side is not going to be at its strongest. This is when you are most at risk to say things you might later regret. Trying to resolve things in this state might seem like a long shot. When you could both use some time to cool off, getting some shut-eye could be the answer. However, you’ll want to keep in mind the caveats at the end of this post.
3. When you’re going in circles
If you’ve come to an impasse, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a step back to clear your head. This can help you gain some much-needed perspective and open your mind up to new solutions. Agree to get some rest and set a time to pick up the discussion again. You might find you’re able to come to a quick resolution after you’ve both had time to zoom out, see the bigger picture, and consider each other’s perspectives.
4. When you need more time to process
Forcing yourselves to work through a conflict when one or both of you are still processing your feelings or the situation itself is sort of like trying to flip a pancake too soon – it can turn into a mess. Giving yourselves the space to sort through emotions can help you both be primed for a more level-headed discussion.
A couple of caveats
- If you’re too upset or anxious to fall asleep (or get quality sleep), it’s probably helpful to get to a point where your mind is more at ease. Even if the issue is not resolved, do what you need to do to be able to get some good rest – maybe that is hugging it out for a few minutes, letting each other know it’ll be okay, or decompressing with a book for a few minutes before crawling into bed.
- Communication is always key. Don’t just stalk off to bed without letting your spouse know you need some time or space. Be respectful and empathetic of each other’s needs, too.
- Going to bed angry or with unresolved conflict does not mean putting it off indefinitely or avoiding/forgetting the issue. Whenever possible, try to verbally agree on a specific time to pick up where you left off. If you need to jot down notes to help you remember things you want to bring up, go for it. Knowing that you’re both invested in working through your conflicts – even if it takes more than one day – can provide a sense of security and reinforce your commitment to each other.