The old adage of not going to bed angry has been passed down through generations as one of the biggest keys to marital/relational success. Many people have plastered on fake smiles and pressed down their emotions for the sake of appearing not-angry before going to bed. Others have fought mercilessly through the night to hash it all out, for the sake of not going to bed angry. Yet, relationships don’t seem to have benefited from these practices. So…
Why Can’t I Just Go to Bed Angry?
For those who don’t have the time to read this entire post, here is the short answer. You can go to bed angry if you’re smart about it. Wait… what? Yeah. Kindly, read on… please. LOL
First, why is the advice so popular? In short, going to bed angry means you’re going to bed with unresolved issues that preoccupy your mind and rob you of good sleep. The feelings continue to brew inside and create animosity towards the person you’re supposed to love.
In reality, people have been going to bed in various moods for as long as humans have been humans. It could be because the boss gave us something we don’t care for, or we discovered a bill that’s going to seriously hurt our savings, or our favorite team got the short end of a bad umpire call. No one talks about those circumstances and push the “don’t go to bed angry” message for these circumstances.
What is really going on with this advice?
Going to bed harboring ill feelings towards your partner is what is to be avoided. That’s really the point of the advice. We don’t tend to spread the advice to the person who cut us off on the highway simply because it’s understood that you’re eventually going to let that go.
In a relationship, we deal with our partners on a regular basis. We can’t disentangle ourselves very quickly from our connection. Holding on to ill feelings, like grudges or spite, creates the groundwork that can lead to a failed relationship.
Besides the obvious health concerns, like elevated stress hormones hurting our bodies, going to bed holding a grudge often means our minds are busy plotting a solution in our sleep to resolve this. Remember, the mind will work quietly in the background looking to resolve things. If your mind feels that you feel your partner is a threat to you, an enemy, your mind will look for ways to get rid of the threat. (think in terms of what evolutionary psychologist will say)
On one hand, you claim to love this person and want them in your life, but on the other hand, you’re holding serious negative feelings about them… the human mind weighs negative stimuli as more important than positive ones… think… the rattle snake versus a cake… your mind is going to focus on the snake any day any time with much greater set of resources and motivation.
Going to bed angry, as in holding negative feelings like grudges, gives your mind the permission to find ways to exit that relationship. Soon, you’ll become extra aware of their shortcomings, like how loudly they chew or breathe, and get highly irritated. Fights will be more easily triggered. The desire to leave the relationship seems a lot clearer and louder.
This could be easily avoided if we don’t go to bed holding grudges. To be angry is one thing, to want harm is another. We’re not talking major harm either.
“I can’t believe he’s such a jerk! Sometimes I wish I was with another man”
“I can’t believe she would do this to me just to hurt me out of spite. One day I’ll teach her”
“Just when I was starting to make progress, they had to tear me down with this unnecessary issue”
“If only they loved me, they’d know this hurts. But no, it’s just like them to stick it to me like this”
So… I’m angry, now what?
Being angry is just an emotional indicator that something isn’t working with you… on a big scale. We get angry when things are done wrong, harm is directed towards us, values are broken, security is threatened. We are preparing our bodies to respond in a big way to whatever is perceived as a threat. That’s the primary reason for anger. There are plenty of other reasons to be angry, but most of them play off the primary reason.
Pop psychology will recommend that someone process their anger immediately and directly. That may work well on paper, but not everyone is wired that way. Plus, when angry, self-control is a bit harder to maintain and a lot of damages have been created from acting or speaking in anger.
In the case of this post, if one finds themselves about to go to bed angry, the simplest thing to do is acknowledge the anger. Then, setting some kind of framework to address it will be as sufficient next step. It can easily look like this:
“Babe, I’m feeling pretty angry right now. I don’t want to talk. Our relationship is fine. I’d rather address this tomorrow afternoon. Is that cool with you?” (taken from the perspective of a man speaking to his lady)
What this is essentially doing is acknowledging the anger, giving your mind a means of classifying it. Then, setting a framework to address the sentiments. This allows for time to settle in and let cooler heads prevail. Plus, your mind won’t be looking for a solution to the “threat” in the middle of the night because the framework already addressed that… for the next afternoon.
This shifts things from raw anger to just intense feelings with a plan. The partner is no longer the threat but the partner who is staying at a greater distance so you can cool off.
The appropriate answer to that question would be… “OK. We can talk tomorrow”. Obviously, there are other ways to express this. The point is… there is acknowledgment and the problem is not being swept under. There is a plan. There was communication. There is an understanding.
Now, when you’re going to sleep, you’re not fuming in anger, but cooling off to a better place to address whatever caused the anger in the first place.
It’s not realistic to believe one will never go to bed angry. I’m one who prefers to avoid conflicts. I’ve gone to bed angry before. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s unavoidable. Your partner will inevitably do something to anger you. However, I’ve learned to not hold it negatively against them. My anger is just a signal that one of my values was crossed.
With this key mindset, I’m able to cool off, take a bit of distance, sort out my thoughts and feelings, and then return under much cooler perspectives to address what happened.
Believe it or not, many times, the misunderstanding is half one’s fault. We may have misread what took place. If we go on the attack, they’re going to defend, and we both get nowhere fast. But if we come back, after cooling off, to gather information and ask for help in understanding what took place, we’re gaining their support. Once the problem is well identified, we work the solution we need to work out.
There is a whole lot more that can be said on this topic, but the bottom line, one will eventually go to bed feeling angry towards their partner. Chances are good that it will happen on a night when sorting it out in the moment won’t work. This is when we rise up to our highest level of conduct and call a truce. Set a time to return. And then, cool off quietly.
It’s easier to calm down when there is acknowledgment of an issue with a plan to address it in the near future. Sleep will then be a lot easier to reach.
If one has an issue that’s been festering, instead of waiting longer, address the feelings, and set up a time to slowly unwrap what’s going on. Of course, we can always dive deeper into this in another post if you’d like. Just click like, and/or leave a comment below.
For now, this perspective was brought to you by the committee responsible for encouraging your love to bloom in good and challenging times. Have a great rest of week.
This blog post is for entertainment purposes and does not constitute any advice. Should the reader feel in need of counsel, please seek proper qualified professional guidance to keep your romance healthy. All comments below, for those so moved, should also be viewed from an entertainment perspective instead of qualified professional advice.