Go to Bed Angry
(originally posted on my blog on August 18, 2010)
The worst piece of wedding advice we received is simple. Never go to bed angry.
I'm convinced that this bit of advice was either given by people who are now divorced or by people who are really bad fighters. You know the kind. The couple who consider a discussion on who will do the dishes an actual argument, the people who never raise their voices and avoid confrontation at all costs. These people aren't good fighters.
Great fighters know this is really bad advice. Those of us who are good at raising our voices, hurling out past misdeeds and dragging extended family into the mix, can attest to the misguided and malicious nature of this advice.
You see, I was raised by a champion debater who coached a champion debate team. I know how to argue. I can be stubborn and loud. I'm pretty quick with a sarcastic retort and sadly, I have a good memory about things I should probably forget. Mix that with my husband, who is just as skilled in all these areas, throw in the advice "don't go to bed angry" and you have a recipe for a long and miserable night.
Here's the deal. If we're not going to go to bed angry, well, we just won't go to bed at all.
It didn't take too many knock-down, drag-out, all-night brawls for us to realize that this was just plain bad advice. Who wants to go to work the next day with tired, puffy eyes and a sleep-deprived headache? Who can afford to call in sick any time there's a marital disagreement? We discovered that for us, we were better off going to bed angry, getting a good night's sleep and then getting up a little calmer, a little more rational and a little less stupid.
So what advice do I give when the advice notebook is passed around or Aunt Susan's video camera is pointed at your face, waiting for a piece of marital counsel?
If you're fighting at bedtime (or anywhere close to it), go to bed, get a good night's sleep, and face the disagreement with a calm head in the bright light of day.
I think this is true of disagreements with our children, as well. There needs to be a cooling off period (whether that period is a night of sleep or just a little distance between the dissenting people) so we're reacting to the problem and not the person.
Emotions are important and powerful things. We feel the spirit through our emotions. But often, an emotional reaction--especially emotions like anger, frustration, resentment, and disappointment--needs to be tempered and a little time and rest is good for that.