We’ve all heard it…the relationship advice “never go to bed angry.” It seems like good advice, right? Well, yes and no. Mostly no.
The only reason I say yes is because it’s possible to go to bed without resolving an argument and NOT be angry. If you know the problem is going to be resolved eventually and you remember that you and your partner are on the same team in life (yes, even when you disagree), you can let go of that anger and sleep like a baby.
Though I guess technically you still aren’t going to bed angry. You are just going to bed with an unresolved issue with your partner. However, I digress and that is not really the point of this article anyway.
What IS the point is that it’s actually better NOT to try to resolve a problem when you are both angry. In fact, if you’re trying to follow the advice of never go to bed angry, you may actually have a harder time resolving conflict in a relationship.
Never Go to Bed Angry: Why That Advice May Make Things Worse
When you try to follow the advice of never go to bed angry to resolve conflict in a relationship when you’re heated, having a calm and productive conversation can be difficult. This is especially true if one or both of you is angry to the point of being emotionally flooded.
What is emotional flooding? Being emotionally flooded is a physiological response to danger that occurs during emotionally charged conversations.
During this response, your brain sends a signal to your body that danger is near and to be on alert in case you need to fight or flee. As a result, your heart rate increases and your blood starts flowing to your muscles to increase strength and reflexes. However, being emotionally flooded also means blood is flowing away from your brain; reducing your capacity to modulate your emotions and think clearly.
Now does that sound like a good time to have a fight with your partner when you can’t control your emotions or make rational, logical decisions? Probably not.
If you’ve ever wondered how your fights escalate and get out of control so quickly, you are probably continuing to fight past the point of emotional flooding. But don’t worry! There are solutions to this issue that work better than the age-old advice, “never go to bed angry.”
Why Taking a Break May Be Better Than Trying To Never Go to Bed Angry
The solution to the problem of arguing when one or both of you is emotionally flooded is the structured timeout process.
When you or your partner is experiencing emotional flooding, insteading of storming out, slamming doors and refusing to talk, ask for a time out and agree to come back to the conversation when you’re feeling calmer.
When you do this in a structured way – with a clear end point – your partner won’t feel like you are abandoning the situation and you’ll be able to continue the conversation in a much more productive way.
Here are some simple tips for making a structured time out work when resolving conflict in a relationship:
- Recognize that you’re feeling emotionally flooded and let your partner know.
- Clearly state that you need a break to calm down so you can have a better conversation.
- Agree on a time to return to the conversation, with a recommended minimum of 20 minutes and maximum of 24 hours.
- If you asked for the break, it’s your responsibility to re-initiate the conversation when the time out is done.
While you’re taking this break, make sure to focus on activities that will actually calm you down, instead of just sitting around thinking about how much of a jerk your partner is. Try meditation, go for a walk or a run or even just take some deep breaths.
And don’t forget – if you were the one who asked for the break it’s up to you to re-start the conversation once you’re feeling calmer!
Getting Help Instead of Following The Advice of Never Go To Bed Angry
Need more help with resolving conflict in your relationship that doesn’t follow the advice of “never go to bed angry?” Couples Learn can help!
Check out this video with Couples Learn founder Dr. Sarah Schewitz that explores how to recognize when you are emotionally flooded and how to stop your fights from getting so out of control.
And if you want to learn more ways to improve communication and conflict management, online couples therapy or online individual therapy with Couples Learn could help! Contact us to schedule a free 30 minute consultation today!
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