An Old Adage
You know the “Advice for the Bride and Groom” (or Bride and Bride or Groom and Groom) table at most weddings or bridal showers? It’s the place where all the guests fill out a card with advice for the new couple, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that the advice that is most written on those cards is the old adage “Never go to bed angry.” We’re going to talk today about why that’s a load of junk and why it can be necessary for a healthy relationship to table resolutions for another day.
The Old Way – Going to Bed Angry
I’ve been fortunate enough to go through a divorce and find a second chance at creating a life together with someone new. That first week or two after divorce though? Pure torture. It was as if I had a crystal ball in my head, and my recollection of all the things I did wrong in my relationship were floating in and out of the forefront of my mind.
All of these memories were a painful reminder of my failed marriage. But they also created an intense resolve in me to learn from my mistakes and be intentional in all parts of any future relationship I chose to be in. I remember being so eager post-divorce to have the opportunity to show myself that I can learn from past relationship mistakes. Luckily, I’ve found that chance!
I met my partner about a year after my divorce, and the first few months, as usual, were like living on cloud-nine. Actually, it still is like living on cloud-nine, but there were just those extra butterflies that come with the realization that you’ve met your soul-mate. (No, I didn’t believe in soul-mates before meeting him. Yes, now I do!) Feelings intensified, we had some unique circumstances, and we ended up moving in together about five months in.
The feelings stayed intense, life with him felt amazing, and both of us were doing our best to intentionally choose each other every day. Add in six kids and blending our families, and we had a house filled with excitement, energy, and love. And then it happened – our first disagreement.
I can’t tell you what we were disagreeing about because I don’t remember. What I do remember is that he wasn’t ready to talk about it just yet. He let me know he was trying to process his feelings in his mind, and he didn’t want to discuss our disagreement until he had a better handle on his role in the argument. He would let me know when he was ready. This was at bedtime, so we both went to bed – that’s to say, we went to bed angry.
I didn’t sleep. ALL the feelings of failure came rushing into me. I kept thinking “We shouldn’t be going to bed angry” because I had heard that all of my life. I still had the resolve to make better relationship choices this time. And I wanted to make the right choices every time there was an opportunity. I didn’t want to fall into a habit of being upset with each other, and I especially didn’t want to be on opposite sides of the bed at night, ensuring not even a toe grazed each other under the covers.
I felt like our relationship was crashing because we weren’t in sync before going to sleep. This is a good time to note that these intense, irrational feelings after divorce are extremely common. It’s almost like your brain is going into overdrive to protect you from all the hurt you’ve already gone through. It was NOT helping me at that moment!! I just wanted to shake him awake and tell him he HAD to talk to me because we just couldn’t go to bed angry. We would feel so much better if we resolved our issues that night. My mind raced all night, and I barely slept.
As I said, I don’t even remember what the disagreement was about. I do know that we resolved it the next day, and we moved on. I visited with my therapist about the scenario. I knew that I was hyper-reacting, but I also wanted to know what is really healthy in a relationship when it comes to going to bed with unresolved issues. Our conversation was amazing.
The New Way – Going to Bed With Love
My therapist and I talked about how important it is for me to know that I am giving my relationship my ALL. I can be at peace when I know I am doing the very best I can at any given moment to improve on my weaknesses, grow in my understanding of myself, and consistently honor my own feelings. I’m also at peace when I know that I am loving him from a place of abundance and expecting nothing in return, and when I acknowledge that my efforts towards loving him are intentional.
We talked about going to bed angry. And this is where the real “aha moment” clicked for me. My partner had told me he was trying to make sense of our disagreement. He set a boundary for me, and it was in place to protect both of us. He knew he wasn’t ready to calmly process through our argument with me quite yet because he hadn’t processed through it all on his own.
By practically demanding a resolution from him in my mind before falling asleep, I was reassuring myself of all untrue feelings. I felt like he must not love me if he couldn’t even resolve what really was a small issue with me. He was really telling me that he loves me so much that he wanted to resolve our argument when we were both in a place of seeing the disagreement more clearly and with fewer emotions clouding our minds. What he was really saying was “It’s ok if we go to bed angry.”
My therapist painted a beautiful picture in my mind that day, and it’s something that we’ve put into practice in our relationship since then.
“Go to bed angry,” she said. “But before you go to sleep, reach out and hold his hand.”
It really was that “aha moment” for me when she counseled this. Going to bed angry does NOT mean going to bed without love. When we are in disagreement, we can still do ALL of the things we do when we are more in sync. We can also hold space for each other to process through the disagreement so we can become ready to work through it together. While we may not fall asleep cuddling each other like we usually do, we can fall asleep with a hand touching and KNOWING that whatever the disagreement may be, it is NOT bigger than our commitment to each other.
Being in a disagreement does not need to be all the things that we hear about. We don’t need to give each other the silent treatment until we resolve our argument. We don’t have to scream. We don’t have to talk negatively about the other person to others. We don’t have to sleep on opposite sides of the bed or in another bed altogether. We don’t have to steer clear of each other throughout the day. We don’t have to “agree” with each other just to make the problem go away while simultaneously continuing to hold resentment.
Being in a disagreement is a time for you to trust your own instincts, but do so with intention instead of out of reaction. Maybe you need some time to yourself. Maybe you need to journal your thoughts to help organize them. Maybe you could use a long walk and fresh air. Listen to your heart, head, and body to see what it’s telling you, and then do that.
Time went on and my partner and I had another disagreement. I don’t remember what it was about. I do remember that we weren’t ready to talk about it when we went to bed. I also reassured myself that we would resolve it when we were both ready.
I got on my side. He got on his. We both hugged the edge of our sides of the bed. We were under the same covers, but not a part of us was touching. I sat in my thoughts for a while. He sat in his. I was sad and frustrated, and I think he was too.
And then I rolled over and reached out my hand. He reached his back towards mine. His touch on my fingers felt exactly how I want love to feel to me. It felt tangible, real, heavy, and intentional. Our eyes met, my heart calmed, and I felt his love for me. Our disagreement was still there, but it was not consuming me.
I felt peace and assurance knowing that my partner and I would work through it when we were ready. I also felt peace and assurance knowing that I was choosing to place our disagreement under my choice to love him. Choosing to love him is a gift to myself, and it’s one that I will always strive to place above all else in our relationship.
We repeat this process almost identically any time we are in disagreement. Knowing that we have this plan in place gives me even more freedom to take my time, process my feelings, and give myself permission to work out the disagreement and possible resolutions before coming to the discussion table. This is working so well for us. So, we will continue to go to bed angry because we know that’s what we sometimes need.
What are your thoughts on going to bed angry? Do you think you should never go to bed angry, or are you ok to table your disagreement for another time? Reach out and share your thoughts with our community! And sign-up for our newsletter to receive advice straight in your inbox.