Never go to bed angry. That’s the best marriage tip that a friend about to marry received from his elderly grandfather. His grandparents had survived some rocky years in their marriage to see it blossom into a strong love that had lasted nearly 50 years. I see the wisdom in his grandfather’s advice. If I’ve learned anything in 30 years of marriage to Susan, it’s that how couples handle conflict in marriage greatly affects the overall health and happiness of that marriage.
But I also recognize how difficult it is to handle conflict well, especially when it’s late at night after an exhausting day. There have been a number of times in our marriage where Susan and I have not navigated through our late night conflict in a good way. And we have both gone to bed angry. When that happens, she’s able to fall asleep quickly, while it takes me a long time to fall asleep when I’m stirred up. But both of us feel the effects of the unresolved anger the next day. Going to bed angry not only impacts the next day, it causes cumulative and harmful effects. Here are some of the negative consequences of going to bed still angry.
1. Bricks are added to the wall that divides you as a couple.
And as the wall gets higher, the division gets wider. And as the division gets wider, you start by arguing more and speaking to one another less, then one of you moves temporarily onto the couch to sleep, then permanently into another bedroom and then…you get the picture. Unresolved conflict night after night creates a relational wall that becomes increasingly tough to penetrate. The continual cycle of ending your day angry can also create a feeling of hopelessness in your relationship.
2. It’s harder to have a fresh start the next day.
A good night’s sleep can create a sense of new hope the next morning. But going to bed angry with your spouse defeats that hope. Every marriage needs to feel the triumph of overcoming conflict and starting fresh from time to time. But when the next day starts with the hard feelings of the night before, the fresh start is delayed, and sometimes lost completely.
3. Less sleep hurts your health.
Anger not only harms you emotionally but also physically. Many studies have shown that quality of sleep affects overall health. And, when you go to bed angry, a good night’s sleep is usually compromised.
4. Unresolved conflict impedes sexual intimacy, short-term and long-term.
Going to bed angry not only kills the mood but repeatedly going to bed angry creates an unhealthy pattern of fewer opportunities for sexual intimacy. On the other hand, there are times when couples who work through their disagreements before bed find themselves suddenly open to intimacy.
5. It sends the message to your spouse that you value “winning” the argument more than preserving your relationship.
The message you send to your spouse when you have a pattern of going to bed angry is that your marriage and your spouse’s well-being are less important to you than winning in conflict. That may not be what you intend to communicate, but that’s often the takeaway. How you handle end of day conflicts either builds up or tears down your marriage
Having shared the above thoughts, I’m not suggesting that you can always resolve everything before bedtime. But that does not mean that you have to go to bed angry. You can just agree on one thing with your spouse—that you will talk about it and work it out tomorrow when you’re fresh and ready for a new day.