The age-old advice to "never go to bed angry" has been passed down through generations as a golden rule for maintaining healthy relationships. But is it really as universally applicable (and feasible?!) as it's made out to be?
In this article, I will explore why the notion of "don't go to bed angry" can sometimes be misguided and counterproductive, using my family, constituting of my wife, my daughter and me, who found a different perspective on this conventional wisdom.
The heated argument over laundry and chores
One evening, a heated argument erupted, leaving each family member hurt and upset. I insisted my daughter use a clothing bag each time she brings her jacket out. My daughter says it gave her extra work and she rather just dump her jacket into the bag (or onto the ground!). My wife says it's not necessary to bring a bag but anyway, my daughter has been too messy.
Traditionally, all three of us would have felt compelled to resolve the issue immediately and adhere to the "don't go to bed angry" rule. However, on this particular night, it was too late in the night to follow any rules.
The Benefits of Going to Bed Angry
Instead of pushing for immediate resolution, we 'went to bed angry'. I have to admit that it wasn't comfortable at first but here are some valuable lessons they learned:
1. Time and Space for Reflection
'Going to bed angry' can provide individuals with the time and space we need to reflect on the argument. Emotions run high during disputes, making it difficult to think clearly and rationally. Stepping away from the situation allows each person to collect their thoughts and consider the issue from a different perspective.
2. Reducing Escalation
Continuing a heated argument late into the night often leads to escalation rather than resolution. When people are tired and emotionally charged, they may say hurtful things they don't mean. Going to bed angry can prevent further damage to relationships by preventing these hurtful words from being said in the heat of the moment.
3. Promoting Empathy
In the case of our family of three, sleeping on our disagreements gave each family member the opportunity to empathize with one another. As we lay in bed, we thought about the other person's point of view, allowing us to approach the issue with more empathy and understanding the following day.
4. Finding Common Ground
Sometimes, a good night's sleep can bring clarity and help people find common ground. In the case of our family, we discovered that we had overreacted to a misunderstanding. Had we forced a resolution that evening, one of us may not emerge happy.
Reinterpreting "Don't Go to Bed Angry"
The next day, we found time to discuss the issue. Each of us admitted our roles, actions and areas that we could have done better.
The phrase "don't go to bed angry" is not inherently flawed, but it should not be taken literally.
Instead, it can be reinterpreted as "don't let anger fester indefinitely." It is essential to recognize that every argument and relationship is unique. In some cases, addressing an issue immediately may be the best approach, while in others, taking a step back and allowing time for emotions to cool off can be more effective.
As a person who has spent considerable amount of time researching on such issues, I think couples, families need to have the skills to communicate and resolve conflicts. This is where more education or therapy work can come in.
The root of the problem or solution isn't about the bed but rather on your emotional style, maturity and skills to make a relationship work.
I hope that by sharing how our family resolved our argument highlights the importance of reevaluating conventional wisdom. While "don't go to bed angry" has its merits, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Sometimes, giving yourself the time and space to calm down, reflect, and gain perspective can be more beneficial than trying to resolve an issue in the heat of the moment.
We should get help in developing ourselves emotionally rather than just blindly following 'rules'.
Ultimately, the key to healthy relationships lies in finding what works best for you and your loved ones, even if it means going to bed angry once in a while.