Okay to Go to Bed Angry or Not?
I often get asked a common question: “Is it okay to go to bed angry?”
My answer might surprise you…
Yes, it is okay to go to bed angry. Sometimes you might need to let things settle before being able to repair.
Going to bed angry can actually help you love better when you’re able to have some time to let your nervous system settle.
Going to Bed Angry Goes Against What I’ve Always Been Told
It’s true that this goes against conventional wisdom. The point is more about how long it takes your nervous system to calm so that you can really hear and respond to each other.
Conventional wisdom is right in that if you can repair quickly that will help your marriage significantly. That means, if you’re able to calm yourself (so that you and your spouse can talk through differences without re-escalating) then it’s best to do that as soon as you’re able.
But for some, this might mean the next morning! They might not be able to calm and soothe their nervous system to the point where they can re-engage with their spouse. For them, they might need a good night’s rest so that they can take steps toward repairing in the morning.
How to Calm Your Nervous System
Letting yourself calm for approximately 30 minutes can help you’re body and mind calm down. Helping you re-engage with your spouse differently because you won’t be as reactive.
The key here is during the 30 minute (minimum) time-out so to speak, it’s important to try to think or do things that are soothing.
It’s not a time to think of how you’re so right and you’re spouse is so wrong. That will just keep you escalated.
Using this time to help calm you can have a positive impact when you return to your spouse to talk things through.
One Key Ingredient
In addition to allowing yourself 30 minutes to calm, the ground rules for this have to be set BEFORE you both get into a heated disagreement.
If you don’t do this important part, then leaving your spouse in the middle of an argument can be misunderstood. Spouses can think you are leaving them in the moment. And this can be a recipe for keeping things escalated.
I teach couples to set up these rituals ahead of time. So when they get stuck in an unhealthy pattern and one partner says “time out” “I need to take a break,” it’s understood that what that really means is…”I don’t want this to escalate further. I need to help myself soothe so that I can hear you better without reacting.”
Couples that implement this report having successful repair after a disagreement that would not have happened otherwise.
Marriage Counseling Help
By: Anna McElearney, LMFT, LPC, NCC
*Blog intended for educational and informational purposes only.