A popular bit of advice people like to give to newlyweds is, “Don’t go to bed angry.” I’m not entirely sure where this originated or how many people actually follow it. I long ago abandoned it. It doesn’t work for my marriage. In fact, a lot of standard advice doesn’t work for my marriage. Perhaps I don’t have a standard marriage. But let’s just stick with this one topic.
Let me break it down for you. I am a strong willed person. You aren’t likely to be able to talk me out of my opinion or a decision I’ve made. My parents and sister recognized this early. They generally state their dissenting view and then leave it alone.
Fast forward to my adult life and marriage. Craig recognizes my strong will and even appreciates it. He doesn’t want me to bend to his every whim. Given his psychiatric challenges, constant bending to his will could be disastrous. So what does this have to do with going to bed angry?
Well, another thing about my personality is that I think about things. Often I let them stew in my brain and in my heart. Instead of dealing with it in the moment, I sit on things. In some ways this is good. It often lets me see that I don’t have anything to be upset about and I can let it go. Sometimes it gives me time to be able to better articulate what I’m feeling. The flip side is that it gives some subjects time to boil over.
If my thoughts and feelings are the pot on the stove, then the time of day is the dial for that burner. You see, that control gets set at high once I get to 6:00 or 7:00PM. If I have not dealt with the contents of the pot by then, it easily boils over and my ability to think and speak rationally is lost. The two main ways to make it stop are to go along with whatever I say, or silently let it boil itself dry.
Sometimes, if I’m just asking for the dishes to be done, Craig is perfectly willing to go along with it to shut off my fit about not having enough help with stuff. Other times, I am demanding he change his entire personality and there is no room in my mind for any compromise or change on my part. So of course he doesn’t go along with it. In those cases, he lets me bluster and rant and rave and cry until I give up and go to bed.
I go to bed very very angry. I go to bed sure that I am going to get up in the morning and file for divorce.
But do you know how I wake up? Even if I’m still tired from the previous night’s rage, I wake up with the understanding that I was over reacting. I may still have a legitimate issue that we need to work on together. But when I am in that place of rage, we can’t work on it. I need to be in a place of calm to do the hard work this relationship sometimes needs. If I lose that calm, it’s generally due to fatigue. You know what cures fatigue? Going to bed and getting some sleep.
So, I say, go to bed angry. Maybe you’ll get just enough rest to calm down and have an adult conversation with your spouse the next day.