When I was a child, my mother taught me never to “let the sun go down” on my anger (Eph 4:26). That meant asking for forgiveness before I turned the lights off and reconciling with my siblings before we slept.
And then I got married.
And my husband and I were sometimes unable to work it out, even in the wee hours of the morning.
I was horrified. We were going to bed angry, or at least unresolved. I believed we would suffer terrible consequences, like the ones in this blog. Huffington Post lists not going to bed angry as some of the most important marriage advice from those long-married, and there’s even a new book called Don’t Go to Bed Angry: Stay Up and Fight.
Was my marriage doomed because we couldn’t resolve our conflicts before we went to sleep? I was afraid it was.
My anger is the kind that flares white-hot for the moment, and then is soon extinguished and I’m ready for resolution. Naturally, I couldn’t understand the slow, extended burn of my husband’s anger and the need for time and internal processing to move through it.
So, even though I’m pretty useless for anything after 10pm, I would try to come to resolution. And it never worked. It was all usually worse by 2am, and then I really couldn’t sleep.
After several failed attempts, I decided to try going to bed angry. Why could I do this?
- My husband would still be my husband tomorrow. When he said “I do” he meant it for life, so one night that lacked resolution wouldn’t destroy that.
- After some rest, we would be able to see everything differently. Somehow, light would shine on our darkness and we would be okay.
- I could exercise self-control in my thoughts that would allow me to rest in spite of my agitation. I would hope for the next day.
And, guess what! It was better than trying to resolve things at midnight. For me, the benefits include:
- More thoughtful words and fewer damaging emotional words in our discussions (I’m not good at filtering after 10pm).
- Greater confidence and less anxiety in our marriage (I can trust that things will eventually resolve because we’re committed).
- I am learning self-control and the ability to resolve things independently (I can resolve enough to go to sleep, even if we don’t).
So, I think it’s okay to go to bed angry. If you’re angry every night, that may indicate other issues that need to be resolved in the daylight. If it’s occasional, sometimes it’s not only okay, but even good to go to bed angry.
It’s good to figure out what works for your marriage, and going to bed angry at times may be a choice you make. It’s one I resisted, but making it at times has been good for me and for us.
Check out Amy’s book, The Book of Womanhood