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Is it wrong to go to bed angry with a partner?

Jun 29, 2024

Do you think it’s wrong to go to bed angry when in a disagreement with a partner?

No.

I strongly encourage you to pause the argument and go to bed.

I think that there is this like saying, this old wives’ tale, this idea we have a lot of times that like never go to bed angry and make sure you solve that before you go to sleep.

The problem with that is that as human beings in these meat sacks that we exist in, at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning when you’re tired, you are going to make terrible decisions about that argument.

We are best equipped to handle conflict, particularly messy or complicated or really triggering conflicts, when we are well-rested, well-fed, when we have calmed our nervous systems down, when we are feeling connected and centered.

That does not usually happen when we keep ourselves awake for the sake of fixing an argument.

Something that I tell people all the time is that a lot of times in an argument, a disagreement, the best thing you can do is take a time out and just go calm your body down.

When we get upset, it triggers our body’s fight-or-flight system, right?

Our sympathetic nervous system and when our sympathetic nervous system is activated, it shuts down the access to our prefrontal cortex, right?

The front part of our brain, the last part that develops, the part that has impulse control, that has logical reasoning, that has future-oriented thought.

The part of our brain that we need in order to healthily solve a conflict is being overridden by our limbic system, the emotional part of our brain.

So, the longer we stay up, the less we allow ourselves space to calm down, the more likely it is that we will say or do something we regret or that we will just try to figure out how to make it stop as quickly as possible and give in, right?

This is not to say that if you have a disagreement you should go to bed stewing on it, wake up, stew about it all day until you get to talk about it next.

When you take a time out from an argument or disagreement, what you need to do is calm your body down and stop thinking about it.

Stop thinking about how right you are.

Stop thinking about what you’re going to say.

Stop thinking about how wrong they are.

All the ways that they’ve harmed you, all the evidence you’re going to present against them, freaking stop.

You need to let it go and let your body calm down.

The more that you spin about that in your head and that you keep going over what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, how you’re going to prove them wrong, how you’re going to get your point across, how you’re going to win, the less your body is going to be able to calm down and you need to calm down that nervous system if you’re going to be able to have a good conversation.

So, you need to just focus on something else.

Find something funny to watch because laughter very quickly shuts off that sympathetic nervous system.

It helps our bodies calm down very quickly.

Have a cup of tea, something warm and comforting.

Watch something that you love that feels really good for you.

Find something that you can focus on, some knitting.

Fold some clothes, whatever it is, something that you’re going to have to focus on with your brain, to get your brain off of that argument and calm your body down and then get some damn sleep.

Sleep.

Make sure you are well-rested.

Don’t pick the disagreement up first thing in the morning.

Don’t like wake up and be like, “Babe, babe, about that argument …”

No, absolutely not, no.

Give it time.

Let your body wake up.

Let your brain come to full consciousness.

Eat some breakfast and then try it again.

Part of what sleeping when you’re in the middle of an argument can do for you is give you the ability to calm down, to let it clear your body and also the ability to come back at it from a different angle.

One of the best things you can do and Sander Jones covers this in their amazing book Cultivating Connection, is when you come back to it, you can focus on figuring out how to make each other feel heard first, right?

So don’t come back to the argument with the goal of winning.

Come back to it with the goal of understanding what it is your partner was trying to say.

If your first step is trying to figure out how to understand where your partner was coming from, how to understand their perspective and their point of view, not in a like “Let me see how wrong you are,” in a genuine wanting to understand them frame of mind, then you will be so much more able to find a way through that disagreement that ends with both of you feeling good about the solution.

The vast majority of arguments and disagreements that we have have a bunch of different ways of ending and solving them that feel good for everybody involved.

However, we often become attached to one way of coming out of that disagreement or argument.

A lot of times we get really attached to winning, to being right, to being the one who comes out on top, because we live in a culture that enforces a lot of hierarchies, that enforces a lot of competition.

Your partner is not your opponent.

If your partner is your opponent, you need to break up.

Like if you genuinely feel like your partner is your opponent and that is what they are to you, you do not need to be in that relationship.

That’s not a good relationship to be in because you’re supposed to be partners.

So, if your partner is on your side, if you are both on team relationship, there is no reason you need to win.

There’s none.

So how instead can you understand where they’re coming from?

How can you find a space of genuine understanding?

And then once both of you feel really well understood, you can look for solutions that will work for both of you because there are usually way more ways of solving an issue than we are willing to acknowledge or look at in the moment because we know what way we want to solve it and we don’t want to have to do all of that other work of finding other ways.

So instead, slow it down.

Get sleep.

Eat food.

Take care of your body.

Make sure that your body is as calm and centered as possible.

Take as many timeouts as you need to take because the less calm your body is, the more agitated you are, the more activated you are, the worse that conversation is going to go.

You cannot have healthy, helpful conversations when you’re in that fight or flight space.

You just can’t.

It’s not possible.

So, get yourself out of it.

Calm your body down.

Calm that system down.

Get yourself centered and then come back to working on it.

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