They say the key to relationships is never going to bed angry, but are "they" really right? According to experts and recent research, you may want to file this under dated dating wisdom. In fact, going to bed angryÃ¢â‚¬”in other words, waiting until the morning to resolve a fightÃ¢â‚¬”might actually be the best way to maintain your bond.
A 2012 study in The Journal of Neuroscience leant support to the never-sleep-angry theory. They found that people who slept after witnessing an unpleasant event felt equally bad the second time they encountered the situation, while those who stayed awake the first time were better equipped to handle it later on. It seemed to suggest that resolving a fight before bed was the best optionÃ¢â‚¬”that way, you wouldn't have the same overwhelming frustration with your partner the next time. However, the researchers' conclusions overlooked one major factor: the fact that you don't necessarily have to go to bed angry, even if you decide to finish your fight in the morning. Plus, another recent study from the University of Massachusetts found that one night of sleep can help enhance our decision-making abilities, as our brains are able to elaborate on several different ways to solve a problem.
Putting your argument on hold and trying to get rid of negative emotions before bed is actually better for conflict resolution and your overall bond, according to Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author of Make Up, Don't Break Up. To do that, you have to take a step back from the heat of the moment and say to your partner, "I really love you, I'm sorry that we have this misunderstanding, and in the morning we'll discuss it when we have some more time." In fact, Weil says it's actually acceptable to put the argument on pause for the night (think Marshal and Lily's tactic in How I Met Your Mother) to make sure those negative emotions don't impact your sleep. As long as this isn't a relationship-ending blowout, it's fine to still cuddle, kiss, or hold hands to ease the tension, boost endorphins, and get a dose of oxytocin and dopamineÃ¢â‚¬”all of which will help diffuse the situation.
So why is it so helpful to take the night off during an argument? For one, research shows that even one night of bad sleep can lead to more fights down the line, so you definitely don't want to stay up all hours rehashing the same argument if you're getting nowhere. Plus, whatever resolution you reach at 2 a.m. will likely be temporaryÃ¢â‚¬”you're probably just agreeing to end the conversation, says couples mediator Laurie Puhn, author of Fight Less, Love More. In that case, you aren't really resolving anything anyway.
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Of course, this doesn't mean you should hit pause on an argument if you actually are getting somewhere. If both of you are communicating effectively, listening to each other's concerns, and finding a way to resolve it, by all meansÃ¢â‚¬”stay up and hash it out! The important distinction is whether or not you're actually working things out. If you're mid-fight at midnight and neither one of you is budging, it won't do any good to stay up and repeat yourselves.
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"The reason people say not to go to bed angry is because they're thinking that if you [do], it [grows into] resentment over weeks and months and years," Puhn explains. "But it's good to go to bed angry if you talk about it the next day with a clear head. You actually deal with it in a conscious way the next day." So, when you're nearing the loss of some precious beauty sleep, remind yourself that by cooling off for the time being, you and your partner are actually making the decision to better your bond.
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