Don’t Go to Bed Angry—And Other Myths

Acclaimed marriage researchers at the Gottman Institute have conducted independent, vigorous social science research with couples and families for decades. The Institute uncovers some unexpected truths:

1. “People used to believe that it is a mistake to go to bed angry. From research on couples, Dr. Gottman discovered that “flooding” – a physiological phenomenon triggered by emotional conflict — leaves people’s heart rates too high for them to clearly concentrate on the conversation at hand. Research shows that taking the time to calm down before finishing an argument is more likely to help couples stay close and connected. It may be to the couple’s benefit to continue the discussion with cooler heads in the morning.

2. From research on domestic violence, we have learned that couples therapy with battering couples actually makes things worse for the woman—not better. Instead it is suggested that partners find individual help.

3. From research on parents and their children, we know that it is extremely beneficial for children to develop “emotional intelligence”. For this to occur parents need to express their own emotions, and it is especially important for fathers to express their emotions—especially sadness.” 1

I find the first point to be somewhat of a relief. Aren’t there times when you just don’t feel up to an argument, or you need time to sift through your feelings first? This shouldn’t be used as an excuse to avoid your partner, but if you need time to cool off, ask for it. Interestingly some of the successful couples I have interviewed say they never go to bed angry, so there may be some debate on this one.

The second time is somewhat of a surprise, but from what I have read those who are in a violent relationship truly need individual help to see things as they truly are, and not how they perceive them to be. The safety of the person being battered should be paramount.

And the third point is a great reminder to all of us who would like to paint a positive picture of the world around us for our children. One of my absolute favorite movies, “Life is Beautiful,” involves the portrayal of a life of joy amidst the horror of the start of WWII and inside a concentration camp. I still think the point the movie makes is valid, that we must not allow our life view and who we are to be controlled by our circumstances. However, it’s also crucial for children (and adults) to be given permission to feel and express their emotions. Dads may tend to tell their children, “Cheer up” or “Don’t Cry.” Next time, just hug your children (or spouse) and let them express how they feel.

Dr. John Gottman has vast amounts of results from his research, which I will share in future posts. Tell me what you think about the three points he makes above and if you agree or not.

Source: The Gottman Institute, http://www.gottman.com

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2 responses to “Don’t Go to Bed Angry—And Other Myths

  1. I think I agree with point one…it is OK to go to bed angry. Sometimes you just need a break because the conversation is not going anywhere. Things always look different in the morning. I wonder if those who go by the “never go to bed angry” cliche are just saying that because it’s always been said?

  2. I live by the phrase, “Don’t go to bed angry” and it has worked for both me and my husband for over 17 years. By resolving your dispute, you can wake up to a new day and look forward to greeting your spouse and starting another day with the one you love. Instead of having two bad days you will only have one. I have not been in the #2 situation to comment on it. I do agree with letting your children see your emotions. That way they know how to realistically see things you deal with everyday and are better equipped in the future to handle their own situations.

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