What My Husband and I Do That’s Different From Most Other Couples
It definitely helps our tension to dissipate.
On occasion, my husband and I go to bed angry. And we do so on purpose. Because contrary to popular marital advice, letting the sun go down on our anger is what best helps our tension to dissipate.
It took us many years along with an untold number of tears to learn that just because commonly repeated advice is accepted as wise and helpful for the masses, doesn’t mean it always does the trick for everyone.
We tried to finish fights before going to bed a time or sixty-seven, to the tune of going round and round to no avail, often until two or three o’clock in the morning. Rendered bleary-eyed, exhausted and nowhere close to resolution — only ever further from it — we eventually learned so much better.
I’m not a night owl, but a morning bird. Early in the evenings my brain and body begin to shut down. But each morning brings me renewed energy and spirit, replete with a compelling urgency to right all wrongs — whether my own doing or otherwise. My husband is my mirror image in this regard. Where the days zap his energy, nighttime replaces it, revving him up again.
We’re more similar in that we both fight dirty, or at least we used to. Though we share the tendencies when provoked, dousing a current brawl with the explosive fuel of past hurts or behaving passive aggressively in the midst of sparring isn’t clean fighting. Nor is it productive in the least, even if the inclinations are instinctual.
Deflective, avoidant behavior became our go-to when trying to hash out a disagreement late into an evening. Fuming at each other from across the divide we created, we’d spew inflammatory statements that worked like gas on flames, threatening to incinerate the fabric of our relationship.
Early on in our marriage, our communication skills were sorely lacking. With each of our heated arguments, no matter what the fight was originally about, we soon found ourselves fighting over the way we fought. Our tempers flared, and thus the real issues never got solved due to our escalation, hurt feelings and heightened emotions.
I learned I needed time to cool down before I could speak or respond to my husband rationally and calmly, while focusing on the issue at hand. When I’m angry, I become reactive and my emotions can easily get the better of me. I need to diffuse the bomb I become before I wreck myself — and my marriage. I need time to collect thoughts about each of our actions and subsequent reactions before I can effectively communicate my viewpoint, listen to my husband’s, and help us reach an accord.
Our ongoing fight over the way we each preferred to fight ended up being the longest, most drawn out point of contention in our 25-year marriage. My husband had no faith in my need to push pause and resume. In addition, he lacked the patience that pausing a beat during a conflict — in favor of regrouping when cooler heads prevail — entails.
Exasperated, I’d say to him, “Let’s talk about this tomorrow. Right now, I need to go to sleep.” He’d respond by digging in further and ringing the bell for another round. Then I’d go ballistic over my needs not being listened to or respected, queuing up yet another argument about the way we argued.
It took me years to realize it was a trust thing with my husband — that my reluctance to go toe-to-toe with him in the heat of the moment made him fear I didn’t care enough to finish the argument. He feared the unresolved argument might turn into something worse, like a permanent impasse causing a loss of connection. He worried I might throw in the towel altogether, deciding the effort to reach common ground with him wasn’t worth the exertion.
Ultimately, my being unwilling or unable to see a fight through to its resolution in the heat of the moment presented to him as a lack of love for him and a less-than-full investment in our marriage. As a result, he stood his uncommon ground and tried to keep me standing there, too. It took repeating this dysfunctional pattern for years for my husband to finally realize I wasn’t going anywhere, and that he could trust I will always work to solve all of our issues, just as soon as I’m able and ready.
Come morning, I’m rested and calm, more levelheaded and ready to address the problems we face as a couple. A fresh day brings me fresh perspective, or at least a willingness to listen to and respect my husband’s viewpoint — even if it wholly differs from my own.
Thankfully, our end goals of self-awareness and ownership, along with compromise and positive change after times of discord always matched — but unfortunately our processes rarely did. Once we eschewed the admonition to never go to bed angry in favor of going to bed angry on purpose to mitigate our anger levels, we got so much better at fighting.
Prior to our hard learning, many of our fights would last three days to three months to three years. But today, after honing our methods and our marriage into what works best for us, we usually don’t fight for more than three minutes anymore.
When no matter how hard you try, if seemingly tried-and-true tactics don’t appear to be working for good in your marriage, try considering that said tactics may be no good for your marriage. In other words, it may not be you; it may be them and their advice.
Your marriage isn’t a bad one because you have arguments or fights. It’s not even a bad marriage if you fight about the way you fight. It’s a marriage on the verge of discovery and evolution — and in the morning, that beautiful truth may finally dawn.