Wouldn't it be nice if after a day of tantrums, diapers, and spit up, couples could have ample time to sip wine and leisurely discuss their marital issues before falling into a heavenly slumber?? Mmmmmm...it's a nice thought. Unfortunately, says Parents Ask expert Carin Goldstein and author of Be the Smart Wife: "that's just not reality for parents today."
Q: When I first got married, my grandmother told me the key to marriage was to never go to bed angry. But 3 years, and one terrible-two's toddler later, we find ourselves going to bed pissed... a lot. Frankly, I'm just too tired to get in to it. Is that bad-- is it okay to go to bed angry?
A: Ideally, yes, it would be GREAT if any conflict or argument was immediately dealt with and resolved before hitting the sack, but most of the time that may not happen for various reasons.
First off, couples need to remember that it's not about "not going to bed angry," but about choosing the RIGHT time to discuss feelings. Sometimes couples may be too tired to even have a conversation and each person needs to ask them self two things: Number one, is my partner in a place where he or she can rationally hear me? And number two, am I in a place where I can have a rational conversation with my partner? At the end of the day after working, schlepping kids, getting dinner on the table, melt-downs, getting kids to bed (and this specifically may be a mountain to climb within itself), couples are EXHAUSTED and right before bed may absolutely be the wrong time to start a heated, serious discussion. Many people struggle with immediate gratification and if either of you have a bone to pick with your partner it may be very tempting to force a discussion knowing very well that neither of you can even see straight. That is when I tell couples, "you need to be smart in that moment and not let your emotions drive your decision making process." If you know your partner isn't emotionally available to hear your frustrations right then and there, then you need to DELAY your gratification and wait until a better time to talk. What couples can say to each other is, "We're both clearly exhausted right now, so let's just get sleep, and when we're both in a more rested state of mind, let's discuss (blank)."
Also, it's important to be mindful that just because one person is ready to roll up their sleeves and discuss the issue, doesn't mean that the other person is. Everyone's process is different when it comes to digesting feelings and thoughts and just because you're ready to have a big talk, doesn't mean that he or she is. However, it's perfectly fine to say, "I understand you're not ready to discuss this and that's OK. When you're ready to talk please let me know and we'll table this until then."
Now if for some reason the two of you have the time, energy and desire to resolve a conflict before "lights out," then more power to you and go for it! But if the timing just isn't right, remember that you're both still on the same team. When the day is done, feeling some "normal marital anger" toward each other won't poison your marriage and there will always be tomorrow to resolve your issue.
For more of Carin Goldstein's marital tips, you can check out her highly talked about video blog, "Be the Smart Wife" geared especially for wives at http://www.bethesmartwife.com.