It's 2am and you and your partner are still arguing. It started as a small disagreement that you didn't expect to be a big deal. It's now hours later and somehow you're both bringing up old stuff, on top of whatever it was that started this.
If someone asked you in this moment what you're fighting about, you're not sure you could give a clear answer. All you know is that you're hurt, angry, and frustrated.
You're physically and emotionally drained. But you're too upset to go to bed! You keep thinking about what they did and it gets you upset all over. You've run out of new things to say about this same old problem. You can't believe you're here again.
You're the type that wants to solve the issue right away. You don't like letting things linger. You want to get to the bottom of it and make sure it doesn't happen again. Maybe you're secretly worried that you can't work through this? So you keep at it, determined to resolve it.
Plus, you promised yourselves that you wouldn't go to bed angry.
You don't want to be the couple that spends even one night in separate beds. What if one night becomes a few nights in a row? It would be like admitting you're not the happy couple that everyone thinks you are.
Don't worry: Going to bed angry isn't the end of your relationship.
It might actually be good for you. You can avoid saying something you don't mean. You can stop piling old issues on top of whatever is going on now.
Would you rather keep going in circles, getting yourself worked up, or would you rather come back to the issue when you have a clear head? In this moment, you can't do both. If that means one of you sleeps on the couch, isn't that a small price to pay for avoiding any further damage? At what point in the evening did this stop being productive?
When you're exhausted, you're more likely to say and do things that you don't mean. You can't think clearly. You don't have the capacity for giving each other the benefit of the doubt, trusting that they have your best interest at heart. When it's 2am and you're worked up, it feels like they're doing this on purpose.
The best thing to do is to call a truce. Agree to disagree for the time being. Do what you can to calm yourself down. If you can, take a walk, listen to calming music, drink a glass of water. Your job in this moment is to take some deep breaths and bring yourself back to normal. (I know, it's not easy. It takes practice.) But the issue will still be there later, and you will be in a better position to communicate.
Many people don't practice learning how to self-soothe. We need an outside distraction like a partner, friends, alcohol, food, shopping, work, or something else to keep us happy. None of these things are bad for you. It's only when we start relying on them too much for our own happiness that they can cause problems. Practicing self-soothing is a helpful skill to have in these moments.
Buy yourself some time and get some rest. When you have a clear head, you can think about what was underneath your anger. Was it sadness, hurt, fear, or embarrassment? Do some self-reflection and you might realize what was really bothering you. (Perhaps it wasn't the unanswered text messages, it was the fear of being ignored?)
Every healthy relationship has conflict. It's one way we learn more about our partners and ourselves. Conflict is an opportunity for growth. But it is also an opportunity for pain. Make sure you do what you can to make it constructive.
If you've tried these tips and you're still having the same disagreements over and over, a couples therapist may be able to help. Call (562) 704-4736 for a free consultation about how therapy can help you and your partner communicate better. Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and orientations in Long Beach, Seal Beach, and surrounding areas.