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Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A.

"Don't go to bed angry" - "Oh really?"

Nice advice if you can follow it.

Nice advice if you can follow it.

Over many years as a couples therapist I have observed that when a couple is angry at each other, one partner often deals with it by avoidance and falls dead asleep while the other can't fall asleep and glares at their partner sometimes feeling the urge to smack 'em.

How can you prevent this from happening to you if this is becoming a frequent occurrence?

Often before you get to feeling angry, you start out feeling frustrated. Frustration is a rather unstable emotion and often slides into one direction or another. Either you begin to feel like a victim or feel self-righteous, both of which can lead to your becoming angry. Once that happens you're in a reactive mindset and it's unlikely that a conversation at that point will go anywhere but downhill.

So next time that happens to you, while you are in the frustration phase, do the following to counteract your slipping and sliding into those other places:

To counteract feeling like a victim, pause and think of three things you are deeply grateful to your partner about, You'll find that you can't be grateful and feel like a victim at the same time. For me, that would be my wife attending to the thankless details of our home that would drive me nuts, being there for my kids and me and grounding me when my mildly ADHD/bipolar traits start me rushing down the runway.

To counteract feeling self-righteous and as if the other person is utterly clueless, pause and think of three things that make you a piece of work to live with. You'll find that you can't feel earnest humility and be self-righteous at the same time. For me, that would mean my wife tolerating my mildly ADHD/bipolar traits, my disorganization and the Don Quixote in me.

Addendum: After I discovered these breakthroughs a couple years ago, I shared them with my wife. She paused for a moment and said: "I've been using that approach with you for years."

If you are unable or unwilling to apply this approach, the problem may not be with the approach, but with you being unforgiving. However, that's a topic for another blog.

What are some of the ways you have discovered to help you not go to bed angry?


About the Author

Mark Goulston, M.D., the author of the book Just Listen, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute.