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Going to Bed Angry

May 8, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Don't listen to your grandmother's advice.

It never fails. At every bridal shower or sheva brachot, someone mentions their grandmother's advice not to go to bed angry. I'm not sure why this seems to be the particular purview of grandmothers or if our grandmothers liked to stay up late at night. I'm not even sure why happily married people today credit this adage.

For my part I have not found it to be the best strategy for a successful marriage. At night seemingly trivial problems loom large. The tears, the yelling, the recriminations are all heightened. And resolution is difficult to achieve. It's a prolonged, agonizing back and forth until exhaustion finally ends the dialogue.

By the light of the day, many of the issues that seemed so crucial the evening before, that were so divisive and emotionally important, appear insignificant. The gap between spouses seems to have narrowed. The emotional intensity seems to have diminished.

We all share this experience because there is an emotional and spiritual reality to the time of day. In Jewish understanding, it is no coincidence that Passover occurs in the spring. The Almighty created the world in such a way that the physical renewal of the world would be inextricably linked to His people's spiritual rebirth. And even deeper -- that the opportunity for spiritual freedom that is the essence of Passover is more available during this time. Spiritual reality and physical reality deliberately coincide and work in tandem.

So too with day time and night time. It is not just our imagination that makes us afraid of the dark. Darkness and our "evil inclination" are intimately linked. There is more power to our "darker" side at night. We are less rational, less Godly, and more frightened and destabilized.

By contrast, dawn brings hope and optimism. Our drive for good is dominant. We are energized and positive. This is not a individual experience but a reflection of reality, a description of the creation.

Go to sleep and look at the subject afresh in the positive light and mood of the day.

Given that our world appears bleaker at night -- physically, spiritually and emotionally, it makes sense that it is not the optimal time for resolving difficult marital issues. We get bogged down in a morass of anxiety, fear and negativity.

The wiser course would seem to be to go to sleep and look at the subject afresh in the positive light and mood of the day.

It takes self-control. It may feel emotionally less satisfying. It may not be what our grandmothers said (did anyone's grandmother actually say it or is it just a generic attribution?). But it is the more prudent strategy. It is the more mature approach. It is the course most in sync with the rhythms of our world.

No matter how gloomy our prospects seem by night, daylight always brings new hope and possibilities. It is a blessing the Almighty has built into His world. We need to appreciate this opportunity and use it appropriately.

It's not that we should go to bed angry. It would certainly be better not to be angry at all! But if we are angry or in the midst of intense disagreement, the saner and wiser choice (despite years of bridal shower brainwashing to the contrary) would be to table the issue until the morning. And get a good night's sleep. Which I am confident is advice that any grandmother would give!

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