I love advice. I love collecting and comparing advice from loved ones and experts alike. I might not always take certain advice, but I love sorting through it and trying to discover my opinion, and see patterns in various pieces of advice. This is especially true when it comes to advice about marriage.
Before I was married, I knew I wanted a marriage that lasted forever. But a lot of what I heard about marriage were things like ”It’s gonna be hard,” and ”It’s a lot of work.” This gave me some apprehension, but it also gave me an especially strong determination to become a pro at marriage. So I asked, I read, and I observed.
One very specific piece of advice stood out. It was one of the most common pieces of marriage advice that I came across even before I was actively seeking advice on marriage. It came from many people—people whose marriages I admired, and from blogs, books, and articles. I liked its simplicity, focus, and routine nature. It seemed so wise and applicable. I could see why this piece of advice was so prevalent, and as my wedding day drew closer, it fixed itself firmly in my heart.
I also heard it at my bridal shower. A huge part of my family and friends had gathered under one roof, and we all shared in the food and activities and laughter. Everyone was energized about this next exciting step in my life, and everyone wanted to help me along my way. So they wrote notes of advice, some of which we shared aloud, and some I tucked away to be read later with Logan. And as I read each note and basked in the caring words, I noticed the same advice:
Don’t go to bed angry.
I loved the thought. I imagined us peacefully retiring to bed at a reasonable hour each night talking about whatever we had disagreed upon that day and kissing and making up before the lights went out as we cuddled for a night sleep. In my mind, it was so ideal and yet so realistic. It acknowledged that disagreements would arise, and it gave a concrete goal to focus on: don’t let a disagreement last more than one day. I liked how obtainable it seemed and how it had the potential to mitigate arguments before they became too big to handle.
I shared it with Logan and he liked the idea too. And within the first month of marriage, we implemented it with zeal.
But then it became harder and harder.
It was still an ideal we were striving for, but by the end of our second month of marriage, we were losing sleep with all-night arguments, trying to “resolve” disagreements and live fast to this rule we had fashioned for ourselves. Small misunderstandings that started in the late evening hours progressed to arguments that lasted to 1, 2, and even 3 o’clock in the morning. It wasn’t long before Logan began abandoning the rule without even thinking twice about it, but every time he did, my afterhours logic told me he was losing determination. I was so set on the wisdom of this rule that I started to let it ruin our marriage—and I couldn’t even see it.
What surprised me when I looked back on that first year of marriage was how a goal we had latched onto blinded me to my actual relationship. I wish I could take back all those nights that I had insisted on working things out without delay, and without regard for the effect that lack of sleep had on our communication and relationship. I wish I had gone to bed more often at the beginning of those disagreements. Because what usually happens now when we go to sleep with a disagreement is that I’ll wake up the next morning with a vague recollection of what our disagreement was even about!
Universal principles like “be faithful to your spouse” are timeless and are always worth practicing with diligence. But practical advice about the ins and outs of marriage is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. For us, the more tired we were the more likely we were to have an argument. Had I insisted on “not going to bed angry,” it would’ve hindered us from having a unified and positive marriage. I am grateful that we stopped applying that advice, and that one of us realized that there was no place for it in our marriage.
I am also glad that I have stopped applying practical advice too intensely. No matter how loving or well-intended the giver of the advice is, their situation will not and cannot be identical to yours. Marriages are unique. And while I still love getting practical advice about marriage and trying it when I feel it is right on, I’m also sure to check how it’s working out for us. There is much to learn from experts and other marriages, but let’s not forget to get to know our own marriages.
In sum, I would say the lesson Logan and I learned about us from our experience is: Go to bed especially when you are angry! Because most likely it’s a result of being overly tired.