We’ve all heard it before, “Don’t go to bed mad!” It seems so simple, but so many of us fail to practice this in our intimate relationships or with our families and friends. It’s unfortunate because I believe this to be one of the tried and true adages that is paramount to maintaining healthy relationships.

A few months ago, I was shopping with my sister-friend who’d been recently married, for the third time. She is a very opinionated woman, yet with a lovable spirit. She is a walking contradiction because on someone else her opinionated nature would come off coarse and unlikable. For some reason, however, there is something about her that keeps her from being overbearing.

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With that said, I can imagine that living with my sister-friend and her million-plus opinions could prove to be difficult. It’s probably why she’s been married three times. While we shopped, she recounted a recent argument she had with her husband. The argument had extended over several days.

As she told me how wrong he was and how she’d made him suffer over the course of the argument, I couldn’t help but cringe. I didn’t understand how she could get any pleasure from being in an extended argument with someone she loved, and surely not by “making him suffer.” Personally, I’m a wreck when I’m in discord with anyone I love and care about. It wears me out.

After about 30 minutes of this talk, I’d had enough. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to let an argument linger that long,” I asserted. “You probably did more damage to your relationship than you realize by not just nipping it in the bud the night you had the argument in the first place,” I said, perched high atop my soapbox. “‘Making him suffer’ inflicts pain that might not be forgotten.”

I went on to explain that each argument you have with someone that isn’t resolved has the potential to chip away at the foundation of your relationship. Naturally, all relationships will go through moments of disagreement and, at times, full-on arguments. However, if we deal with it in the moment and don’t let things fester, they have less chance of becoming a cancer in your relationship.

“There’s no way we could have resolved it then because he wasn’t hearing me and it was late,” she said in defense of her actions. “I’m sure there was a way, you just didn’t want to resolve it then. You said it yourself, you wanted to make him suffer,” I admonished.

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The reason why that adage about not going to bed mad is so true is because if that’s the goal in your relationships, then you are forced to hash it out until you come to a resolution or you’re at least back to center. It puts a burden on both parties to hear each other and move toward not letting negative feelings take residence in your spirit. You can only go to bed mad so many times before it starts chipping away at that foundation.

I then told her about a recent argument I had with a family member. It was so volatile that we both had to retreat to opposite ends of the house. We needed to cool off before we could hear each other. But, once I did cool off, I prayed that I would approach the situation from a place of love and that we could resolve it to move forward. I went in to apologize for my behavior and to talk about the real basis for the argument. Thankfully, we were able to see the other’s perspective and went to sleep happy.

We think that our arguments are isolated incidents, when in fact they accumulate in the language of our relationships. “So, it depends on what you want your relationship to stand for and say,” I said to my sister-friend who was actually listening for a change. I could see she was beginning to have a breakthrough and joked, “Where were you when I got married the first time?” We both laughed and she agreed that she would try my approach the next time.

Like anything else in life, relationships are a journey. We must take care of the relationship at all points on the journey, especially when it involves disagreements. Going to bed mad at a loved one only grows the bumps along the road. And, the bigger the bump, the more potential for damage.

If you’re in an argument with your spouse or loved one, resolve it right then and definitely don’t sleep on it.