It's late, you're tired, and so is your parter: Sometimes, this is the perfect recipe for a disagreement. But why, exactly, do we get in arguments late at night? What is the psychological phenomenon that happens after dark that makes us more prone to knock-down, drag-out arguments —or just simple spats that leave both parties feeling awful and wishing they hadn't opened their mouths in the first place? Apparently, there are quite a few factors at play here, and when combined in mixtures of three or four, you've got the ultimate situation of doom and gloom.
But there are solutions. I spoke with 15 love and relationship experts, and they all agreed that there are totally methods to sidestep the late-night argument when you feel it coming on. A lot of these techniques have to do with self-awareness, so you can foresee a fight on the horizon, pay attention to your triggers, perhaps be more cognizant of attending to your basic needs—food, sleep, exercise—and avoid an argument altogether. Of course, this isn't always possible, and occasional conflict can be constructive in relationships, if used for good (and not evil). Here are 15 reasons we fight late at night.
1. Your Editor Is Tired Too
"When you're tired, your 'editor' — the part of you that filters out things that are better left unsaid — is tired," dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. "It doesn't do its job well and you end up saying things that you normally wouldn't."
As a result, you let down your guard and, in a worst-case scenario, say things you don't mean. "Also, when you're tired emotions tend to run higher and are harder to regulate," Weisman adds. "This makes it more likely that you will get more angry or hurt at things your partner says than you might normally and also have a harder time calming down."
2. You Might Be Stuck In A Pattern
"Each person is worn down from the events of the day," psychologist Nicole Martinez, who is the author of eight books, including The Reality of Relationships , tells Bustle. "They are tired from work, or may have had a bad day there." Whatever the case may be, you're not on your game. "One partner may be exhausted from running the kids around and dealing with their antics," she says. "All of this leaves them with little reserves, and less ability to speak calmly and clearly." If you're not thinking clearly, you might accidentally act out.
Pay attention to your patterns here, and take steps to resolve them. "If a couple sees a pattern that they always fight at this time of day, they should change the time of day they choose to talk about serious issues," Martinez says. If you always argue when you discuss big stuff late at night, have those talks in the a.m. Problem (hopefully) solved.
3. It Feels Safer To Express Emotion
"It is incredibly common to get in arguments at night because people are tired and burnt out from the day and feels safest expressing emotion to their partner," Boston-based clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner tells Bustle. "It is the same philosophy as a kid holding it together all day in school and having a meltdown at home." But don't stoop down to toddler status. Hold your tongue and see if it's that important in the morning.
4. The Day Gets The Best Of You
"It’s difficult to process feelings over the course of a busy day when you feel like you’re constantly on defensive mode and putting out fires before the next one rages," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "At the end of the day, you have quiet time to process, and the overload of the day’s energy can get the best of you." Now you're in a safe place, and it feels as though you can let it all hang out.
When you didn’t cry or yell at the 2 p.m. meeting, but wanted to — you may get that urge that you didn’t process earlier, at night because you have the time and space to remember it," Masini adds. "Add to that processing issue, a partner with the same things going on, and you’ve got the makings of a bedtime brouhaha." Be aware of such issues, and proceed with caution.
5. Stress Is Amplified
"It is common to get into arguments late at night because you have already gone through a long daily routine and the stresses of a tough day will culminate and amplify when your body and spirit have taken just about all it is capable of," dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "Those trigger mechanisms that can set you off are much more sensitive when you are exhausted and anxious." So something that may not bother you in the morning might really irk you at night.
"It may just take a small spark to set off the powder keg that has built up within you," he says. "Sometimes a short but quiet walk after work or dinner can lessen the chances of an all-out argument, while other times just letting your partner know that you are frazzled can turn the chance of an argument into something much more pleasurable." Try that!
6. You're Exhausted
"Usually one or both partners is tired," therapist Teresa Solomita tells Bustle. "They've probably kept their guard up all day at work, or are just tired after a long day." Now it's time to kick back — and though that can be awesome, it can also be deadly. "They want to be taken care of by their partner, want to be understood without having to speak to their needs," Solomita says. "Perfect recipe for an argument." Hoping your partner is a mind-reader: Never a good way to start an evening!
7. You're Not Logical
"Oftentimes, the stress of the full day shows its ugly side at night," online dating expert Anita Covic tells Bustle. "Make sure to take a deep breath and try to calmly discuss any differences so that you don’t go to bed angry." If an argument breaks out, don't let it seep into the next day.
"While it might sound cliché, it is important to not only listen to your partner, but you need to truly hear him or her," Covic says. "Don’t jump to conclusions when getting into a disagreement. Try as hard as you can to be logical and to remember why you fell for your partner in the first place." And if you've lost your knack for logic at this late hour, tell your partner you love them and go to sleep.
8. You Have A Shorter Fuse
"By the end of the day, we have used up much of our tolerance for dealing with the things that cause us stress," sex and relationship expert Megan Stubbs tells Bustle. "When we are at home we tend to let our guard down and may not be as mindful that we may have a short fuse with our partner." But you don't have to get into it.
"Try not to bring up something that may spark an argument late at night," she says. "Try to negotiate the issue early in the evening when you or your partner isn't fully checked out yet so you can have a meaningful conversation." If that's not possible, put it off until tomorrow.
9. Alcohol Can Make Matters Worse
"Arguments happen at night because people are tired and when we're tired, we're short-tempered," relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships , tells Bustle. "Everyone knows a tired toddler is cranky and prone to temper tantrums, and this behavior is something we learn to modify with age, but when push comes to shove, two tired people can turn a trivial matter into a declaration of war."
And matters are only exacerbated when alcohol is involved. "If two people have been drinking, the combination of booze and fatigue is a recipe for disaster," she says. "You can nip these fights in the bud by both acknowledging that you need to readdress the issues after a good night's sleep," turning off the lights, and hitting the hay.
10. You Want Sleep, Not Discussion
"At night, both of you are tired and irritable," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. "You want sleep, not discussion." If your partner is raring to talk about something, schedule a time for the next day.
"If you have matters to discuss, make sure you set apart time earlier in the evening, before you’ve gone over the edge," she suggests. "A great idea is to have a once-a-week meeting to discuss the state of your union.That keeps everything up to date, and minimizes the need to talk about something 'right now.'" Brilliant.
11. You're Upset About Other Issues
"It's so common to get in arguments late at night because couples usually bring the world back home with them," Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, certified life and love coach and author of A Conversation Piece , tells Bustle. "When a boss pisses us off or something doesn't quite go our way, who has to deal with our frustration? Our partners." But it doesn't have to be that way. Be kind and aware that you might not be your best self in the (late) moment.
12. You Can Accidentally Wander Into A Black Hole
"At night we are tired and sometimes we have let our frustrations accumulate throughout the day or days," Carlyle Jansen, author of Sex Yourself , tells Bustle. "If you have been putting off talking about something all day, it can sometimes come up awkwardly when we are not in our best form." If you step into that awkward puddle, try your best to step back out ASAP. It's not worth it!
13. You're Dealing With A Tricky Trifecta
"Night arguments happen for a few reasons," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "We are exhausted from the day; things build up throughout the day and it's easy to reach your threshold at night; and people tend to consume alcohol at night and not during the day." Yep — not a good trifecta. "This shortens fuses," she adds. So try to wait until another time to have a serious talk.
14. Everyone Is Grumpy
"I think arguments late at night are based on when we get tired," Rob Alex, who created Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night with his wife, tells Bustle. "We all get a little grumpy when we are tired and it makes it easier for things to tick us off." So make a new policy, he advises.
"To help with arguments late at night I suggest a no-talks time before bed, where couples just snuggle up with each other not exchanging any words," he says. Instead of talking, focus on cuddling. That's the best thing to do before falling asleep anyway.
15. One Word: Stress
"As the day goes on, stress builds up," author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. "If not released appropriately, one can blow up on their mate, expressing frustrations to relieve stress." This isn't the way to talk about your issues. Try counting to 10 or 20, and see if the mad urge to pipe up passes.
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