Rosie Green: Granny was right about late-night fights

‘Never go to bed on an argument’ was one of my grandmother’s favourite sayings.

Along with, ‘It’s a tragedy only one man had ever seen me naked’ and, ‘My tits are incredible.’ (She was referring to the feathered visitors frequenting her bird table.) When it comes to the first statement, I think it’s worth listening to her as she was married, mainly happily, for 60-plus years.

Her words were ringing in my ears as I had an argument or, as I like to call it, a ‘heated discussion’ with my boyfriend in the middle of the night. Yes that’s right. Not just before bedtime, but during bedtime.

Rosie Green
Image: David Venni

Upon waking at 1am, I thought it would be a good time to tell him about a diarising error I had made the previous day. In hindsight, raising the subject then was an error.

I had hoped his sleepiness would prevent him from seeing the full ramifications of my mess-up, but it didn’t. He’s sharper than a sushi chef’s knives even in the small hours.

As tensions escalated, my grandmother’s words started running through my head. Should I stay up and fight, I wondered, or wait until the morning to slug it out? There are pros and cons to both.

Thrashing it out at 1am, as long as we reached a resolution, would mean we could go back to sleep rebonded and with harmony restored. Win.

On the flipside, resolving the issue would take longer because tiredness makes me irrational (OK, a bit bonkers). Plus the lack of sleep would mean I’d then wake up utterly exhausted and looking like I’d slept in a skip.

The alternative is to agree to sleep on it, with the idea we would be fresh and more rational in the morning. A good idea in theory, but I’d have lain awake fuming for hours and thus still wake up cranky.

I am 100 per cent a ‘get it out of the way’ person when it comes to arguments. I’d rather debate (squabble) until the small hours than flounce off to sulk in the spare room. I’m not down with staring silently at the ceiling for hours in a state of rage. Apart from anything else, just think of the ageing effects of all that cortisol flooding my body.

And the boyfriend? He was as keen as me to get it sorted. Were he the opposite, I know I’d have to respect his ‘process’, but it would be more painful than watching Homes Under The Hammer on repeat.

I count myself lucky that we’re like-minded arguers. I know friends, and friends’ partners, who storm off mid-row and will not even contemplate peace talks till they’ve had time to digest the issues. Many of them won’t even address the conflict the next morning. They stew for days, marinating themselves in frustration and annoyance. Sometimes the argument is never resolved, it just fizzles out due to boredom on both sides.

And so by 2am I was telling the boyfriend about the ‘three agree’ technique I stumbled across on my post-marriage self-improvement journey (aka, my attempt to be more successful at relationships). This is to be deployed mid-argument to prevent it escalating.

You need to…
– Agree that you disagree.
– Agree to give each other space.
– Agree a time to talk it through.

He looked at me with resignation but agreed to the three agrees (I think he was so tired by then he’d have acquiesced to going to work in a chicken suit).

We both took comfort in the fact we wanted to find a resolution. Because surely how committed you are to making it work is the biggest thing? We found our middle ground and made up in the time-honoured way at around 3am.

The following morning I said we should congratulate ourselves because psychologists say that if you go to sleep angry or upset your brain is likely to hardwire in the resentment and bitterness. Sleep is the time we organise and store our memories, so if you feel angry with your partner just before you nod off you are laying the foundations for subconscious negativity about them. Resolve it and the opposite is true. I knew we were good when he made the morning coffees extra frothy.

And as I sip mine I think my granny was right – flushing it out is good for the long-term health of your relationship. As is taking care of your tits.

@lifesrosie

Read more of Rosie Green’s columns here