Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

Phyllis Diller's retort to "Never Go to Bed Angry


Not always wise. To head off attack-blame craziness agree upon unilateral ceasefires to save sleep.

Perhaps you have successfully honored this tip and do manage to say, "I love you" before holding hands and drifting off to sleep.  This ritual will leave you with that feeling of "All's right with the world."

Phyllis Diller, however catches an oft repeated dilemma when she says, "Don't go to bed angry, stay up all night and fight."  On nights when you have gotten into a war of the roses with no holds (or words) barred, you may need another option.

When you fight, you can easily reach a point of no return.  You can recognize this when one or both of you start using the "you always" or "you never" phrases.  

Whatever either of you says from this point on will long be remembered. When your partner says, "you never loved me in the first place," you will feel liked you have been kicked in the stomach.

But since a good defenses serves as a good offense, you may find your self blurting out something like, "Well you and your family have all of the mental problems anyway"

Slipping into this "attack each other" mode means you are now in the fight, flight or freeze mode with the adrenalin coursing through your arteries like the Indianapolis 500. 

At such a moment you wil not be entertaining memories of the good sides of your partner, though you may have felt them five minutes ago.  With great vehemence each of you will be assuming that somebody's got to be wrong here.  You will have no doubt about who that party is.  You will raise your voices to be sure your intimate other does not have a chance to get in a word edgewise.

What's the answer?  Unilateral Ceasefire rituals make all of the difference.  Just suppose you as the more grounded one at the moment says something like, "I am feeling flooded."

Not "you are making me feel flooded."  Not, "I can't talk to you anymore when you are so irrational."  Just "I am feeling flooded and I want to take at least a half hour  (or whatever you know you will need)  to get my bearings again."

Now you partner who still has all of the adrenalin rush may say something like,  "Well there you go again, always getting us upset and leaving me with all of these feelings that I don't know what to do with."

You can head this off just after you share your state of floodedness by saying,  "I can really see how important this is to each of us.  I want to get grounded so I can process this creatively.  I do love you and want to talk about this tomorrow when we wake up and see if we can figure out how not to be so stuck again."

If both of you have agreed to the unilateral ceasefire ritual, you will have a good chance of waking up the  next morning wondering what all of the hullabaloo was about.

If not, at the agreed upon time the person who asked for a no fight zone can start the conversation with the words, "Help me understand what it's like to be you."  Each of you listens to the other and seeks to appreciate and validate how you can understand how the other might be feeling this way.

If you don't  feel you can see how the other might feel that way you may be having trouble seeing your partner being an entirely different person than you.  Letting the other feel what they feel allows you to relax into exploring what would work. 

I bet you with after a few rounds of doing this, the two of you will gain confidence in your ability to have different feelingsbut also respect and work towards win-win solutions.  You will get more sleep and feel more loving to boot.

For more tips and tools for building the love bond between you, go to

If you have other topics that you would like to see discussed, plese feel free to email me at


Dr. Jim Walkup has offices at 115 East 57th Between Park and Lex, Suite 640, NY NY 10022 and at 180 Pondfield Road, Bronxville, NY 10708.

To schedule an appointment for couple counseling in NYC or Bronxville, call my cell at 914 548 8645




Expert advice

If you keep finding yourself in heartbreaking, dead end relationships, listen up.
Several key behaviors stand out in order to help couples create a healthy relationship.
It seems like you can't do anything right.

Explore YourTango