A healthy marriage demands a fair amount of neglect. It took me a long time to understand this, and even longer to have the grace to put it into practice. When my wife, Barbara, and I first married, a lot of almost-right marital advice was in the air. One admonition was based on Ephesians 4:26: "Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (NASB). This meant, we were led to believe, that we should resolve issues before we went to sleep at night, so that resentments would not fester. And resolving meant talking to your spouse about what was bugging you about him or her.
This appealed to my natural desire for closure—to get problems solved ASAP. It also gave me permission to lovingly challenge my wife in one area—her seeming desire to avoid conflict, a character flaw I believed I was put in her life to mend.
So just as the sandman was pelting her for the last time, as she fluffed her pillow and reached for the light, I'd blurt out, "We have to talk."
Being a gracious person, she would slowly withdraw her hand from the light switch and reply, "Okay," as if she really didn't mind. And we would talk. And talk. And talk. Until two or three in the morning sometimes, until I got her to see exactly what was irritating me, and she got me to see why she had said what she had said, and so on and so forth until we both felt (after a series of "You okay, then?" "Yes. And you?") we had attained a satisfactory reconciliation.
It should not have surprised us the next day that two sleep-deprived people said or did things that irritated the other, requiring yet another don't-let-the-sun-go-down-on-your-anger marathon.1