How to Resolve “Sour Hour” Conflict|5 Steps

Evenings are the worst time to get into an argument with your spouse.  We’ve seen this pattern with most of the couples we coach, and have termed this time period the Sour Hour.  What is the best way to resolve conflict in the evening?

What does the “Sour Hour” look like?

It’s at the end of the day, when weariness and exhaustion set in. Then one of you brings up an issue that immediately puts you into defense mode. At this point you are not only tired,  but overwhelmed too.

Getting into arguments in the evenings lessen the odds of your conflict reaching a peaceful resolution.

Think back to your most vivid disagreements and conflict. What time of the day was it? Yep, I bet most of them were in the evening.

You are tired and frustrated. Your energy is depleted. Your mind is foggy, and not thinking clearly. Self-control tends to fly out the window and your mouth spews unfiltered, hurtful words—that you can’t take back.

Until Dennis and I figured this out, we would often go to bed angry with each other. The two of us are too stubborn to sleep on the couch, but we clung to our side of the bed all night, making sure neither of us crossed that invisible line in the middle.

And those nights were far from restful.  Tension doesn’t make a very good bedfellow.

Most of us know the scripture do not let the sun go down on your wrath:

When you are angry, don’t let it carry you into sin. Don’t let the sun set with anger in your heart or give the devil room to work.  Ephesians 4:26-27

In our marriage, we don’t want to give the devil room to work. Here is how we have learned to approach evening conflict and avoid the sour hour.

How to Resolve Sour Hour Conflict

Avoid discussing hot topics in the evenings.

Generally, you are not at your best in the evening, so it is best to save those topics for a day you are more rested. If the issue is critical enough to bring  up.  we do this: we stop and pray about it together.

“Lord, you have the solution to this issue. Please show us what to do.”

If our hearts are right and we trust God for the answer, He is always faithful to show each of us the solution. Many times He answers us in our dreams!

Take a time-out.

One of you can call for a time-out, so you can both walk away and calm down. This takes determined restraint, but you are an adult. I know you can do it!

Before going to bed, agree to discuss the problem the next day. Set the time to do it.

After a good night’s sleep, I’ve found it funny that what was such a hotspot the night before is nothing more than an ember the day after.

In our coaching sessions, we offer exercises to grow in steps 1-3.  Interested in marriage coaching? Click here.

 Always, always kiss each other good-night.

That may seem ridiculously impossible after having an argument, but this is a rule we follow  after one emotionally painful Sour Hour disagreement…

Years ago, Dennis and I got into a huge conflict.  He just abruptly stopped talking and began getting ready for bed. My husband went silent and avoided speaking to or touching   me.

Breaking with  our bedtime routine, he didn’t even kiss me good-night.

I was crushed.

His silence made me think I’ve pushed him too far this time. it’s all my fault. He doesn’t love me! What  a long, sleepless night. I felt unloved and alone.

The next morning wasn’t much better either, but I knew he couldn’t leave for work until we had some sort of resolution. I think I broke the silence first, by saying I was sorry.

Dennis acknowledged that he had shut down and withdrew because he knew he needed to stop talking to keep from saying words he would regret. When I told him how his silence and his refusal to kiss me good-night hurt me, he asked my forgiveness for that.

The lesson we learned from this?

Always kiss each other good-night. And to say I love you.

It’s okay, in my opinion,  to say “I love you, but right now I’m having trouble liking you!”

What is the best way to resolve conflict during Sour Hour?  Follow these steps:

5 Steps to Resolve Conflict in the Evening

  1. Identify the problem you need to discuss.
  2. Decide what time the next day to discuss it.
  3. Say to each other “I love you. We will discuss this when we are more refreshed and not so tired.”
  5. Follow through on Step 2.

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