Litany for Stupid Fights

The other day my spouse and I had a Stupid Fight. You know, the fights you have sometimes with someone close to you that are about stupid nothing. The ones that happen all of a sudden, something just lights up - some irritant gets you in just the right spot while you’re washing dishes or a child. The ones that happen maybe when you’re both tired and oversensitive, or maybe there’s been an earlier, deeper offense; or maybe there’s some anxiety humming in the background. When whatever anger is below the surface of your calm finds a vent and erupts.

They are usually about the most mundane things, at least superficially. You can hardly remember why the conflict started. What you should have been able to shrug off or solve with one sentence becomes a conflagration. I most often observe these happening in the context of close relationships that are at some level “safe”, or at least longstanding.

Earlier on in our marriage, we would do Stupid Fights more often. Now we’ve learned a few things (not that we have it all sanctimoniously figured out, but 14.5 years is a fair amount of time for practice):

  • If your calm was that easy to crack, it was fake.
  • Either a) give vent to the emotion and let it play out without truly hurting each other, or b) someone take a walk.
  • The stupid fight is not the real issue, but it’s pointing to it.
  • The work is in the deeper, more vulnerable conversation that comes after, once the magma has cooled.

My wise friend Sharon says, “Emotions are messengers and messengers are angels.” I think she’s right. My experience with Stupid Fights is that they are often merciful messages telling us there is something needing attention.  They are opportunities for a meaningful conversation. The rub is this: the Stupid Fights are easy to blindly engage in and may even feel cathartic; but the real thing that’s beneath - the difficult challenging thing - is the one you’ve been avoiding. It’s the one that’s going to take some courage and vulnerability to talk about.

I’ve said this many times to friends who are getting married: Marriage is like a mirror that shows you your true self - you won’t be able to escape your own truth in it. But really I think any authentic relationship is a kind of mirror. It’s why church is always so messy: we are always revealing ourselves to each other whether we intend to or not, and generally trying to avoid what we don’t want to see.

All that to say: I’m a fan of Stupid Fights, with caveats. Have the Stupid Fight - fight well, without abuse! - then when it’s safe and the pressure is lower, do the real work the Stupid Fight was clueing you into.

God, we expend all kinds of energy avoiding ourselves.
We are difficult people.
Because we avoid our deepest selves, we tend to think you’re avoiding us too;
But you’re always close by.
You’re always mercifully holding up a mirror so we can see ourselves better.
Our best mirrors are our closest relationships.

We often expose each other’s weakness,
     Irritate each other,
     Make each other angry,
     Hurt each other.
We say things we don’t mean
And things we do.
We hold grudges.
We disagree.

When we are in conflict, give us the energy and courage to do the real work:
To be vulnerable
To share and listen
To resist shame
To let our anger and pain teach us
To explore our own souls
To be kind
To be merciful.

We embrace the messengers that point us to the deep issues:
Thank you for emotions.
Help us to hear the messages
And do the messy work of transformation.


Litany for Marriage

My husband and I recently celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary (Hallelujah thanks be to God). I believe we would both say that living in the context of marriage has been for us some of the most difficult and refining work of our lives. I would say that marriage has been for me like a mirror: showing me things about myself I probably could not have known outside of the context of a relationship this deep and constant. I’m not sure you can sleep with someone, see and talk with them daily, share finances and responsibilities and parenting and meals and rest and worship and recreation and sex, and keep your dark places secret. Not for long at least.

For me, marriage has been a well of refinement, often difficult or painful, occasionally boring, occasionally romantic, mostly rewarding and gratifying; and, once we’ve gotten through the hard stuff, a source of deep contentment. Like life, really, if you’re engaging with it. If you are hiding from it, or avoiding conflict, you probably aren’t doing it right.

It’s nice to have a person know you really well and not feel like you have to hide things. It’s nice to always have a fan, someone who’s got your back. It’s nice to have someone around to mitigate loneliness. It’s nice to have someone I trust around to tell me when I’m being crazy. I like being married, I married the right person, and I’m grateful. We celebrate how far we've come, and congratulate ourselves on the hard work it took to get here.

But. A few things:
We understand that marriage isn’t for everybody, and that those who prefer to remain unmarried are often tacitly de-valued in culture, at least in church culture.
We understand that many are seeking a marriage partner, and haven’t found him or her; and that this wait can be long and uncomfortable.
We understand that for many, marriage will be some of the most difficult work of our lives.
We understand that some marriages are unsustainable, people make mistakes, and many feel great pain when they end.
We understand that marriage has been for some, especially women, a context for abuse, subjugation, and inequality.

So, I don’t want to publish a litany about marriage without acknowledging those things. For many, the subject of marriage is a source of pain. Married isn’t the only way to live. It’s not the be-all, end-all of human relational existence. Married people are not more valuable or useful in society than single folks. God loves the married and the single. God moves in and through people regardless of attachments or relationships. God is pouring love to all.

All that said, if you are married, I invite you to pray:


God, in your wisdom you have created us to live in community with one another as Creator, Son, and Spirit dwell in community.
To us you have given marriage as part of that community.

We understand that marriage is a reflection of the Trinity: two in partnership, with God as leader.
We understand that conflict is inevitable, and ease is never guaranteed.
We understand that every relationship is an opportunity to have our eyes opened, our hearts expanded.

May we speak kindly.
May we enjoy one another’s company.
May we be good friends, and good lovers.
May we generously serve one another in joy and humility.
May we listen well and understand one another deeply.
May we delight in one another - body, soul, intellect.
May we put our partner’s needs above our own.
May we have patience with one another’s defects.
May we each have the courage to give voice to our own needs.
May we each pull our weight, living in equality and mutual respect.

As we wound our partners, forgive us.
As we are wounded by our partners, may we graciously forgive.
As we become complacent, show us ways to win one another.
As we fall into unhealthy patterns of communication, give us strength to change.
As we get stuck in anger, fear, or pain; may we be moved again by love.
As we are discouraged by life circumstances - illness, finances, family conflict - fight for us, Lord, and give us peace.

In learning how to love well, we look to Christ as our example and inspiration.

Help us to accomplish good work together.
Help us to support and encourage each other in aspirations and endeavors.
Help us to care well for those people you put around us.
Help us to steward well the resources you give us.
Help us to not shirk the work of caring for our own souls and bodies, so that we may have something to offer our partner.
Help us to connect to you individually, so that following Jesus together comes naturally.
Help us to not shy away from conflict, but learn to engage our disagreements with intention and respect.
Help us to humbly ask for outside relational help when we need it.

May our marriages speak to us and to others about the unfailing love of God, the kindness and sacrifice of Jesus.
May we find redemption, peace, and satisfaction in our marriages.