How to Relieve Marriage Stress During the Holidays

Five ways to navigate stress together

Holidays can be stressful on a marriage. We WANT peace and joy, but often end up with tension and frustration. How can we navigate the holidays as a marital team so that we can embrace the celebration of the season?

The American Psychological Association conducted a poll a few years ago that revealed that eight out of ten Americans experience stress during the holiday season. In fact, 69 percent attribute their stress to their personal finances and 61 percent to the economy in general. (Read more here.) The holidays can be a time to draw closer in your marriage. How you navigate the stress will make all the difference.

Here are five ways you and your spouse can support one another this holiday season:

1. Be aware

Just a few moments of reflection on the stresses your spouse may be carrying can go a long way. What are some of the themes you hear them talk about?  Here are just a few things can cause stress on a spouse during the holidays:

  • The loss of a loved one can create a sadness in their heart that they may or may not be able to identify. (For instance, Brad lost his father last Spring.)
  • Anticipating family gatherings can be stressful. Perhaps your spouse feels like the black sheep. Or there is tension and strife amongst siblings. Or one of their parents is difficult.
  • All of the preparations to either travel, or to receive guests can add additional stress.
  • Financial concern during the holidays as expenditures rise higher than your income or what has been budgeted.
  • Sheer busyness around a holiday can create very little breathing room to relax, or to connect as a couple.

Your sensitivity to what your spouse may be emotionally navigating is an important first step of support.

2. Listen carefully

Take the opportunity to ask your spouse what burdens or concerns they may have going into the holiday. Instead of trying to immediately solve the issue(s), simply listen and be understanding.

Dr. John Gottman in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work writes, “The cardinal rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice. You have to let your partner know that you fully understand and empathize with the dilemma before you suggest a solution.” In fact, the degree to which you can take your spouse’s side will be the degree to which you can help them de-stress, according to Gottman.

When your spouse feels heard, they feel less alone in their stress. We have heard it said that, “A shared burden is half a burden.” That certainly should be true in marriage.

3. Pray faithfully

You are in the best position to pray for your spouse about the concerns or burdens on their plate. Perhaps you can ask them if you can hold their hand and pray for them. The tenderness and intimacy of prayer, along with the flood of God’s Holy Spirit into the situation, can bring peace in the midst of their stress. Be sure that you take it upon yourself to pray regularly and faithfully for spouse on your own as well.

4. Offer help

There may be some things that you can do to help your spouse that haven’t come to your mind. Your participation and support will not only de-stress your spouse to some degree, but it will also draw them closer to you because of your empathy and understanding.

5. Give grace

Finally, be gracious to your spouse during this holiday season. Practice extra measures of patience and kindness.

If you feel your own stress and tension rising, say a prayer and ask God to give you peace in the moment. He will give you everything you need to navigate the holidays and support your spouse as you build your marriage!

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