8 Steps to Avoid Marriage Meltdowns at Holiday Gatherings

Marriage Meltdowns - This post includes 8 steps to help you avoid meltdowns during holiday gatherings. Click to read more. #marriagemeltdowns, #marriage, #marriageconflicts, #communication, #expectationsinmarriage, #prayformarriage

This is a repost of my Holiday themed post from last year. I thought I’d pull it out again because I don’t think I can really top it this year! Truthfully, I’m still recovering from a surgery to repair the abductor tendon on my right hip. So a little down time sounds good to me!

When I was a kid, I looked forward to every holiday with great anticipation. I loved the food, as well as the opportunity to be with extended family. And when Christmas was in view, I really, really loved the idea of getting presents—lots of presents! Lol!

However, once the actual holiday approached, my dreams and desires were often dashed by the way my mother, in particular, reacted. Very often she took on too much and delegated too little. Her anxiety and perfectionism tripped her up time and time again.

When I went into marriage, I was determined not to carry my mother’s drama into any of my own holiday gatherings. And I don’t know if it was because I arrogantly thought I could do better, or if I was deeply imprinted by her choices …

But I almost always did the very same kinds of things at every family feast that she had done before me.

At least, at the gatherings I hosted. 😉

This caused damage in my marriage and certainly must have damaged my children’s hearts as well. 😦

So here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from my mom’s and my own mistakes at holiday times. I hope they will help you to avoid some of the pitfalls present during the holidays.

Steps to Do Days Ahead of Time

1. Identify the pitfalls and pray about each one.

Set aside time far enough in advance of the big day to brainstorm all the potential things that could go wrong. Also, be sure to draw upon the past problems you’ve encountered or caused here as well. List each one, then write out beside them the ways you can avoid them or deal with them better.

Begin to pray over this list leading up to the holiday gathering—asking God to strengthen you in each challenge.

2. Communicate about a “game plan” with your mate.

This isn’t about discussing which football game you’re going to watch later that day! Sorry, NFL lovers!

Instead, walk through the plan for the day, so that your mate knows in advance what you need help with.

This means not expecting your spouse to read your mind. And try not to pop these expectations on your mate on the day of the gathering. Give your mate time to mentally prepare.

3. Don’t just adjust, but surrender your expectations.

During your prayer times up to the day, remember to ask God to reveal any of your unrealistic expectations. I’ve been guilty of wanting to impress my family with my cooking or decorating more than making quality time with them my focus. Wow! That confession hurts! 

Remember how Jesus responded to this when Martha was His hostess?

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  —Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

Like Jesus, my family only wants me to hone in on them—being with them, and not just buzzing around them.

Steps to Do the Day Of

4. Make time for Jesus before making time for others.

With a busy, full day on the docket, you might be tempted to forgo your time alone with God. But don’t give into this thought! My quiet times have become my “gas station”—allowing me to fuel up for the demands of each day.

If I skip this, I run out of fuel and end up operating in human weakness rather than God’s strength.

And on a day when you and I need more of God’s power, not less, this can spell disaster!

Been there? Oh, my! I certainly have!

So get up just a little earlier than you normally would to get this refueling time in. Even Jesus, in all of His power, knew the importance of meeting alone with God before facing the demands of the day.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” —Luke 5:16 (NIV)

5. Pray with or for your spouse on the morning of the holiday.

My husband and I have been praying every day (not just on holidays) for the past 7 years. Since we began this commitment, we’ve seen a drastic drop in the number of arguments we have.

I think that’s because it unifies us by keeping Christ as our focus rather than on ourselves. Read my post on this practice here.

If your spouse is not willing or uncomfortable praying with you, be sure to pray on your own for how you want to respond to your mate. And don’t spend near as much time praying for your mate’s attitude as you do praying for your own! 😉

6. Communicate well with your mate on the day of the gathering.

This means communicating with grace and patience in place. It also means being clear about what you need from them instead of expecting them to know when or how to help.

This also involves knowing when you need help. Stay self-aware—allowing your feelings to be acknowledged not only to your mate but also to yourself. 

Steps to Do When Meltdowns Happen Anyway …

7. Take a break to pray.

Sometimes we do all the right preparations, but the demands of the day end up breaking our resolve. We end up being snippy or, worse yet, losing our temper with our mates. Before it gets out of hand or after you’ve blown it completely, take a break to pray.

Don’t feel bad about running off to the bathroom or bedroom for a moment of solitude. Everyone will thank you for it! Simply take five or ten minutes to pray about how you feel, as well as ask God to empower you in this weak moment.

It’s also a good time to reflect on the grace Jesus has extended to you.

This will give you the motivation to do the next step …

8. Extend grace out of the grace you’ve received from Christ.

I don’t have the ability to extend grace to others unless I remember how undeserving I am of Christ’s forgiveness and lean into His grace. It is then that I gain a proper perspective that equalizes me with my mate and opens my heart like no other practice can. After all, there’s no sin my husband can do against me that is worse than my sins against Jesus. Yet Jesus still forgives me.

That’s when a holiday about thanksgiving comes more alive than ever before!

I’m not guaranteeing that you’ll avoid a meltdown in your marriage during a holiday gathering by following my suggestions but …


What is one step you would add to my list of eight above?


What are you tempted to do that creates problems with your spouse and others at holiday gatherings?

16 responses to “8 Steps to Avoid Marriage Meltdowns at Holiday Gatherings”

  1. Beth,
    I remember reading this post last year and it is a great one to revisit as the holidays are upon us. I have found that communicating with my husband is often my best defense when heading into the fray of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Communicating upfront heads off misunderstandings along the way. The only think I might add is be prepared to adapt, adjust, and improvise if your well laid plans go right out the window and be willing to laugh. Laughter diffuses a lot of tense situations. So glad you are concentrating on resting and pulled a great post out of the file. Praying for you my friend, and hoping each day brings you to a greater place of healing and restoration.
    Bev xo


    1. Yes, Bev! Good communication before and during the big day, as well as in the middle of a conflict is so vital to navigating away from or out of these common problems. I do think laughter and joking around are helpful for defusing things, but I would add to never sarcastically jab your husband in the name of “humor!” I’ve done that a time or two, and let me tell you, Gary found it to be NO laughing matter! Lol! I always try to keep that in mind when tensions are high, but sometimes I lapse into bad habits that are fine when we’re not both stressed out! Lol! Thanks for adding your wise words of advice, my friend, as well as your prayers for my healing! Happy Thanksgiving in advance!


  2. The good things that keep the relational gears lubricated throughout the year are SO MUCH MORE important at holiday time. Communicating expectations, agreeing on the work load and the guest lists, and being on the same team are life savers for us.


    1. Yes, that’s true, Michele. And that’s when we often neglect them because we’re overwhelmed and distracted by all the to-do’s. Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, my friend! You’re the sweetest!


  3. I definitely need to make sure I’m more clear with my plans the day of. Even though, through my health battles, I’ve had to learn how to delegate my tasks, it’s still not easy the day of for me to not want things to be done how I want them to go. This is great advice, Beth! We need to be enjoying our family time more than wanting everything to be done the “right” way.


    1. I agree, April! That’s a tough one–trying to relinquish how we want things to go, especially if we’re the ones that typically do those tasks outside of holiday gatherings. I think that’s one reason God created marriage. So that we’d have LOTS of opportunities to learn to surrender to our mates so that we can also learn to surrender to our Lord! 😉 Love your last statement and so very true! Thank you for coming by and encouraging me, my friend! Happy Thanksgiving in advance!


  4. I will not do holidays
    (so my wife is outta luck)
    for I remember all the ways
    in which they brought bad luck.
    Guys would cut themselves some slack;
    “It’s Christmastime!” they said,
    but they ain’t never comin’ back.
    Relaxing made them dead.
    War will never take a break
    and life’s a lot like war;
    ease off once, make one mistake,
    that’s all hell’s waiting for.
    Keep it sharp and keep it agile;
    death’s for good, and life is fragile.


    1. Even though you do not like to celebrate the holidays, Andrew, I do hope you get to enjoy some foods you really like, as well as some relaxed time with your wife and dogs. Those are the moments that matter the most in life. Thank you for being such a good friend to show up here week after week, especially with all that you contend with each day! Hugs and prayers!


  5. Great tips for keeping communication lines open (and not just during the holidays)!. Making time with Jesus is so important every day, but especially important on days we know we’ll have stress. What?! My spouse can’t read my mind? Just kidding. It’s taken me a long time to learn this :/.


    1. Thank you, Anita! Yes, time with Jesus on that gathering day is REALLY important–even more important than all the communication strategies in the world. At least, that’s what I’ve found. And love your humor, my friend! I’m so glad you’ve learned this secret too! Happy “almost” Thanksgiving, my friend! I hope it’s full of fun, great food and special moments with your family!


  6. I love how much you emphasize prayer throughout this post, Beth! Thanks! Great post!

    Tweeted & pinned.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!


  7. Great post, Beth! I am definitely pinning and sharing!!


  8. I’m glad you decided to repost this. These tips are so practical and important. I know that making a game plan with my husband in advance would be so helpful. I’m going to put that one into practice this year.


  9. Beth,
    Just checkin’ in…hope this finds you healing and healthy?! I’m glad you didn’t have the side effect from anesthesia that I mentioned in my post this week (on gratitude). Praying you’ll be dancing a jig in the New Year!!
    Bev xx


  10. […] This is an updated edition of a post originally published on  messymarriage.com. […]


  11. And now it comes, Thanksgiving,
    and I really hate to say
    that in the life I’m living
    it’s just another day.
    I cannot meet with those who would
    drop by with “Hi, y’all!”
    I cannot cope with party food,
    and have tired of football.
    I go about the work I can
    still do, that calms my heart,
    and though this cancer is God’s plan,
    and quite sets me apart,
    I look to Him in gratitude,
    for each day is beatitude.


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