Even in a normal year, I know all too well from my clients that holidays and stress go hand-in-hand. Things like deciding whose family to visit, how much to spend, and last minute changes to plans can lead to eruptions. Add pandemic concerns on top of that and the season is a powder keg. You need holiday stress tips.

What kinds of things can you do to avoid relationship friction?

Acknowledge the Financial Reality of COVID: Make a Holiday Budget and Stick to It

Money is always one of the top causes of arguments between couples. And with so many people struggling due to the pandemic, this year will likely be worse. The chaotic and emotion-fueled festivities of the holiday season only exacerbate this further.

How can you alleviate problems? Sit down with each other. Look at your finances. And make a plan of action together.

This means budgeting for presents, travel, meals – anything that wouldn’t be a normal part of your monthly budget. Last-minute crises may occur, but the better you plan, the easier it will be to deviate from it when necessary.

Sign up for our newsletter to get more relationship tips.

Prepare for Known Holiday Stressors

No holiday stress tips can prevent all stress. Case-in-point: family-related stress.

Whether you’ll be seeing relatives in person or virtually this year, some of them are bound to push your buttons. In fact, guilt over not seeing someone may be just as bad.

Recognize this ahead of time. And talk it out with your partner.


This has many purposes:

1) It prepares your partner for specific situations that may stress you out.

2) It enlists your partner in helping you combat the stressful situation.

3) It shows you care about how your stress (and potential bad behavior) could impact your partner.

Attempting to preemptively deal with the stressors will hopefully cause fewer relationship issues if an explosion does happen.


Don’t use this “preparation” as an excuse to blow up. There has to be a genuine effort on both sides to prevent bad behavior.

Accept That This Year Will Be Different

All of us are tired of having to change our lives for COVID. But if you’re prioritizing safety, you have to accept that as a reality.

Which means this holiday season will likely be different from years past. Maybe you won’t have holiday parties with friends. Or go to that festival where people pack the streets, get hot chocolate, and see Santa. Or attend that annual light tour in your city.

Talk about the things you’re going to miss this year ahead of time. And then think about new traditions you can start. Ones that will allow you to celebrate the season without sacrificing safety.

Like holiday movie nights. Driving around to see the lights. Making hot chocolate at home. And so on.

No one is saying it will be easy. But acknowledging the potential problems ahead of time and talking them through together can save your relationship from a lot of grief.

Want more holiday stress tips? If you find yourself struggling over the season and worry about your relationship, seek out the Houston marriage counselor today.

Originally Published 12/11/2019. Updated 10/16/20.