Surviving The Holidays

by Deacon Derrick and Mistianna Barnes

Deacon Derrick: The holidays are a wonderful and special time of year. During this season, Mistianna and I look forward to singing Christmas carols, giving gifts, baking cooking, hosting and going to parties, spending time with family and friends, and hopefully, finding ourselves thrown together under the mistletoe at least once during this festive season!

Mistianna: As the number of activities and events grow on most couple’s holiday schedules, couples like Derrick and myself start to feel extremely overwhelmed and our life begin to become even harder and more stressful to navigate. But Derrick and I don’t want to be known as “Scrooges”, so we grab our candy canes and work together to have and offer holiday cheer. We are thoughtful with our festive-ness because I am an extrovert and truly am a “party waiting to happen”; while Derrick is the exact opposite. Even though he is a deacon and can deliver a homily in front of thousands of parishioners, he is actually an introvert; and would be perfectly happy watching cheesy Christmas movies, “by himself”.

Deacon Derrick: While, Mistianna and I approach the holiday party season very differently, we make a real effort to listen and prioritize which events and celebrations are important to one another. One tactic we use is to openly discuss how much we want to attend an event and rate it on a scale from 1 to 10; with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. So, if we get invited to an ornament making party, and I rate it a 1 and Mistianna rates it a 3, we decline the invitation. Likewise, if we get invited to an Ugly Sweater Party, and I rate it a 7 and Mistianna rates it a 10, we get out our ugly Christmas sweaters and go! It really is more romantic to navigate holiday parties and get togethers arm-in-arm. After all, it’s all about team work and compromise, right?

Mistianna: Money is often a topic of contention in relationships, especially around the holidays. It’s definitely an area of holiday stress for us; especially when it comes to how much is spent on each person on the family Christmas list. Let’s say a small lump of coal sets you back around $150 today. In my case, I’d probably want to get a designer styled lump of coal, which would most likely be found at a high end jewelry store. Derrick, on the other hand, would either get out his cell phone and search for a non name brand lump of coal on or head to the nearest rock pile and dig one up. My point, Derrick and I are different kinds of shoppers who shop for entirely different types of products.  The solution for us and Christmas shopping as it relates to spending habits is to decide on spending limits in advance as a couple and to respect those limits and actually stick to them.

Deacon Derrick: Actually, buying the gifts also creates tension in our marriage; especially, when Mistianna feels like she does or is doing all of the work. Mistianna and I both agree that the solution to this lies in hashing out who’s buying what and how much mall or internet time we are both willing to log. Since, Mistianna truly loves the task of shopping and finding quality products on sale, she handles the majority of our online shopping. Further, she also loves going to lunch with her girlfriends and then hitting the Mall afterwards; thus, she logs the most shopping hours. My contribution, however, comes later in the season as I become the “King Wrapper” and wrap the gifts Mistianna has purchased.

Mistianna: Deciding where to spend the holidays also creates a great deal of tension and fighting in our relationship. If we are being completely transparent, I would honestly say that Derrick and I both love and appreciate the fact that our families want to spend time with us during the holidays. We also love that they want us to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with them as well. Conflicts occur in our marriage when both families have their celebrations on the same day and at the same time. This causes us to fight and argue over which family to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with, and which family to see after Christmas.

Deacon Derrick: You see, while my family lives on the other side of Louisville, the city we live in, we rarely ever see any of them except my Dad. Whereas, Mistianna’s Dad and Stepmom who live four hours away in western Kentucky, visit with us four to six times a year. So, like Mistianna said, we argue, we fight, feelings get hurt, doors get slammed, parents feel under-valued and beloved siblings, nieces and nephews, as well as cousins, end up feeling unimportant.

Mistianna: The dynamic between Derrick and I over where to spend the holidays really heated up when our daughter was born, and Nana and Papa and Grandma and Grandpa rivaled for time with their “precious” granddaughter. In my parents case, our daughter was their only grandchild for nearly twenty years. So, seeing her open her Christmas presents and experience her awe and surprise on Christmas morning when she realized Santa and his reindeers had left her almost every toy on her Christmas list was an experience they were not willing to miss one single thing! Since, she was their one and only granddaughter, they weren’t willing to compromise on us not being at their house on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So, the pressure they put on me for our family to spend Christmas in western Kentucky with them each year was overwhelming at best. This frustrated Derrick and his family because they couldn’t understand my parent’s unwillingness to share and my never-ending desire to please them.That is when the arguments became super heated and feelings really got hurt. In truth, I began dreading the holidays all together!!!

Deacon Derrick: With that being said, Mistianna and I learned that the best way to deal with these family conflicts during the holidays was to view ourselves as a team. We tried to remember that together, we were truly a super couple. And, since we really did love and respect each other, we needed to work together to give both families equal amounts of love and attention; and, as a team, we were able to communicate our feelings and effectively achieve this.

Mistianna: Even though, this season of good cheer is not always that cheerful for those of us who are married, it can be! You and your sweetheart can keep this holiday season filled with joy and happiness, joyful. The key is taking it on as a team. When Derrick and I work together, actively listen to each other, and honestly communicating our feeling to one another, we are able to keep “Christ” in our Christmas holiday! This means throwing anger, yelling, unnecessary arguing and even some door slamming over a vast range of holiday stressors into the fireplace; then replacing them with a lot more time cuddling and kissing under that mistletoe!


Deacon Derrick Barnes and his wife Mistianna were married in 1995 and were college sweethearts. They have one daughter, Kailee, who is in college at UK, and two fur babies Elvis and Presley Anne. They have been involved in a variety of Marriage Prep Programs in the Archdiocese of Louisville for more than 18 years, as a sponsor couple, speakers at Foundations of Marriage and presenters for the Engaged Encounter.

In, 2012, Derrick was ordained a deacon and is assigned to Saint Margaret Mary Parish in Louisville, KY where he and Mistianna are parishioners and founders of SMM’s Marriage Ministry. Deacon Derrick and Mistianna are passionate about the Sacrament of Marriage and feel called to help others have happy and holy marriages. They are currently on the Leadership Team for the Louisville Engaged Encounter and speak and conduct workshops on a variety of marriage prep and marriage topics across the Archdiocese of Louisville.


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