Can DIY Marriage Counseling Work As Well As The Real Thing?

By Dylan Buckley|Updated July 11, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Karen Devlin, LPC

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Whether due to the cost involved, an unwillingness to invite a stranger into a relationship or because they don't believe that professional help is needed, many couples prefer to work on their relationship problems themselves. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but it's important to understand how DIY marriage counseling compares to getting professional help before deciding to tackle the process of taking on their marriage problems on their own. If you are considering DIY marriage counsel but need more information before moving forward with your counseling techniques, here is some insight into whether or not DIY marriage counseling works as well as in-person counseling and whether or not it is right for you and your partner.

DIY Marriage Counseling Versus Counseling with a Qualified Therapist

To put things into perspective, let's imagine as if your choice of counseling were food. For the most part, individuals will choose to eat at home because it is more affordable and because they have all the resources there to reach their final goal of preparing a meal. However, not everyone has these resources available, and they may choose to eat out instead because they know that someone else will be able to prepare a meal for them.

Likewise, DIY marriage counseling only works if the couple in question has the resources, skills, and knowledge necessary to help patch their relationship together and can both cooperate to ensure that the outcome of their efforts is successful. However, not everyone who wants to try DIY marriage counseling will have what is needed to mend their relationship and attempting to do so properly can result in frustration and a lack of results. This is when it is better for a couple to go to someone who will be able to guide them in the process and serve as a mentor.

It's important to know what you and your partner are capable of and what you and your partner will struggle with before you try to mend your relationship. If you try to fix your relationship on your own and it becomes yet another issue between you and your partner, it will add more stress to the already strained relationship.

Does It Work?

The good news is, for those who can repair their relationship on their own and just need the advice and resources; DIY marriage counseling can be an effective way to tackle these relationship problems. That being said, doing your own counseling is only effective if it is properly conducted. In the following section, we will provide you with some tips and advice that will help guide you along the path of self-counseling and all of the challenges that may come with doing it yourself.

Communication Is Everything

Whether doing it by yourselves or paying someone else as much as $100 per hour, you can't expect to make any progress if you're not willing to talk respectfully and listen attentively to your partner. Both parties have to be able to speak their minds without the other getting offended, or judging their thoughts and feelings harshly.

A very simple technique that works wonders involves nothing more than each person paraphrasing their spouse's last statement before speaking themselves. It's also a good idea to set aside an hour or two each week to talk to each other about whatever may be bothering you. This can be done on a date night, lying in bed, or anywhere else where you both can feel relaxed and comfortable. When doing this, it's important to remember that complaints about someone's actions are acceptable, but criticisms aren't. It's also important to do this when you and your partner are not in the middle of the argument as the conflict is still relatively new and will only build. You must speak in a non-judgmental setting that allows for understanding and resolution rather than for more fighting.

Focus on Solutions, Not Problems

As someone who is in a potentially unstable relationship, you already know that spotting issues within a relationship can be rather simple. If you and your partner fight frequently, you both are already experts at seeing issues and calling them out, even if some of these issues are based on the bias feelings of you and your partner. The problem with simply focusing on issues, however, is that it doesn't lead to any resolution. It just builds upon the consistent cycle of arguing with your partner and blaming them for any conflicts that have arisen in the relationship. What you need to do as a couple is to recognize the problems (without the typical name-calling and blame-game, of course) and to then figure out an appropriate course of action that will eliminate those problems. Let's say, for example, that you are constantly fighting about money being spent on things that you shouldn't be spending them on. Rather than fighting each time this happens, sit down as a couple and create a budget that can better help you spend your income and determine where you have room for a little extra money for yourselves. A good couple focuses on solutions, not problems.

Sow the Seeds of Love and Nurture Them

When we are at odds with a partner, we can forget that we are in a relationship with them and instead view it as a forced friendship or roommate situation. However, you two are in a relationship, and it is just as important to focus on the positives as it is on the negatives. What were some of the initial things that drew you close to your partner? What were some of these things for your partner? What are some of your favorite memories with your significant other? What are some things that you enjoyed doing with your partner? Once you've identified some of the positives in your relationship, try to relive some of those moments and make sure that you are taking the necessary action to keep that love and affection going. Our strength in the relationship lies in our bond with each other, and without this, there is no relationship at all. Focusing on the positives will help to keep you going through all of the hard times.

There are a lot of materials out there covering relationships and how they can be improved. Every book and blog won't apply to your marriage, but reading up on the subject will often give you ideas on how you can do better. It's recommended that you both consult the same sources and talk about what you find to be of value. Doing this diligently is an excellent way of learning more about what works in a marriage and what doesn't, as well as allowing you and your partner to gain greater clarity about how the two of you view your relationship.

Another great way to make sure that you are getting the most out of your home-based therapy is to utilize resources that come with plenty of worksheets, planners, and other tools that you can fill in and reference as you continue with your therapeutic journey. While books and blogs are great, DIY marriage counseling is only useful if you can practice what you learn, and the knowledge base out there can be quite extensive. Tools will help you and your partner to summarize what you are learning, writing down what you and your partner need to do in terms of goals and actions, and will help you to schedule in important things when necessary. When you have a full system in place, all you need is motivation and drive on both sides, and you will be able to make the change!

When DIY Marriage Counseling Isn't Enough

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If you can use some of the tactics mentioned above successfully and without conflict, you and your partner will be able to heal your relationship on your own and perform a marriage counselor's job on your own. It's quite common for other couples to go through this process and you may be able to find a host of these successful couples online who will be able to provide you with their testimony of how they managed to save their marriage and get back to the relationship that they used to have.

However, with this in mind, the majority of couples who try relationship therapy are those who've let the problems in their marriage to build up and go unacknowledged for years until what started as a minor irritation is threatening to drive them apart. At this point, they'll often be highly entrenched in their opinions, unwilling to compromise, and will most certainly have difficulty discussing things rationally. They'll typically have the same arguments again and again without making any progress towards a solution that allows them to move on.

This may mean that they need a kind of conversational referee to make sure things stay on track. In fact, this may indicate that communication between them is close to breaking down and that things will only get progressively worse rather than getting better. When this has happened, they may also need a talking coach to teach them how to keep to a topic and steer clear of belittling or insulting one another. When this occurs, the best course of action for the couple to pursue is to see a marriage counselor.

There's a huge difference between those in the former situation and those in the latter situation, and you will be able to clearly define your relationship based on these qualities when you ask yourself, what type of therapy should I be seeking?

The major advantages of seeing a professional counselor are twofold. In the first place, they provide a way for both individuals to express their feelings through a neutral party without having to worry about the typical communication problems getting the way. When two people can explain their problems and feelings in a way that a third party can understand, they're obligated to be a little more objective than usual and to be able to answer the therapist's specific questions. Secondly, due to long training and practice, counselors are better equipped to see problematic dynamics when looking at a relationship from the outside. Your marriage may be unique in certain ways, but a troubled couple can often be diagnosed by the typical patterns it exhibits. If you are unable to make progress with your partner on your own, you should consider a marriage counselor as the next step to start working on your relationship before it becomes too late.


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