For couples in need of marriage counseling, the prospect of finding and affording a counselor can be a daunting expense. Experts agree, however, that marital counseling is worth it. No matter how high the price, counseling is cheaper than divorce, both in literal and figurative cost.
But what do you do if you truly can’t find affordable marriage counseling? It varies depending on where you live, but marriage counseling costs range from $50 to $250 an hour. Most counselors suggest a 3 to 6-month weekly commitment, so the expense adds up quickly. Since nearly half of the families in America live paycheck to paycheck, and since financial problems are a leading cause of marital stress, there’s a good chance you simply can’t make room in your budget for the counseling you need.
Thankfully, there are inexpensive marriage counseling alternatives.
#1: Put your marriage first.
This seems like a no-brainer. If you want your marriage to overcome a rough patch and come out better on the other side, you’ll give it your full attention, right?
But imagine your life is a minivan (or an expensive SUV, if you prefer). Is your marriage in the backseat? The far back seat, behind the kids, their sports equipment, your career, and your social obligations?
For most of us, whether we have marital problems or not, the answer is yes. It didn’t start out that way, of course. Most marriages begin with two people fully committed to the health and satisfaction of their relationship.
Then life happens, and the easy things get pushed farther and farther back to make room for things that require dedicated time and attention.
As is true with everything in life, successful marriages don’t just happen. They require work, effort, commitment. If those have been lacking in your relationship for a while, it’s not too late to change it up. Start by making one-on-one time with your spouse a priority.
What would it take to spend some quality time alone with your significant other?
Figure it out, then do it, even at the expense of other activities or priorities. Your marriage is worth the sacrifice.
# 2: Find a good book.
There are so many good books out there that help couples address their relational troubles. Just a quick Amazon search can provide more suggestions than you could read in a lifetime. To save time, Mastersincounseling.com offers a Top 12 List of Books for Troubled Marriages. Here’s a few, followed by their descriptions on Amazon:
The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Chapman
“In the #1 New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner—starting today.”
Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, by Harville Hendricks, PhD
“Originally published in 1988, Getting the Love You Want has helped millions of couples attain more loving, supportive, and deeply satisfying relationships. The 20th anniversary edition contains extensive revisions to this groundbreaking book, with a new chapter, new exercises, and a foreword detailing Dr. Hendrix’s updated philosophy for eliminating all negativity from couples’ daily interactions, allowing readers of the 2008 edition to benefit from his ongoing discoveries during his last two decades of work.”
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, by John M. Gottman, PhD and Nan Silverman.
“John Gottman’s unprecedented study of couples over a period of years has allowed him to observe the habits that can make—and break—a marriage. Here is the culmination of that work: the seven principles that guide couples on a path toward a harmonious and long-lasting relationship. Straightforward yet profound, these principles teach partners new approaches for resolving conflicts, creating new common ground, and achieving greater levels of intimacy.”
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson
“In Hold me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson presents Emotionally Focused Therapy to the general public for the first time. Johnson teaches that the way to save and enrich a relationship is to reestablish a safe emotional connection and preserve the attachment bond. With this in mind, she focuses on key moments in a relationship – from Recognizing the Demon Dialogue to Revisiting a Rocky Moment – and uses them as touchpoints for seven healing conversations. Through case studies from her practice, illuminating advice, and practical exercises, couples will learn how to nurture their relationships and ensure a lifetime of love.”
Fight Fair: Winning Conflict Without Losing at Love, by Joy Downs
“When couples fight, tempers flare, tongues loosen, and behavior occurs that can cause major damage to the relationship. Fight Fair! teaches couples how to have healthy disagreements. It is a candid and realistic “rulebook” for married couples to ensure that their conflict is God-honoring and respectful of their partner. There is also plenty of immediate application to ensure that future conflicts don’t create permanent scars.”
#3: Find (or Start!) a Small Group
Every couple benefits by spending time with other couples, especially when those other couples are intentionally building and maintaining a healthy marriage relationship. Hearing what other couples have walked through and how they made it through successfully can be a great source of encouragement to others.
Have you ever wondered if other married people deal with the same issues you do? Have you wondered how other couples manage those issues? Being a part of a small group that fosters healthy marriages can help us see our problems (and solutions) from a new perspective, and give us the boost we need to try something new.
Marriage small groups are popular among church circles, but you don’t have to be a church member to enjoy the benefits of a small group. If you can’t find one in your community, consider starting one of your own. The easiest way to do that is to find a good book to study, invite a few married friends to join you, and be ready to discuss what you read each week.
For practical tips on leading a small group, check out this article from Smallgroups.com.
#4: Online Marriage Counseling
Online marriage counseling is a less-expensive option that is growing in popularity. Couples are finding that doing counseling in the safety and comfort of their own home provides great results. Online marriage counseling offers flexibility, privacy, and affordability, as well as great results.
Services like those offered through Savethemarriage.com offer resources for struggling married couples, including real tools and exercises to help you resolve your marital problems.
Other websites offer trained counselors to meet with you via Skype to help you identify and work through the issues that are causing disruption in your marriage.
Still not convinced? The following video discusses some of the issues you should consider when making the decision about whether or not online marriage counseling is the right choice for you and your spouse:
Affordable marriage counseling is available; it just might not look like you expect. All of these traditional marriage counseling alternatives can help you get your relationship back on track. Do you have other suggestions for how to obtain inexpensive marriage counseling? Let us know in the comments!