Can Couples Improve Their Own Marriages Without Outside Help? How?

Improving your marriage can seem like a daunting tasks, but there are resources available to help you through the process.  Drs. Wallace Goddard and James Marshall, marriage researchers and educators from the University of Arkansas, compare nurturing a marriage to growing a garden. If you’re interested in eating the fruit of the garden, you’ve got to first plant, water, weed, cultivate, and watch over your garden so it can reach its potential. And in some cases dealing with some manure may actually strengthen the harvest!

Most couples who go from being unhappy to happy in their marriages do not get help from outside experts such as marriage therapists. Some are able to overcome serious issues by themselves with effort and the passage of time.

These couples may turn to self-help resources, such as books or websites about relationships, to help guide their efforts. Here are some self-help resources you may find helpful:


  • The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage, by Michele Weiner Davis. Simon & Schuster, 2001.
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John M. Gottman & Nan Silver. Three Rivers Press, 2000.
  • Can My Marriage Be Saved? True Stories of Saved Marriages, by Mae Chambers & Erika Chambers. Pass It On Publications, 2008.
  • Fighting For Your Marriage, by Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, & Susan Blumburg. Jossey-Bass, 2010.
  • The Power of Commitment: A Guide to Active, Lifelong Love, by Dr. Scott M. Stanley. Jossey-Bass, 2005.
  • The Great Marriage Tune-Up Book: A Proven Program for Evaluating and Renewing Your Relationship, by Dr. Jeffry H. Larson. Jossey-Bass, 2003.
  • Take Back Your Marriage, by Dr. William J. Doherty. Guilford, 2001.


  • PREPARE/ENRICH. This website contains an online, self-guided relationship questionnaire for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses in your relationship, called “Couple Checkup.” The program is done in your home with computer-generated feedback. It was developed by one of the world’s leading relationship educators.
  • Couple Care. This website introduces you to an inexpensive, self-guided program to work on improving your communication and other relationship skills. You do the work in your home; a trained facilitator will call you from time to time and ask if you have questions and discuss how things are going. The program was developed by a leading relationship expert.
  • Two of Us. This website, developed by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, has valuable resources for strengthening your marriage.
  • Divorce Busting. This website has resources to connect you with a divorce-busting “coach.”