The truth about relationship advice and why you should be skeptical

Any couples counselor will tell you that not all marriages or relationships are salvageable—despite my best efforts (and my pro-marriage and pro-commitment attitudes), some of the couples I’ve counseled will still make the painful decision to end their marriage or relationship.

A sad fact is that there will always be a percentage of marriages that fail—despite the couple’s best efforts to make it work. I think we all know this at some level, but we still believe that somehow our love is so unique and transcendent that our relationship will be the one that prevails, no matter what.

Beware of unrealistic marriage and relationship promises

I’ve seen a troubling online trend when it comes to marriage advice and relationship help products: Messages that offer unrealistic promises and assurances that any marriage or relationship can be saved, no matter how bad things are between you (and, not surprisingly, these messages are usually associated with the sale of some service or product).

I recently coached a woman who went through a very painful divorce and stated that she felt like a “double failure” because she used an over-hyped relationship product (I don’t know the product). Despite my client’s best efforts, her marriage still ended—her husband had already made up his mind and checked out of the marriage.

So this already vulnerable, hurting woman thought there must be something wrong with her — after all, the claims touted by the seller of this product included a high success rate and several blatant promises (even in dire circumstances) and therefore seemed perfect for her situation.

Can a troubled marriage or relationship be saved?

Absolutely—I’ve seen this firsthand as a psychologist and relationship coach.

Should a couple give it their all and, when needed, seek professional help before giving up on their union?

I certainly would, and I encourage others to do so.

However, some marriages and relationships won’t make it (divorce statistics and the rate of failed relationships support this claim) and you should be cautious of any online messages that make outlandish promises, especially messages claiming to be able to save your marriage/relationship for sure, even when the relationship has been drowning in hopelessness for years and one or both of you are ready to move on and build a new life.

Be wary of marriage and relationship advice guarantees

Commitment and effort are essential to a successful relationship—but even these necessary ingredients don’t offer a guarantee (according to a guarantee assures a particular outcome).

When someone offers a guarantee for their product/service, it usually:

1. Reflects the person’s own confidence in the quality of his/her product/service;

2. Is used as a sales device to increase your motivation to purchase the product/service.

Neither one of these are inherently bad. Sales hype doesn’t mean someone’s product or service isn’t useful—it might really help you. But you should realize that the use and effectiveness of a marriage/relationship service or product will always involve a leap of faith on your part.

Here is my professional opinion about online marriage advice and relationship help products. They:

~might work;
~might even work really well;
~might not make much of a difference;
~might be a total waste of time.

But the truth is, you probably wouldn’t purchase anything if someone’s website and sales pitch read something like:

“Try my new marriage overhaul system. I think it’s great (and my aunt loved it)—I hope you do too. It may really help your marriage…but then again, if I’m being totally honest, I can’t be sure of that, since every relationship is unique. But what the heck, give it a try anyway—I’ll keep my fingers crossed!”

What does this mean for you and your relationship?

Approach marriage advice and relationship help services/products with an open mind: balance healthy skepticism with hopefulness and realism. Take a little time to find out about the credentials and experience of the person selling a service or product—and if anyone is making overly-hyped claims or promising iron-clad results, my advice: turn and run.