There are a legion of apps for dating: Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, OKCupid. But once two people are a couple, are there any apps that help them stay together?
An entrepreneur in California is working on an app to do just that, and he’s leaning strongly on the research of relationship psychologists to guide his way.
Called LifeCouple, the app is the brainchild of longtime sales and marketing executive Sean Rones, who’s been through his fair share of marriage therapy sessions.
“I think I’ve been to about eight marriage therapists,” Rones said, grimacing. “And let me tell you, men don’t want to go to therapy. Asking men to go to therapy is like asking them to get a root canal.”
Married for 19 years now, Rones said it was his experience on the proverbial couch that drove him toward the idea for LifeCouple. Therapy, he said, is a hassle.
“You have to get in your car and drive to the therapists’ office, where they’re going to send you home with paper work sheets to complete,” Rones said. “In today’s day and age, why not take the best practices and put them in a digital format?”
After all, he said, logging onto an app is far less intrusive than detailing your personal life to a stranger.
The app had a soft launch in December, and has about 1,000 users on board. Rones said he’s gathering feedback and tweaking the app based on customers’ responses.
LifeCouple has several features, all of which center on four tenets of a healthy relationship: communication, trust, intimacy and conflict resolution.
The app prompts users to rate their level of satisfaction (on a scale of 1 to 10) in different areas of their relationship, such as “affection” or “intimacy.” If one partner happily reports a 10-level satisfaction, but the other submits a 1, then the app flags the area as something the couple need to work on.
Rones hopes people will use the app proactively to keep their relationships happy, rather than turning to the app once therapy is needed.
“If we get dissatisfied in a relationship, we tend to think the grass is greener on the other side,” he said. “But it’s greener on the side where you water it.”
Gail Heyman, a professor of psychology at University of California, San Diego, thinks apps like LifeCouple have the potential to improve relationships, especially when it comes to knowing how your partner perceives things.
“People tend to think their view of the world is objectively true, and they have a hard time seeing other people’s perspective,” Heyman said. “Giving people insight into what their partners are thinking is valuable, and it might get conversations happening that wouldn’t happen otherwise.”
But Heyman is concerned that technology — especially cellphones — also serve as a barrier between couples.
“The technology itself can be a distraction,” she said. “There’s a lot of research that shows technology interferes with closeness in relationships. I also worry about the app’s focus on outcomes, numbers and percentages. People want to quantify everything these days, and it can lead to obsessiveness and competition that’s probably not good.”
Whether we like to admit it, she said, it might be handy to have a tool to manage your relationship.
“In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need reminders to think about the other person’s needs, but that’s hard for a lot of people,” Heyman said. “When we’re distracted and pulled in so many different directions, we have to prioritize our relationship. People think in the abstract that their relationship is important, but they don’t invest much time in them.”