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Can An App Really Improve, or Even Save a Relationship?

It's well known that the app format has almost completely absorbed online dating like a great, gelatinous amoeba in the shape of the Tinder logo. What if you're already in a relationship, though? Obviously you have no need of such things, unless you and your partner are open to involving a third party, in which case 3nder is still a thing, but what about purely monogamous relationships?

As relationships progress, they are plagued by numerous issues, some minor, some potentially fatal. There are reams of different solutions, from counselling to trips away to sex seminars, whatever it takes to overcome the bump in the road, but wouldn't you know it, there are also apps. Dozens and dozens of apps.

None of them are all-purpose relationship adhesive, and none would ever claim to be able to save a relationship all by themselves, but can a little packet of data on your phone really do anything to improve or repair a relationship?

Let me give you a few examples of what such software is actually offering: Kindu and Duet basically act as lists of things to do with your significant other, Kouply lets you award your partner points every time they do something you like (and vice versa), Simply Us is a calendar sharing app with a photo and messaging system and LokLok syncs both your phone lock screens together so you can leave little text/picture/photo messages for each other.

There are many, many more and yes, they all have similarly cutesy names. Most of them have limited short-term potential, and zero long-term. They're fun, for a while, but are unlikely to introduce any kind of element to the relationship which it can't do without. A lot of them are just streamlining aspects of the relationship which are more dependent on technology, like messaging, scheduling, arranging meeting places and so forth. They're novelties.

Can it reach beyond that though? If your relationship is in a tailspin, can an app actually get you back on track again? There are plenty of books out there which claim they can do exactly that, so why wouldn't an interactive medium be able to do the same job? There have certainly been attempts, two of the most prominent of which are Jyst and Relationup.

The former is more specifically for women, and acts as a kind of communal agony aunt, allowing users to detail the scenario they find themselves in (presumably not to their lover's knowledge) and get advice from the wider community on what to do. It's nothing you couldn't do on a forum, and seemingly most people use it to validate the decisions they've already made themselves.

Relationup, meanwhile, actually makes use of professional therapists. As such, it's not free, you have to drop $12 for every 15 minutes of advice time, which starts to pile up when you consider that you'll almost certainly need at least an hour to really get into the meat of an issue. Also, you don't know who you're getting, and therapy is very much a developmental process, not a crapshoot. In either case, the answer seems to be an unequivocal no.

Fix a Fight is the other app which falls under this banner, somewhat. Say you and your partner have a fight, this app will guide you through the resolution with visual and vocal prompts, and enables each person to detail their 'subjective reality', their version of things. As you go, you rate the intensity of your anger, and as it reduces, the app follows those trends. Once all is resolved the app suggests a fun activity to clear the air. It's an interesting idea, but it could probably only ever apply to a minor disagreement and, crucially, it requires both parties to sit down together and work it through. After a fight, the phrase "let's sit down and use the phone" isn't high up on the probability chart. If you're even in the same room at that point.

There is a 3rd aspect, of course - sex. This is where the amount of variety pretty much explodes (or another, similar sounding word). There are hundreds of apps which set out to improve your sex life, and how well they work is almost completely subjective. Some offer dirty games, others allow you to suggest ideas without the embarrassment of talking about it out loud, there's a Cosmo-backed 'position of the day' app, a Kamasutra app and even one which plays binaural tones to improve your sex drive (unproven pseudoscience, at best).

How well these work is, again, up to how you implement them, but virtually none of them rely on the app format to function properly. So, can apps improve relationships? Potentially, yes. Could an app save a fractured relationship? I'd say it's extremely unlikely. The worryingly prevalent perspective that you can solve any issue with an app begins to run out of steam when you get to big, emotionally significant things like relationships, and although digital life pervades all aspects of our existence now, relationships included, we're still organic, and we'll always do better when we try to understand each other without trying to automate it.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum

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Can An App Really Improve, or Even Save a Relationship? Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, September 23, 2016 Rating: 5

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