An App to Improve Your Relationships

Half of all marriages will likely fail. The statistics are miserable – and many are seriously searching for ways to avoid that chance of failure.

Ronald Rogge, associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, has been researching ways to help couples nurture and strengthen their love. His newest project is a relationship app he codeveloped with a former University of Rochester student, Khadesha Okwudili. A recent pilot study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that 80% of study participants reported improved and healthier relationships after one month of app usage.

In her twenties, Okwudili was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart arrhythmia disorder. Near-death experiences inspired her to ask meaningful questions of the people she loved “because I wasn’t sure how much time I would have left with them,” Okwudili recalls. “Over time, I realized that although my health was deteriorating, my relationships started thriving in a way that they hadn’t before.” Together with Rogge, she began to develop and test content for Agapé.

The app sends registered couples a daily prompt, such as “What’s something that your partner did in the past week that made you laugh,” or “Describe a time you were thankful to have your partner by your side,” or “If your partner had a theme song that would play around them as they went through their day, what would it be and why?” Sometimes, the prompts are more fun and outlandish, such as: “What unique skills would your partner bring to surviving a zombie apocalypse?”

Both partners answer the prompt and trade responses, possibly sparking a meaningful conversation. They tested four thousand prompts over the last four years.

For the recent pilot study, the researchers recruited 405 romantic couples. Ninety-one percent were heterosexual, and the vast majority (84%) were in their twenties and thirties.

Key findings:

  • 80% reported improved romantic relationships, including a decrease in perceived negative relationship qualities and an increase in relationship satisfaction and dedication
  • 70% saw improvements in their own well-being, higher vitality, a better quality of life, and a noticeable drop in depressive symptoms
  • Couples who completed more daily prompts had more substantial gains in relationship quality
  • 93% said the app was enjoyable, and 74% said it was easy to use.

Although the present study focuses on romantic relationships, users can also participate with friends or family. The study’s data and materials can be accessed at the Open Science Framework.

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