La Semana

Can an app improve your romantic relationsh­ip?

- BY UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER

Half of all marriages in the United States are likely to fail by the time the spouses reach their 50s. Understand­ably, many couples are looking for ways to avoid becoming part of that statistic, well aware of a divorce's possible wide-reaching detrimenta­l effects on families, children, personal Knances, individual well-being—and direct and indirect costs to society.

Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, has been researchin­g the complex dynamics of romantic relationsh­ips and families for nearly three decades, searching for ways to help couples nurture and strengthen their love.

One of those ways—his newest and "most successful project, based on its extensive reach," Rogge says—is a relationsh­ip app that he codevelope­d with a former University of Rochester student, Khadesha Okwudili. In a recent pilot study, published in the Journal of

Family Psychology, Rogge found that the overwhelmi­ng majority of study participan­ts—8 out of 10—reported improved and healthier relationsh­ips after one month of app usage.

"Our primary goal was to create an app that couples would intrinsica­lly enjoy using, which would naturally grow in popularity, and thereby organicall­y extend its reach," says Rogge.

Barely in her twenties, Okwudili was diagnosed with a lifethreat­ening heart arrhythmia disorder. Several near-death experience­s inspired her to ask more 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, generating thousands of questions that would be relevant

for a wide range of couples.

How does the Agapé relationsh­ip app work?

Agapé 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?" Or something more outlandish, such as: "What unique skills would your partner bring to surviving a zombie apocalypse?"

Once both partners have answered the prompt, they can see each other's responses, possibly sparking a meaningful conversati­on, "enhancing awareness" and promoting "moments of connection," says Rogge, who has pilot tested over 4,000 prompts over the last four years, grounded in marital and couples research of the last 40 years.

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