In our Love App-tually series, Mashable shines a light into the foggy world of online dating. It is a cuffing season after all.
Remember when online dating sounded weird and pathetic, but now that stigma isn’t even a little bit of a thing anymore?
Unfortunately, couples apps haven’t reached that stage yet. But it’s only a matter of time before apps that help us with everything that comes after you stop dating around and commit to a relationship become normalized too.
Sure, apps that send you to push notification reminders to tell your partner why you think they’re great might sound dystopian and pathetic. But if we’re willing to let algorithms help us meet total strangers, why not let them help us turn those strangers into lifetime partners?
Whether it’s marriage counseling, conflict resolution, intimacy building, scheduling, or sexual exploration, this new wave of online romance is a logical evolution for app-enabled love. As a recent Pew Research study found, a whopping 30 percent of all U.S. adults have used online dating and 12 percent even found committed relationships through them.
Technology can’t save your relationship. Sometimes, it can even create problems (including some of the apps we tried in our search for the best). Relationships are too messy to be wholly optimizable via any single app. But healthy relationships also require investment, communication, compromise, time management, and playfulness. There are apps for all those aspects of our lives, so why not extend those tools to being a better partner?
Obviously, tech-based intimacy will never replace the real thing. But used in the right way, through thoughtfully designed approaches, digital communication can open doors to things that might feel too scary to do in person. The distance can make us more comfortable talking about sexual desires or give us enough time and space to approach difficult moments in more productive ways.
That’s why we did the work of finding the best relationship apps for couples and rated each on a scale of 1 to 5 emoji. (One emoji indicates the app’s a fuckboy, while five signifies an app that deserves a ring on it. The types of emoji used were just for fun.) Our time spent testing each varied depending on the app’s depth and cost. Some were tested over a week, while others over one or two sessions, topping off at around 30 minutes. We also asked every company about whether they gathered or sold user data and how the free apps monetized if not since privacy is especially important for these kinds of personal matters.
Each one earned our high stamp of approval for user experience.
Who and what it’s for: Marriage counseling or rekindling for those who aren’t ready or can’t afford in-person therapy.
Price: Some free features, or a 7-day free trial for Premium that costs $11.99 per month or $79.99 per year for two users.
Where to get it: iOS
Inclusivity: Options of female, male, or I do not identify.
Our thoughts: Lasting delivers. Thoroughly researched and well-designed, their method distills teachings from the best relationship experts into weekly lesson plans broken down into several five or so minute sessions. You and your partner learn about then answer questions around concepts ranging from emotional cues to forgiveness to finances. The idea is to share your answers then discuss what they reveal. Aside from daily reminders that help you apply those lessons, there are also guided exercises on mindfulness, nurturing, and conflict. Lasting equips you with the vital language and mental frameworks that should be pre-requisites for longterm relationships. Don’t go into it lightly, though: You’ll dive into the very personal, often charged territory. It’s designed predominantly for struggling marriages, so if that’s not you, some lessons may feel like inventing problems that aren’t there or forcing levels of intimacy your relationship isn’t ready for.
Who and what it’s for: Couples of all commitment levels looking to deepen connection, explore romantic possibilities, and build strong foundations.
Price: 7-day free trial, then either $14.99 per month or $79.99 per year for two users.
Inclusivity: Options of female, male, or option to self-describe with preferred pronouns.
Our thoughts: While more broadly applicable and wide-ranging than Lasting, Relish actually feels more personally tailored to your specific relationship needs. Premium access pairs you with a coach who asks for weekly check-ins and gives recommendations geared toward your particular situation. It’s not extensive counseling by any means. But coupled with how the app helps you and your partner identify attachment types, areas of conflict, and love languages, Relish keeps things focused on your individual needs within a comprehensive scope. There’s also features like a progress meter, fun (if somewhat lackluster) daily date night generator, and a whole tab for connecting and asking advice from other Relish users. If you want a preview of some lessons without even downloading it, check these out.
Who and what it’s for: Playful sexual adventure into uncharted territory, suitable for everyone from the vanilla to the kinky, hetero or queer.
Price: Free to $6.99 for access to all levels
Inclusivity: Straight, gay, lesbian, and multiplayer mode options!
Our thoughts: Do you ever miss that nervous excitement you got from playing Seven Minutes in Heaven in middle school? Despite a truly abysmal title, Dirty Sex Game for Couples brings all that back and more. You and your partner(s) play a simple but scintillating game of Truth or Dare, choosing between four levels of intensity (soft, hot, hard, or extreme). Extreme comes with a warning to establish a safe word. All the prompts are varied, fun, titillating, and most importantly exploratory. You can skip anything that makes you too uncomfortable, but remember the point is going outside your comfort zone. You can even add your own dares for specific desires you’ve got in mind. It’s a great way to at least facilitate conversations about what gets you off through tons of creative ideas. There’s even a pair of naughty dice, where you roll one die to get a verb and the other for the body part you’ll do it to.