I Tried This Viral App For Couples & It’s Changed My Relationship

Photographed by Laura Chen.
There are the obvious relationship stinkers. Cheating. Gaslighting. Eating a 30-clove garlic chicken before meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time. But scoot a little way down from these red flags and there are those gradual relationship killers that operate on a more insidious level. Poor communication is certainly one of the most commonly talked about (or not, that being the issue). It is a crowbar of frustration, we are warned, that will absolutely prise two people apart over time. 
I’ll hold my hands up and say that I have, at one point or another, been guilty of most communication blunders. I can be defensive. I’ve been known to interrupt during an argument, and you know that Michelle Obama saying, "When they go low, we go high"? I can go subterranean. 
But I want to do the work to be better. I want to stay happy and in love (my boyfriend and I have been together for two years now). And I am interested in the psychology of why I am the way I am and do the things I do. Short of going to therapy (which I started this year), or couples therapy, we all know that any behaviour — baked into the fibres of our beings by our parents, their parents, friends, those who hurt us and loved us — can be hard to change. But it all starts by reinforcing those daily habits, right? Enter: 'relationship wellness' app Agapé, which you might have noticed all over TikTok

Only by exploring the more uncomfortable but unavoidable aspects of a relationship can a couple resolve outstanding problems and move forward in the best direction.

Dr Carmen Harra
Both you and your partner must download the app, then every day each of you answers a randomised question. I discovered its existence on a TikTok scroll one night, where a user had screenshotted their partner’s tender response to one of the questions. It brought to mind 36 Questions To Fall In Love, made viral by The New York Times back in 2015. The question was one that I would never think to ask my partner outright but I could see how it could foster intimacy between two people. My interest was piqued. I downloaded the app instantly. 
Neither of you can see the other person’s response in the app until you’ve submitted your own. It’s a good exercise in taking the plunge for those people-pleasers who might edit their response accordingly. You’re forced to have conviction in whatever you’re saying, and there’s no going back when you hit send. Simple, right? Kind of.
The questions cover everything from conflict ("Have you noticed that your partner tends to become defensive about one topic in particular?") to gratitude ("Describe some of your favourite ways that your partner shows their affection to you") and random insights into the inner workings of your other half ("What’s something that you would NEVER ever pay for, even if you were extremely wealthy?"). To the latter question, I wrote a lengthy response about maintaining the same group of friends I have always had to keep me grounded amid my luxurious new lifestyle. My boyfriend answered "exotic pets" and I swear that my heart burst at the sheer randomness — but also genius — of his response. This is part of the magic of an app such as this, according to psychologist, relationship expert and author Dr Carmen Harra.
"A relationship wellness app can positively affect a relationship by encouraging both partners to communicate honestly and openly," Harra tells Refinery29. "One partner may be surprised, even offended, by the other partner’s answers but this is actually a good thing: they can approach their other half in an effort to understand the true meaning of his or her response. Only by exploring the more uncomfortable but unavoidable aspects of a relationship can a couple resolve outstanding problems and move forward in the best direction."

Used correctly, an app like this can only help. It's a daily reminder not to take the other person for granted and to maintain that curiosity about who they are and their needs.

Agapé is just one of many. From quiz-centric Paired to gamified 'relationship training' app Relish and 'smart journal' Coupleness, couple apps are nothing new. These kinds of downloadable sources of relationship care are only gaining popularity — another inevitable area of wellness to subscribe to as the self-care industry expands. Like apps like Headspace and Calm, which nurture our mental health, apps like Agapé facilitate that care within our relationships. We would use an app to meet someone so why wouldn't we use one to keep them?
In an interview with The Guardian, Jacqui Gabb of Paired, also a professor of sociology and intimacy, says: "Relationship care was the obvious next step. We have sex and relationships education as part of the school curriculum but then it falls off a cliff. We all think we know what makes a good relationship — based on what we see in parents, friends and the media — but people are starting to realise that you have to put the work in, every day."
Like most things in a relationship, it takes effort on both parts. On Agapé, there is no word count so your answers can be as long or as short as you want them to be. But it’s about making the effort to check in with your partner once a day and hear what they have to say.
One can see how the app would work well for people who might struggle to articulate or verbalise how they feel, whether that’s in conflict or affection. For people like me, who often impatiently jump the gun in conversation, the question-answer format gives both parties an equal forum for airing out any grievances. Practice makes perfect.
Another thing that Agapé does is allow you to practise empathy and restraint. Just because the theme is conflict and the floor is open doesn’t mean that you have to be combative, critical and finger-pointing. One day, off the back of a conversation-turned-blazing row, my boyfriend and I were giving each other space (i.e. the silent treatment, which is arguably harder to do when you live together in a small flat). I saw that the question of the day facilitated some regrettably below-the-belt shot-taking. I took the bait. When I read his carefully constructed, sensitive and non-inflammatory response, I felt filled with shame. I walked into the living room where he was working and apologised in person. It opened up the floodgates to talk about the argument at hand — something that an app like this can help to facilitate.
"Many people prefer to avoid having awkward conversations that may lead to conflict, even if these dialogues later lead to solutions," says Harra. "Ultimately, the only ones who can do the heavy lifting in a relationship are the two partners involved. An app can hand you a tool for improvement but whether you choose to use that tool or discard it is up to you. Friends, family members, phone apps, even therapists cannot perform the mutual work that is necessary to uphold a truly phenomenal relationship."
But can it also backfire? Could an incendiary question cause an argument out of thin air by veering onto sensitive ground? Harra says yes, but it’s about having the humility to bring your walls down and talk things through. "If having to confront sensitive topics induces conflict between partners, it's a sign that something is already 'off' in the relationship on some level," agrees Harra. "Either way, answering questions of a sensitive nature always requires introspection and an open exchange with your other half."
Social media has been instrumental in changing the way we talk about relationships — good and bad — whether it’s dissecting love languages, sharing firsthand accounts of bad dates or pathologising the mental health of so-called fuckboys. But plastering intimate exchanges with our partners all over TikTok for couples bragging rights should probably be avoided, if only because you might find yourself engineering a response for clout rather than honesty.
"We do live in an age in which we feel an irresistible need to share seemingly every aspect of our lives with others…especially complete strangers who contribute nothing to our personal relationships," says Harra. "It’s best to keep such matters between you and your partner and not expose your bond to external influences. After all, it’s you two who are in a relationship, not your friends, family members, and definitely not your TikTok followers."
It's also important to consider that Agapé does not replace the professional intervention that therapy can provide a couple in crisis. Harra says: "[While] this sort of app certainly offers therapy in its own way, [Agapé] can’t follow the progress of a relationship, aid in achieving breakthroughs or offer the intimacy and grounding that come with having personal sessions with a trained professional."
Some people might argue that they don’t need an app to communicate with their partner effectively and healthily. And it’s not that we do, it’s more that, used correctly, an app like this can only help. When it comes to you and the person you are with, neither of you is perfect and the sooner both of you can realise that, the better. It’s a daily reminder not to take the other person for granted and to maintain that curiosity about who they are and their needs. One eye-opening question my partner and I answered recently was "How much alone time do you need?" It didn’t instigate a huge reassessment of the time we spend together but was more of a subtle Ok, noted, filed away in our minds.
After a solid week of the app, we now use it every time one of us remembers. Without sounding dramatic, I do feel like it’s unlocked new depths of appreciation. Of course there is something to be said about technology’s inevitable involvement with and encroachment on our lives, and the information it stores. After all, me and my partner met on an app (I shudder to think of all the cringe flirty banter that the Hinge processing server has to hand). But just like Hinge in October two years ago, this new development feels good. Very good.
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