In our Love App-tually series, Mashable shines a light into the foggy world of online dating. It is 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 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.
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 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.
Who and what it’s for: Bite-sized relationship building for forgetful partners on a budget.
Where to get it: iOS
Inclusivity: Options of identifying as female, male, or other.
Our thoughts: Emi started out as a popular text bot that sent daily reminders to do quick, small exercises that build healthy relationship habits. The free app is surprisingly robust, offering the same service but with push notifications. It also adds the research and scientific context behind each exercise, as well as an extensive discovery tab for more of them. Emi is perfect for those who don’t want to invest as much time or money as Relish or Lasting requires. It’s far less in-depth and powerful, but a great way to test the waters for whether app-enabled intimacy is for you. There are a few small bugs in the app, but it just launched, so that’ll likely be fixed soon.
Who and what it’s for: Getting to know more about each other, so most ideal for relatively new or developing relationships.
Privacy: Gottman doesn’t sell user data and only gathers data to improve user experience. It offers the app free of charge, “as part of our mission to help people have better relationships.” You can read its full .
Inclusivity: No non-binary option.
Our thoughts: Another free app that punches above its weight, Card Decks offers 1,000 questions and statements on a wide range of topics like love mapping to sex. Each is designed to strengthen and deepen your relationship — almost like a less curated app version of the New York Times‘ famous 36 questions. While the user experience is a bit lacking, we love the emphasis on a research-based approach from the famed Gottman Institute. The Seattle-based research institute (which provides other services like workshops, classes, retreats, and training for therapists) invented the Gottman method, a now dominant theory for couples therapy outlined in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Who and what it’s for: Type A people who fell in love with Type B people.
Privacy: Raft only collects the data necessary (like calendar app and event information) for its services and to improve user experience. It does not sell any data. Though there were initial plans to monetize, the app doesn’t make any money and serves only as a “hobby project.”
Where to get it: iOS
Our thoughts: There’s lots to love about Raft. It’s easy and beautiful and makes the chore of scheduling actually fun. Just connect it to your preferred calendar app and say goodbye to arguments about forgetting this or that event. It might not replace iCal or Google Calendar or even Facebook Events. But if time management has been an obstacle, this is a perfect, GIF-friendly solution. Bonus: It’s great for friends and family, too, which is equally as important to carve out time for in a healthy relationship.
Who and what it’s for: Budgeters who tied the knot between their bank accounts.
Our thoughts: Making a financial commitment like moving in together or getting married creates a whole new set of intimacy possibilities and problems. Honeydue is designed to help make that transition as transparent and productive as possible. While you can still choose what you share, it aggregates both your bank accounts and credit card transactions, with features that analyze your spending to help facilitate saving. Still, the function of the app itself might feel a bit invasive for couples who aren’t married yet. So in those cases, we suggest Splitwise, which isn’t just designed for couples and a more general app for friends and roommates to split bills and rent.
Who and what it’s for: Couples looking to give their love life a power boost.
Price: Free to $9.99 for Premium
Inclusivity: No non-binary option.
Our thoughts: The most gamified app on our list, Desire turns romantic gestures and sexual dares into a game. That “game” (really just meaningless points and trophies) is pretty stupid. But the actual ideas embedded into the challenges — which range from roleplay, camping, dates, and even mundane chores like shopping — are actually surprisingly fun. While many are cheesy as hell, an equal amount are great ways to learn more about what your partner would like to explore.
Who and what it’s for: A sexual wellness toolkit for partners who are struggling or looking to deepen their pleasure.
Price: Free 7-day trial, then $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year.
Where to get it: iOS and Android
Inclusivity: Non-binary, asexual, bi options explicitly offered.
Our thoughts: The newest arrival to the relationship app scene, Lover only just launched today — with notable investment from the founder of Tinder. While there’s other really great sexual wellness apps (like Coral, Emjoy, or Juicebox), Lover is the most suited for couples. It’s also probably best for those dealing with particular issues like low libido, boredom, or dissatisfaction in the bedroom. Unlike the other sex-focused apps on our list, this isn’t a fun novelty. Lover wants to be an intimacy counselor. It identifies what kind of lover you are, and asks a host of other questions about what you’re looking for to create a personally tailored lesson plan and goal. There’s also a turn-ons quiz where you and your partner answer questions to identify where your desires match up. But overall, this is a lot more open-ended and vanilla than the other sex games, and the offerings are a bit too limited for the price point right now.
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