Can technology help us to have healthier romantic relationships?
SAN FRANCISCO // February 14, 2018 - In the first study to measure relationship health, research conducted by behavioral neuroscientist and current fellow at the Insight Data Science Program has found that knowing your partner is more important for relationship health than being alike. Communication was also found to be one of the highest contributors to relationship health scores.
The data science study by Isaac J. Perron, Ph.D. analyzed responses from users of the popular relationship-building app, Happy Couple. The app has more than 600,000 users who have answered more than 120 million questions. This kind of data allowed Perron to delve deep into correlations between user’s responses to all kinds of questions, and how they self-evaluated their relationship health in their answers. Perron used a sample of 8,302 users who had answered all of the four categories of questions that measure relationship health.
“We’re thrilled to see that our mission to help the world have better relationships is working,” said Happy Couple founder and CEO, Julien Robert. “A good relationship is about asking the right questions to know and accept your partner, and we created this app to give couples a fun way to do this.”
One of the other most important factors to determine relationship health was how often users played the app. Perron found that the more questions a couple had answered on Happy Couple, the higher their relationship health scores were. This correlation could be for a number of reasons:
“While it's certainly possible that playing Happy Couple makes relationships happier and healthier, the direction of causality could be reversed. Maybe happy couples just like to play Happy Couple?” Perron writes.
Perron worked with relationship therapist, author and Happy Couple co-founder Dr. Lonnie Barbach to choose four ways to measure “relationship health” (or ground truths). They were how people rated their relationship (in the app quiz questions) in the four areas of: discouragement, sex, communication, and fighting.
From there, he analyzed how couple’s health scores in these four health categories were affected by being the same in certain areas (alignment) and knowing how their partner felt (connection) in each of the app’s 6 quiz-questions categories. The app’s 3,000 questions are divided into the categories of sex, emotional, information, recreation, responsibilities and communication.
Knowing how their partner felt (correct guesses) in the communication category was one of the biggest contributors to relationship health scores in discouragement, communication, and fighting. This shows that communication really is the key to a healthy relationship.
The sexual health of a relationship was best predicted by partners’ knowing each other’s answers (guessing correctly) in the sex questions category.
“The study found that one of the most important factors for the sexual health of a relationship is simply how well people understand their partner sexually,” Perron said.
Besides demonstrating that technology can help people have better and healthier relationships, Perron’s study gives the Happy Couple team guidance and tools to optimize the app and provide users with the right questions at the right time to help them build healthy, happy and long-lasting relationships.
"Our next step will be for Happy Couple to regularly assess our couples with questions about how they are feeling in their relationship to add more context to their daily answers,” Robert said. “With this massive amount of relationship data, we'll soon be able to start predicting when relationships are on the right path or not, and be even better at adapting our content to the right couples at the right time."
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