Can technology give us the formula for healthier romantic relationships?
Is there really a way to figure out the secret to healthy relationships? The truth is, there are many answers — some will say communication, or supporting each other, or a good sex life. But it would take a detailed breakdown of the elements of each unique relationship, and a way to measure what “healthy relationship” means, to really offer a formula.
In the first study to show results on relationship health, research conducted by behavioral neuroscientist and current fellow at the Insight Data Science Program 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 an anonymized pool of 8,302 Happy Couple users in relationships who had answered all four couple health questions. The data allowed Perron to delve deep into correlations between users’ responses to all kinds of questions, and how they self-evaluated their relationship health in their answers.
“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.
HOW THE STUDY WAS DONE:
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 (alignment) and knowing each other (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 each other’s answers (correct guesses) in the communication questions 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.
Sexual health of a relationship was strongly predicted by couple’s 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 how their partner sexually,” Perron said.
His research was part of Insight’s 7-week fellowship program, which helps PhDs and Postdocs transition into the industry for careers in data science, data engineering, and artificial intelligence.
Besides demonstrating that technology can help people have better and healthier relationships, Perron’s study gives the Happy Couple team guidance and tools in how to optimize the app to always provide users with the right questions at the right time to help them build healthy, happy and long-lasting relationships.
Using the power of science for better relationships
Happy Couple, a relationship-building app, is coming closer to having the formula for healthy romantic relationships and utilizing the predictive power of relationship data to help couples have better connections. Over the past two years, Happy Couple app has been downloaded more than 600,000 times. Currently, there are 3,000 questions online, that make up a fun newlywed-style quiz game. Couples each answer 5 questions about themselves and 5 about their partner on a daily basis in order to get to know each other better.
The app also has more than 120,000,000 answers from these couples. With these tools, and the collaborative expertise of a data scientist and Happy Couple’s relationship therapist co-founder, this is just the first look at the predictive power of this data and what it can tell us about how to have healthy romantic 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.