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Agapé: A new app could help strengthen romantic relationships

In an era where half of all marriages in the United States are estimated to end in divorce by the time spouses reach their 50s, the quest for sustaining and nurturing romantic relationships is more critical than ever. 

This concern extends to broader societal impacts, including the well-being of families, children, and financial stability. 

Focus of the study 

Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester, has dedicated nearly three decades to researching the intricate dynamics of romantic relationships and families. His goal is to find viable ways to help couples strengthen their bonds.

According to Professor Rogge, his latest and most successful project is a relationship app named Agapé, co-developed with Khadesha Okwudili, a former University of Rochester student. 

The Agapé app

A recent pilot study revealed that after using the app for one month, eight out of ten study participants reported improved and healthier relationships.

“Our primary goal was to create an app that couples would intrinsically enjoy using, which would naturally grow in popularity, and thereby organically extend its reach,” said Professor Rogge. 

Inspiration for the app

In her 20s, Okwudili was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia disorder and had several near-death experiences. These health struggles led Okwudili to seek more profound interactions in her relationships. She started asking her loved ones meaningful questions because she wasn’t sure how much time she had left with them. 

“Over time, I realized that although my health was deteriorating, my relationships started thriving in a way that they hadn’t before,” said Okwudili.

In collaboration with Professor Rogge, she developed and tested content for Agapé, generating thousands of questions that would be relevant for a wide range of couples. 

How it works

Agapé operates by sending daily prompts to registered couples. These prompts range from reflective questions about past experiences with their partner to more whimsical queries, such as “What’s something that your partner did in the past week that made you laugh?” or “Describe a time you were thankful to have your partner by your side.”

Once both partners respond, they can view each other’s answers, potentially sparking meaningful conversations. The app draws from over 4,000 pilot-tested prompts and four decades of marital and couples research.

Pilot study

The pilot study involved 405 romantic couples, primarily in their twenties and thirties. The researchers assessed the app’s effectiveness over a month, with participants providing baseline assessments, weekly wellness checks, and a final assessment. 

Remarkably, 80 percent reported enhanced romantic relationships, including reduced negative perceptions and increased satisfaction and dedication. 

Furthermore, 70 percent noted improvements in their well-being, with a reduction in depressive symptoms. High engagement levels, user enjoyment, and ease of use were also noted, critical factors for sustained application use.

Relationship enhancement

While the Agapé app focuses on romantic connections, its utility extends to other close relationships, such as friendships or family ties. 

The app’s underlying principles are universally applicable to various intimate bonds, potentially offering even more significant benefits when used across different relationships.

Digital innovation 

The advent of the Agapé app marks a significant milestone in the realm of relationship enhancement tools. Unlike previous interventions that often faced practical barriers or low engagement issues, Agapé stands out with its high user engagement and accessibility. 

“It helps get my research into the hands of millions of couples and, I hope, will actually improve their lives,” said Professor Rogge. In a world where technology often drives people apart, Agapé uses digital innovation to bring people closer, one prompt at a time.

The study is published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

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