Quit Playing Games With Your Heart: Are You Really Serious About Relationships?

Serious About Love

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As I’ve written countless times, a romantic relationship — even the best relationship — takes constant attention and work. It doesn’t necessarily need to be hard work, but you do need to pay attention to your partner and to your relationship. Most relationships fail when one or both partners lose track of one another, or lose the ability to communicate clearly and openly with each other.

Along the trend of “Hey, let’s gamify everything that’s work to make it more fun and less like drudgery!” some folks have started publishing relationship cell phone apps. One popular relationship app has couples trying to keep theirlove tank full. But should your serious, romantic, long-term relationship become mere fodder for putting arbitrary metrics on scientifically-questionable concepts like a “love tank”?

A few weeks ago, Susie Neilson writing over at The Atlantic, explored this concept. Consumers respond very well to gamification in other sectors; businesses report increases in engagement by hundreds of percentage points when they gamify, for example.

Using gamification, Kahnoodle wants to make maintaining your relationship automatic and easy — as easy as tapping a button. Its options include sending push notifications to initiatesex; “Koupons” that entitle the bearer to redeemable movie nights and kinky sex, and, of course, the love tank, which fills or empties depending on how many acts of love you’ve logged.

“Novelty works like an endorphin,” says Zuhairah Scott Washington, the company’s founder. “Couples have a desire to go out and do something new, but oftentimes they’re tired. The mobile app incorporates a lot of research on what makes relationships successful but gamifies it to make it fun, makes it fun to do the work required to keep relationships fresh.”

How can something be novel if an app forces you to do it over and over again (e.g., refilling your love tank, sending coupons, scheduling dates)? But more importantly: what happens when you start objectifying things that, well, shouldn’t be objectified — like your relationship?

Eli Finkel nails it on the head in the article: “Much of the benefit of doing considerate things is linked to the fact that those things required thoughtfulness and effort. Take the thoughtfulness out of the acts and they lose much of their meaning.”