Today there’s an app for just about everything, especially in the social space. Meetup, Friender and Hey! Vina are helping individuals expand their friendship circle, while dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge are connecting singles to find their match. Tech is poised as the tool to connect people, and a wave of startups is popping up, aiming to nurture relationships by helping couples grow and strengthen through digital intimacy.

“Nowadays we turn to digital solutions for everything from fitness to mindfulness, and yet there is very little to make our couple relationships happier and healthier,” Kevin Shanahan, CEO and co-founder of Paired said in a statement. The relationship app launched in October 2020 to fill a gap in the market for digital tools that help couples improve communication and “really connect.”

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An independent study found that 98% of users agreed they now openly communicate with their partner, 80% feel comfortable talking about their sex life, and four of five Paired couples feel strongly connected to their partner after using Paired for three months. “Paired isn’t trying to take the place of a therapist or counsellor,” says Shanahan, “but instead works as a communication and self-learning tool that couples can use to have fun and really connect.” Although early in its launch, the app is already demonstrating that digital interventions can improve relationships.

Tinder and Duolingo are also helping couples communicate. In April 2021, the dating app and language service teamed up, giving Tinder members access to free language lessons on Duolingo in order to “better communicate with their long-distance connections.”

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Couples in remote relationships wanting to improve intimacy can soon dive into a virtual metaverse created by Raspberry Dream Labs, a company reframing cybersex experiences to form meaningful connections. Their first project, “Sensory Seduction,” uses extended reality (XR) to allow users to feel haptic pulses on their bodies, mimicking the sense of being touched. The experience is designed to offer an opportunity to “explore your sensuality and engage your sexual accelerators through the sensory stimulation.” Later this year, the company will launch “Raspberry Dream Land,” an XR social event platform offering a virtual space for “radical self-expression, social interactions and meaningful connections.”

If XR is too intense, Lover is an informative app helping couples improve their sex life with content, tips and exercises based on science-led applications. It includes a sexual profiling tool that users can use to better understand their type of lover in order to facilitate a stronger connection with their partner. The sexual wellness app launched in February 2020 with $5 million in seed funding from a number of investors, including Tinder founder Sean Rad.

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Another startup using science to improve relationships is Lasting, a couple’s therapy app that uses 126 scientific studies as the basis of its program and claims 94% of couples using the app report new strengths. Offerings include a relationship health plan, weekly workshops guided by therapists and relationship experts, and daily conversation starters. Lasting believes that “relationships create healthier individuals—not the other way around.”

In November 2020, telehealth company Talkspace acquired Lasting to further its telebehavorial health portfolio. Using science and data since its launch in 2017, Talkspace recognizes that Lasting helps couples connect, leading to better marriages and improved quality of life. Mark Hirschhorn, President at Talkspace, says he “deeply believes in the idea that technology can be leveraged to help people live healthier, happier lives.”

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Technology aimed at saving relationships is taking off at a much-need time. Prolonged COVID-19 restrictions have strained couples as divorce rates spike around the world. Legal Templates, a contract creation company in the US, reported a 34% surge in divorce agreement sales during the pandemic compared to the year before, and couples in China filed 8.6 million divorces in 2020, which outpaces marriage registrations. Relationship support is in demand and startups are appropriating this need for the digital age.

Writer Rebecca Strong trialed Lasting with her husband and published her experience with Bustle in March 2021. She summarizes, saying, “no matter how uncertain the future may feel in many regards, it’s nice to know that we now have the tools to take control of our relationship’s health.”

For more, download our report: "Into the Metaverse."

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