Relationship Wellness: Is This The Next Frontier For The Industry?

  • Dating app Hinge and meditation app Headspace couple up for World Mental Health Day while new app Paired raises $1 million to support “happier and healthier” relationships 
  • Online dating global revenue is up 13.4%, with users up 7.5% YoY, yet a study by Hinge found the COVID-19 pandemic is escalating anxiety among potential couples
  • UK survey finds 8 in 10 (80%) of those in a relationship and over 55 wouldn’t go to anyone for relationship advice, compared with only 3 in 10 (27%) of 18-24 year-olds.

SANTA MONICA, United States — Like financial wellness before it, there are signs that dating and relationship tools and platforms are undergoing a wellness revolution, propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last month, dating app Hinge and meditation app Headspace coupled up to launch a series of meditations intended to ease pre-date jitters and address self-critical thoughts. 

Timed for World Mental Health Day on 10th October, the collaboration followed a study by Hinge which found the COVID-19 pandemic is escalating anxiety among prospective couples. 

One in four reported feeling nervous before a date and one in three have talked themselves out of the date entirely. 

That same month Paired, a new app for couples that aims to support “happier and healthier” relationships, secured $1 million in funding, supported in part by the co-founders of Runtastic. 

While the online dating sector has exploded since Tinder launched in 2012 – and shows no signs of slowing this year with global revenue up 13.4% and users up 7.5% YoY – dozens of apps intended to support your “relationship wellness” have since followed. 

There’s Lasting, which promises to show couples how to “love better”, Raft for syncing schedules, Kindu for spicing up peoples’ sex lives, Honeydue for the more sobering task of financial planning, and Fix a Fight for what presumably comes next, conflict resolution. 

You&Me and Between aim to make it easier (and safer) for couples to share private messages, and Happy Couple and Couple Game which promises to gamify getting to know your partner. 

Then there’s Relish which provides unlimited one-on-one coaching with a qualified relationship coach and step-by-step guides to navigate tough conversations, such as “How to manoeuvre your way out of a gridlock” and “How to call for a time-out when sh*t hits the fan”. 

Launched in 2019, Paired is the latest player to join the party.

Relationship Wellness: Is This The Next Frontier For The Industry?
Image: Paired

Most tools are designed for couples in distress
But unlike Relish and Lasting, Co-Founders Kevin Shanahan and Diego López want relationships to be so strong that the proverbial sh*t never hits the fan in the first place. 

If couples therapy is like going to the dentist when you have a cavity, we’re looking to be like brushing your teeth for your relationship – a light, easy, and healthy habit,” Shanahan told Welltodo. 

The idea for Paired came from my own lived experience that, despite our relationship being one of the most important parts of our lives, there aren’t many tools to help us keep it healthy. 

“Most tools are designed for couples in distress.” 

Built under the guidance of Chief Relationships Officer Dr Jacqui Gabb, Professor of Sociology and Intimacy at The Open University, the app prompts users to learn more about their partner and relationship each day through couples questions, quizzes, and tips. 

“We’re hoping that, in time, Paired will be an accessible tool that helps millions of couples improve their relationship.” 

Younger generations are more prepared to nurture their relationships
Shanahan believes more people are realising the importance of their relationship this year, with anxiety on the rise triggered by the pandemic and households either split up or confined together by strict lockdown measures. 

While there’s evidence the virus is taking its toll in both the East and West, with applications and searches for divorce spiking in China in March and up 25% in the UK in September, divorce rates have been climbing and marriage rates tumbling for years. 

In China, divorces have been steadily rising since 2003, and in the UK marriages have slumped to an all-time low, having fallen by a third over the past 40 years

However, Paired believes it has unearthed evidence that younger generations are more prepared to nurture and repair their relationships. 

In a large UK survey run with The Open University earlier this year, it found 8 in 10 (80%) of those in a relationship and over 55 wouldn’t go to anyone for relationship advice, compared with two-thirds (66%) of those between 45-54 and only 3 in 10 (27%) of 18-24 year-olds.

Shanahan said: “In other words, younger generations are much more likely to ‘work on’ their relationship than older generations, and as these young generations mature I believe the sector will also grow.” 

A new dawn of “relationship wellness”
As this sector grows, Shanahan expects the link between relationships and wellness will become increasingly embedded in how products and services are designed, delivered and marketed. 

“There’s research that indicates exercising together can be good for your relationship, as it drives physiological arousal and can be a source of motivation and shared experience,” he said. 

“So if more couples are realising this and exercising together then I’d expect to see products and services being built around it, like gym or yoga discounts when both partners attend.” 

Shanahan said relationship wellness can already be seen filtering into different sectors, such as with the launch of Spotify Duo where two people can share and build their music library together. 

“More and more people are defining a meaningful part of themselves by their fitness and diet – such as if they’re vegan or into CrossFit or yoga – and using that as a lens when searching for a partner,” he added. 

“For relationships, I’d imagine this trend of relationship wellness will mean more couples using fitness and diet as a way to stay connected. Spending ‘quality time’ together at the gym or over coffee might become more popular.” 

Just the beginning
Paired’s $1 million in funding was also supported by Taavet Hinrikus of TransferWise, Bernhard Niesner of Busuu and Ed Cooke of Memrise, where both co-founders previously worked. 

Shanahan said Paired will use the investment to grow the team in the US and UK, recruit top experts in the relationship space and, crucially, drive marketing “so people know the app exists”. 

“As a company, it’s really the beginning for us,” he said. “So we’re focused on having an app that couples love to use and would recommend to their friends. If we can do that, then good things should follow.” 

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