When I first heard about Lasting , an app billed as “marriage counseling made simple,” I was about as open to it as you would expect someone who runs 90 percent of her life from her devices to be. As someone who’s always been very pro-counseling — my now-husband and I had a few sessions with a relationship therapist before our wedding even though it wasn’t required by our officiant — I’ll admit I was skeptical about the idea of counseling without the, well, counselor. Sure, I’m a fan of banking apps and scheduling apps and health tracking apps and generally #alltheapps, but I wondered if my smartphone could effectively serve as the thoughtful, unbiased third party that is the cornerstone of the wonderful institution we call couple’s counseling. I decided to give it a try, though, because if it works, I figured that Lasting could be a serious game changer for marriages everywhere.
Launched in late 2017, Lasting is backed by XO Group Inc. , the parent company of go-to wedding destination The Knot . Described in a press release as a “marriage health app,” Lasting is based on more than 125 studies and years of intense research about the science of relationships and marriage. The idea is that you can use the platform to assess key aspects of your marriage — either alone or with your partner — and then use that information to determine which of the app’s lessons and resources to focus on first.
My husband and I each downloaded the app and took the introductory assessment independently (sitting a few feet away from each other on the couch, of course, because sometimes that’s what married people do). The assessment asked questions that seemed to gauge our satisfaction with several areas of our relationship: communication, conflict, appreciation, sex, family culture, finances, emotional connection, in-laws, friends, and parenthood. When we were finished with our individual responses, we were able to link up our accounts through the app so we could compare and get a sense of which areas could use the most work within our marriage. This process was similar to the one we underwent when we started seeing a counselor IRL before our wedding, which made me more confident that the app would be as legit as I’d hoped it would be.
One thing that I have to admit was lacking in the app-as-counseling experience (versus actually meeting with someone face-to-face) was a strong sense of accountability. While my husband and I did complete the initial assessment together, it was more difficult for us to set aside time to work on Lasting’s subsequent lessons simultaneously. We’re used to utilizing our phones for quick, immediate tasks or for mindless scrolling, so it’s challenging to get into the headspace of sitting down with your partner, in front of a phone, and focusing on something for an extended period of time. When you opt to see a human therapist, the act of stepping into their office immediately puts you into that mindset (at least in my experience). This is something we struggled with in testing out Lasting, and I think it’s definitely a trade-off. You’re getting a less expensive, more convenient form of counseling, but with that comes less urgency to actually participate or to stick to a schedule.
The flip side of this is that you don’t need to be sitting next to your spouse in order to engage with the app and take something away from it. You can complete the lessons and assessments and read the material on your own, which gives you the opportunity to choose focus areas that are especially important for you (even if they’re not as important for bae). All the information is saved to your profile, so you can always go back and review your responses or your questions with your partner later on. This allows you to work your way through Lasting on your respective commutes or lunch breaks while still engaging with the tools you’ll need to initiate a productive conversation at some point in the future. You basically get a transcript of your own personal relationship therapy session that you can then share with the person who would be most interested in what that transcript says: your S.O.
Ultimately, my hubs and I ended up approaching our work with Lasting in this individual way. (I wish I could say it had been easier to set the same chunks of time aside so we could work on it together, but what can ya do?) I started with the Communication module, since that was an area that we collectively hadn’t scored as well as others on. Plus, isn’t communication the most key?
Having gone through premarital counseling and generally seeing myself as a fairly good communicator, I was honestly surprised by how much I learned from Lasting. The module walked me through 13 sub-sections, each of which was either an informative resource or an interactive assessment. There was tons of solid information — study results, quotes from relationship experts — included in each resource. I learned the details of empathic accuracy (the extent to which you actually understand how someone else feels) and meta-emotions (the way you feel about feelings, and why), and got schooled in strategies for both listening and speaking that have been proven successful by people who are obviously much smarter than I am. Each sub-section was also punctuated with cute, clever emojis, which of course added to the experience ;)
Periodically, I was prompted to answer questions about the material and reflect on how the concepts play out in my own relationship. It was a little unsettling to respond to some of these questions in what kind of felt like an empty void (is anyone other than me going to see my thoughts on how well I know my partner, or how I was taught to handle fear as a child?), but it did give me a chance to think through some interesting questions that I don’t generally think about on a day-to-day basis — and to do it in the comfort of my own home, on my own terms. I wasn’t worried about how a third party was going to react to what I had to say. I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure whether this was a good or a bad thing, but it was definitely easier than the alternative.
The whole Communication module took a little more than an hour to complete, ending with a message prompting me to complete a follow-up quiz after one month to gauge my progress. To be totally honest, I was a little surprised by how thought-provoking the whole thing had been. When my husband got home later that night, I immediately debriefed him on everything I’d learned, and nervously asked how well I’d done on some of the more difficult questions in the “how well do you know your partner?” quiz (spoiler alert: it was good, not great).
Relationships are obviously in a constant state of flux, and I don’t think it would be fair for me to say either way whether or not Lasting has changed my marriage in some profound way (honestly, we were in pretty good shape before!) — but what I can tell you is that the app taught me a lot and forced me to set some time aside to reflect on the thing that’s most important to me: my relationship with my partner. Our devices are so cluttered that I think it might prove challenging to engage with the platform on a super regular basis, but even the occasional check-in is better than nothing, right?
Now I just need to find out how well my husband did on that “how well do you know your partner?” quiz…
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(Images via Lasting, featured photo via Getty)