I tried an app that reminds you to compliment your partner daily, but I found it more stressful than helpful

I used the relationship app Emi for a week with my partner.

caption
I used the relationship app Emi for a week with my partner.
source
Aria Bendix/Julia Naftulin/Insider
  • A new dating app called Emi is geared towards helping people who are already in relationships improve them.
  • I tried the Emi app with my partner for a week, which involved responding to app-generated prompts that kick start ways to compliment your partner.
  • We found that it was nice to receive a daily compliment from the other, bu ultimately decided most couples, ourselves included, are equipped to foster that sense of love and support without the help of an app.
  • Emi may be best for those who have trouble communicating, or those in long distance relationships, based on my experience. One expert said: “It’s like using WebMD instead of going to the doctor.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dating apps for singles looking to find love have existed since 2009 with the advent of Grindr, but entrepreneurs are now making apps for another group: couples who are looking to improve their existing relationships.

One of the apps is Emi, which means “smile” in Japanese and bills itself as “your daily relationship reminder in under 1 minute.” Aya Takeuchi is the founder and CEO, and she decided to create Emi when she realized she was prioritizing her work and other aspects of her life over her relationship.

To use Emi, iPhone users can download the app and enter their name, relationship anniversary, partner’s name and phone number, and their own. Then, Emi starts generating in-app notifications or texts, depending on whether your partner is also an iPhone user. Since my partner is an Android user (the horror), all of our prompts were sent via text.

My profile on the Emi app.

caption
My profile on the Emi app.
source
Emi/Julia Naftulin

Most prompts were fill-in-the-blank and said things like “Make your partner feel good with a physical compliment. Fill in the blank: You look [blank],” and “Chores and tasks are never fub, and often a source of frustration. Thank your partner for something he did recently. Fill in the blank: it made me happy when you [blank] the other day.”

As the prompts come in one per day, Emi users are supposed to answer them as a text to their partner.

My partner and I decided to try out the app for one week and see if it improved our relationship dynamic. We found that it was nice to receive a daily compliment from the other, but ultimately decided most couples, ourselves included, are equipped to foster that sense of love and support without the help of an app.

At first I was skeptical, but anticipating the prompts felt exciting

When I first got an email about Emi, I was skeptical. The idea of texting your partner sweet notes because you’re told to, not because you want to yourself, felt forced and disingenuous.

To me, Emi also sounded a bit like the “sex button” that Shark Tank investors found puzzling earlier this year. If you haven’t heard of it, it comes from a brand called LoveSync and requires users press a button whenever they’re in the mood to have sex with their partner.

When the couple who created LoveSync did a Shark Tank demo, investors were perplexed at the concept.

“I’m having a hard time with the basic premise,” investor Kevin O’Leary said. “What about you two guys? Why don’t you just talk to each other? ‘Look, I want some sex, you in or you out?'”

I had similar feelings to O’Leary about the premise of Emi: Did I really need to download another app onto my phone to improve my relationship? Isn’t the whole point of a relationship to communicate openly and honestly, even when it’s difficult?

Once my partner and I set up the app, however, I did feel a bit excited. I’m not going say I don’t like getting compliments. I do. So the concept of getting a daily text boosting my fragile ego sounded great.

It was obvious and unnatural when I texted my partner Emi-suggested compliments

I was the first to get a prompt from Emi, asking me to recall a recent time my partner and I spent quality time together. A recent hiking trip came to mind, and I texted my partner about it. He responded an hour later agreeing that he loved the trip, and I suggested doing more hiking trips in the future.

Later, my partner texted me saying he admires my passion for my career. I smiled when I read the message, but then I realized it was probably a message born out of an Emi prompt.

“It’s funny how obvious it is when we got a prompt LOL,” I texted after thanking my partner for the compliment, to which he responded “HAHA I KNOW.”

A compliment my partner sent me after Emi prompted him.

caption
A compliment my partner sent me after Emi prompted him.
source
Julia Naftulin/Insider

We continued anyway. Some of the prompts led to more in depth conversations about our relationship, like how we view our careers in relation to our identities, but most were met with a “That’s so nice of you to say!” followed by a return to whatever our prior text conversation was about.

My partner and I text a lot anyway. Getting Emi messages seemed to hinder our conversations rather than kick-start them. At times, it felt stressful trying to keep up with the prompts, and to squeeze in specific compliments between our regular banter.

And since we live together, I felt like getting one less text-based compliment a day was something I could live with, especially since my love language is quality time.

My partner agreed the app was unnecessary, but also said he enjoyed complimenting me and getting compliments in return. “Even when you know it’s from an app, it’s nice to hear,” he said, which I agreed with.

According to New York City-based therapist Rachel Wright, Emi could be a helpful tool for those who aren’t used to giving or receiving compliments in their relationships. At the same time, Wright worries that apps like Emi could make people think the service is a replacement for real-life therapy.

“It’s like using WebMD instead of going to the doctor,” Wright told Insider. “You cannot maintain a happy and meaningful relationship with one minute per day. That is not possible.”

Bottom line: Emi is best for people in long-distance relationships and subpar communicators

Overall, my Emi experience was a pleasant one and a fun experiment, but I won’t personally be using the app moving forward. Like I expected, the comments felt somewhat forced because they were prompted. For me, it feels much nicer to receive a compliment that was of my partner’s own volition.

At the same time, I recognize a compliment is a compliment, and if it comes from someone you know cares for you, it’s OK to assume it’s genuine, regardless of whether they were prompted to send it or not.

That’s why I think Emi could especially benefit people in long-distance relationships who don’t see their partners often. I would’ve loved to use Emi when I was in a long-distance relationship in college, when balancing school work, extracurriculars, time with friends, and time with my partner felt much more difficult.

Wright also said she could envision people in consensual non-monogamous relationships using Emi as a way to consistently communicate with multiple partners they don’t see daily.

I could also see it working for couples where one partner is a poor communicator and the other would appreciate more open communication or compliments.

Emi also has in-app relationship activities that allow individuals to reflect on their connections to their partners and find ways to improve. For example, a “Positive Thoughts” exercise involves reading a positive thought like “I am genuinely fond of my partner,” and then answering a related fill-in-the-blank like “A characteristic I find endearing about my partner is [blank].”

Although I didn’t get a chance to try this feature, I could see myself going back to them if my partner and I hit a particular rough patch.