On track: Carrie and Big wouldn't have lasted on the Boyfriend Log.
If you can measure it, there is an app for it. There's an app for tracking bowel movements, apps for calculating caloric input and output, and an app for measuring how much time we spend toggling between tasks. And as of last week? We have The Boyfriend Log, "the first-ever, colour-coded daily app that allows you to track the health of your relationship."
"Take the guesswork out of your love life," reads a testimonial. "The Boyfriend App … quickly and easily shows you how to sift out the losers and choose the love of your life by tracking your own heart's desire!'
Each day you write an entry ("Today he did the sweetest thing. Washed and waxed my car and lit candles at dinner!") and assign a colour; green for blissful, orange for happy, yellow for a bit avs, blue for sad and red for s--thouse. Love note in your lunchbox? Green. Bitched about your sister? Yellow. Ogled a cashier's breasts at the bakery? Definitely red.
"You can't change what you can't track," says Linda Sivertson, creator of the Boyfriend Log. But must everything be quantified? Can we really track "our heart's desire" by checking each month's predominant colour on a screen?
Or are we simply enabling obsession and disabling our instincts?
You don't have to take public transport teenager peak hour to know that listening to people obsess over every relationship detail is so eye-wateringly painful, it'd be great to simply hold up their phone and say "tell it to the App". But would their phone be able to tell them if their relationship was OK?
According to Sivertson, yes. Far from discounting "romantic intuition" she says the app encourages people to trust their instincts. “Some people are visual,” she explained by email. “For me, the colours helped me trust how I was really feeling, beyond arguments or philosophy. Similarly, when there's a disconnect between what people say and how they act, colours can be a tool to help you see the action.”
(This raised an interesting point: given that most divorces are initiated by women, and men often claim they had no idea there was even a problem, perhaps a "Wife App" might be more appropriate, statistically speaking?)
The trouble with using an app to measure relationship health is that we humans are a messy, contradictory lot. And while, as the app claims, "An ocean of blue days is harder to ignore when it's right in front of you", a forest of green does not necessarily mean "he's the one". And a month of red doesn't isn't always a sign to "sift out a loser".
Several years ago, my relationship went through a rocky patch – give or take a year. Outside influences like grief and illness played a part, but colours are colours. Had I had one, my Boyfriend Log would not have revealed an ocean of blue so much as a sea of red, red, red. And the App would have been great fuel for those endless rounds of "you always / you never" – a handy catalogue of perceived slights I could gather up and hurl at my partner like ammunition. That period was sorely lacking in green. But when I look back, I am struck by enormous gratitude for the trust and strength that came out of it. And I shudder to think what would have happened if I'd entrusted my relationship to a colour scheme.
“How we feel about our relationships is heavily influenced by what else is going on in our life,” says relationships and personal development writer Rachel Thomson. “If I'm stressed about a restructure at work, when my boyfriend runs me a bath I might not appreciate how sweet he's being. But when I'm ovulating, he can drink beer and watch motor sports all day and I still think he's a sex god. So I'd be careful trying to rate a relationship on a day by day basis – so many other things can influence how you're feeling.”
It'd be tempting to think that the only people who download this are fearful that their relationship isn't all it "should be". But what if it was the opposite? In any so-called "good" relationship, it's dead easy to start taking your partner for granted. An app like this would undoubtedly make that complacency more evident, and yet … staring at your phone to see if you're going OK? Sweet Jesus. Do we really need an app to be our "witness consciousness"?
Love, sex, the whole shamoo – they make us crazy. Hormones, hope and fear make bad decisions. In that respect, The Boyfriend Log is undoubtedly practical. It may even, god help us, be useful.
And yet … what about the zsa zsa zu? If Carrie Bradshaw had the Boyfriend Log, she would have chucked Big in episode two and Sex and the City would never have lasted seven seasons. Jane Austen's Elizabeth, a practically minded woman, would have read the colours and accepted Darcy's first proposal, tally-ho! And Mr Tolstoy. If his heroine had just colour coded her lover's affections, she would have recognised a bad case of PMS and stayed the hell away from that train. And millions of high school students would never have read Anna Karenina.
Alice Williams is the author of Would it Kill You to Say Please, A Guide to Modern Manners. Alice-williams.com