Measuring love is hard. We have clocks for measuring time, scales for measuring weight, bankers for measuring money—but when it comes to love, there isn’t really a solid set of tools beyond our instincts, our close friends, and our feelings. And truth be told, that’s how we like it. Mostly.
But then there are those times—we’ve all had ’em, right?—when you’re questioning your relationship, and you’re desperate for someone to tell you what to do. Is it that tarot card reader down the street? Your mother, best friend, or therapist? That quiz in Cosmo? Somehow, none of the choices feel quite right, and you limp along the ups and downs wondering when something is going to happen.
This is the situation I found myself in about four years ago. Me: an organized, get-it-done, web programmer kind of girl. Him: a dreamy, poetic, rock-n-roll kind of dude. We were college sweethearts who were in the midst of a long distance relationship with no end in sight.
What’s a girl to do? I’ll tell you the first thing you do (if you are me, that is): You become very confused. You experience highs and lows. You mix wonderful memories with serendipitous “maybe this was meant to be” thoughts. You love the good times, and try to ignore those twinges of incompatibility that poke up around the edges of every meeting—that little inside voice saying “this isn’t right—right?” And, because you’re an organized, get-it-done, web programmer kind of girl who has a lot of free time on her hands (this is long distance, remember), you write a little web application, specifically designed to quantify these loving and leaving feelings and show them on a graph.
Yup. I wanted to turn love into science, so I could know that I was doing the right thing. My app allowed me to rate my feelings about him every day on a scale of smiley to sad faces (what else would I use when dealing with love?). It encouraged me to journal alongside my smiley-or-sad face. And, most importantly, it didn’t show me any results for six weeks.
See, I was afraid that if I could peek at how I felt yesterday, I’d be inclined to write the same thing today. Because, the truth is, when you have an idea of how you want things to turn out, sometimes it’s hard to look at how they actually are. My philosophy was to sneak up on myself—to log how I was feeling when I wasn’t necessarily thinking about it.
So what happened? At the end of six weeks, I got a very solid wakeup call. I was feeling “bad,” “neutral,” or “worst” 58% of the time (hint: this is not a formula for a happy, successful relationship). My graph was up and down like a mountain range. The journal notes I had written showed that the distance wasn’t the main problem—the relationship itself was. Despite the fact that we had wonderful memories, they were from a different time and place in our lives, and we had grown into people who weren’t fundamentally compatible.
I won’t say that I was able to pick up the phone and end the relationship right then—these are feelings, after all. And I won’t even tell you that I was the one who ended the relationship—this was a dreamy, poetic, rock-n-roll kind of dude from my past, after all! But I will say that from the time I saw that data, I had a better grasp of how I was really feeling and what needed to happen. And that gave me strength during that inevitable “will we or won’t we” phase to say no, and to hold out for someone who would make me happier.
This was really helpful to me, and so I’ve taken this personal experience and built an iPhone app to help other smart ladies sort through their own relationship ups and downs. The app—Should I break up with my boyfriend?—is a two-week version of my relationship tracking experience. With the help of the app, you rate your feelings about your significant other and leave a note. You can share your notes through SMS or email with friends—or, if they’re nice notes, even with your significant other. At the end of two weeks, we give you a graph, all your journal entries, a data analysis of your feelings, and some friendly advice.
With love, it’s never an exact science. As with me, you may find the data isn’t something you act on right away (or even at all). But hopefully, a tool like this will help you get a little more clarity on what your feelings are—not just what you hope they are, or what you remember from the especially good or especially bad times. You might find that you’re in a pretty good relationship, after all! But if you learn like I did that your significant other and your relationship aren’t making you happy, you can consider what would—and start moving your life in that direction.