It’s the little things that make a marriage work.

The flowers for no particular reason, the passionate kisses hello, the foot rubs, the gentle encouragement, the text messages saying you’ll be at the office another two hours so maybe just order pizza and put the kids to bed please?

Love’s little moments are the inspiration for Kouply. This free app for iPhoneWindows Phone and the web turns your relationship into a game — letting you and your significant other award points to each other as positive reinforcement for those seriously sweet gestures.

Did she take you on a wonderful trip? 50 points. Did he cook you a great meal? That’ll be 25 points for him.

Everything can be kept totally private if that’s your preference, but you can also compete against other couples if you’d like. Yes, there’s a leaderboard.

In addition, you can share (with friends on Kouply or on Facebook) the quantifiable evidence of your partner’s appreciation for that wonderful thing you just did. A recent update to the app allows couples to post accompanying photos, as well.

Kouply co-founders Vineet Gupta, Tushar Chaudhary, and Vinit Jain show the Kouply apps and web interface.

Kouply is a moonlight project from two Seattle-area software engineers and a designer — three guys looking to make at least a tiny dent in the divorce rate by encouraging behavior that has a positive effect on relationships.

Some app developers are seeking millions of users, others are angling for a big exit. This team wants to hear someone say that its app kept their marriage intact.

“That would be our measure of success,” said engineer Tushar Chaudhary, who founded the project along with designer Vineet Gupta and engineer Vinit Jain.

Chaudhary and Jain have day jobs at Microsoft, which has encouraged its employees to develop Windows Phone apps on their own time. Gupta worked previously at the Redmond company.

Kouply was inspired by the wife of one of Chaudhary’s friends, who pointed out the potential impact of tracking “brownie points” in a relationship. Her husband wasn’t a fan of the concept, but Chaudhary saw the potential and worked with Jain and his wife to further develop the idea. Gupta joined as an experienced designer.

The founders acknowledge that some people might object to the notion of applying game mechanics to the institution of marriage — supporting a sacred bond using the same psychology that motivates someone to spend hours slingshotting little birds at nefarious pigs.

But the Kouply founders believe their approach can help to address a serious problem. Someday they even hope to see marriage counselors prescribe Kouply.

Kouply isn’t the only app pursuing this strategy of gamifying relationships. Another example is PairSpark, a Seattle startup with apps for iPhone and Android.

Kouply is notable in part for its underlying privacy settings and sharing features. Couples are treated as individuals in relation to one another inside the app, with separate scores of their own, but they’re seen as single entity when viewed by their friends in Kouply or Facebook.

Through privacy settings, both members of a couple must agree to share a particular piece of information before it’s made public.

Couples can search and choose from a long list of preset acknowledgments with established points — such as, “bought me a present,” or “went out on a date night,” among many others. They can also give a custom acknowledgment, but those are set by default at 5 points to keep couples from gaming the system.

But will it really be natural for people to pull out their phones to give their significant others points for making them feel good? That’s where the Kouply founders say the psychology of games kicks in, as couples strive for higher scores together and individually.

Recognition breeds recognition, they say. It also breeds other things, but that’s another app entirely.

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  • Jay Force

    Feature request: Deduct points points when phone is thrown across room.

    • Todd Bishop

      Funny. I’ll let the @Kouply team weigh in to clarify, but if I remember correctly, point deduction is one of the things users frequently request. They’ve declined to do that because they want to keep it a positive, constructive thing.

      • kouply

        @toddbishop:disqus is spot on. We’d like Kouply to be the archive of the positive moments in your relationship and not be a reminder of the things that occasionally go wrong. 
        You could always ask your partner to acknowledge the fact that you forgave them for the phone throwing :)

        • Guest

          “You could always ask your partner to acknowledge the fact that you forgave them for the phone throwing”

          As someone who has remained happily married for a while, I’d say reminding your spouse of such an event is unwise. Indeed doing so might risk something heavier going airborne ;-)

  • DejaVu

    Will it ever end?

    What a joke. Technology meet Pavlovs dog to marriage. Ya, this makes sense…

  • Lalanchaudhary

    It sure is an inspiration to even old couples like us. It makes me convey my appreciation of a lot of things, I normally hesitate to voice.

  • Guest

    “The flowers for no particular reason, the passionate kisses hello, the foot rubs, the gentle encouragement”

    So that’s where I’ve been going wrong! Good to know ;-)

  • Preethi

    oh me oh my…my buddy on geek wire..vineet gupta..i am so proud!! and super concept..!

  • DB

    If this is truly a smart application, the husband’s points can never exceed his wife’s.  She will always see it this way, regardless, and if he tries to show her otherwise, there will be trouble…  Happy wife, happy life!

  • mherger

    That app reminds me of this article in Popular Science Can Treating Your Life As a Game Make You a Better Person?
    where she says at the end “Now I feel like you’re just doing it for the points”

    In the end I think it will help to make couples happy for some days (or even weeks), and this is a good accomplishment of the app anyways.

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