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Seattle startup, love scientists team up to create new date ideas

Seattle app developers collaborated with love scientists to send couples on mystery dates backed by research.

SEATTLE — A Seattle startup and Seattle institution are coming together in the name of love. 

The Mystery app, which launched last Valentine's Day, helps couples share new experiences by taking them on a mystery date. Now, the app's developers are collaborating with Seattle-based relationship experts to bring you eight dates based on research and data.

When you sign up for a "mystery," you tell the app what kinds of activities you like. You pick out a price point. 

A day or so before you find out what kind of attire you need to wear. 

On the night of the date, Lyft drivers take you to and from your destinations. As you're in the car, you'll get pop up notifications and see a map to let you know how close you are to your stops.

"When we started Mystery, we were trying to figure out the data science approach to bringing technology to dates," said Shane Kovalsky, the CEO of Mystery. "Generally, finding time for a date is difficult enough. Then planning and trying to figure out the perfect thing to do is also pretty tough. Mystery is kind of like that friend that knows all the cool spots in the city."

Mystery works with several partners to try to give users a seamless experience bouncing from restaurants, bars and activities. 

"You don't have to worry about anything else other than the person that you're with," Kovalsky said. 

Mystery's average user is 36 years old, but the app appeals to new couples in their early 20s to people celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Word travels fast, because the app also caught the attention of local marriage counselors, who started sending their clients on mysteries.

That sparked the idea for a collaboration with The Gottman Institute.

John and Julie Gottman are world-renowned relationship experts, known for their data-driven approach to relationships. 

The couple's book Eight Dates will be used to inspire some of the mysteries happening on the app. A book chapter coincides with a date's theme. 

Kovalsky won't give away any trade secrets, but if you choose to go on a date centered around resolving conflict, you and your partner might find yourselves taking a fencing lesson.

The book itself is about having eight conversations with your partner that will help your love last through challenges, surprises, joy, and pain.

"We surveyed, more than 40,000 couples about to start couples therapy, and 75 percent of those couples reported that they were no longer having fun in their relationship," said Mike Fulwiler, the chief marketing officer of The Gottman Institute. "That was a huge surprise to us. And what that tells us is that a date night - or weekly date night - is really important to bring fun and play back to the relationship."

A weekly date night is a hard task to accomplish for most couples - especially parents - but Fulwiler says fun was one of the first things lost in a relationship. It's also one of the chapters in the book. Other topics include trust and commitment, addressing conflict, sex and intimacy, work and money, family, growth and spirituality and dreams.

Fulwiler says The Gottman Institute started with 10 dates for the book, tested them, and then narrowed it down to the eight listed. The new collaboration was rolled out to a couples taking a workshop, and so far, the feedback has been positive.

"Quite a few couples have already gone on the dates and have loved it so far," Fulwiler said.

"I think my favorite feedback so far is, 'We've been married for 30 years, but this felt like a first date,'" Kovalsky said.