Tracking Eileen

Mothers Day Outing, 2015; Eileen’s first recreational activity suggested by analytics

Using Big Data to Enhance our Marriage

This was an experiment.

I thought I’d use a digital financial engine to understand our home economics in relation to our family objectives and marital priorities. I discussed the idea with my wife, Eileen. She may have been distracted at the time. While she didn’t exactly jump for joy, she didn’t say no.

Eventually I planned to expand the analysis to additional marital events using location data and personal observations I’d been gathering in a spreadsheet. But one step at a time.

The financial engine analyzed data on purchases happening in real time. I’d alert my wife and make inquiries to enhance the data set. I was not trying to provoke her. The analytics are only meaningful when combined with qualitative intelligence.

Hi- I see you purchased a Sponge Bob watch for Jay at Walgreens. Does this fall under education or gift?

Usually there was no reply, or a reply that I didn’t appreciate and wasn’t meaningful to the algorithm. I started to wonder if Eileen had the courage to work with this data.

Several other times, the financial engine alerted me to budget issues — for example, when we exceeded our eating-out budget. This triggered a pre-arranged protocol with our bank, a 48 hour cooling off period on our credit cards. Both of our cards, not just hers.

As luck would have it, the first time this happened, she was shopping for our son’s soccer uniform and a birthday gift for her father. The card was shut off and she wasn’t able to complete her shopping trip. Her response was furious, not data driven.

I began experimenting with other analytics and looking for patterns and protocols that could enhance our relations.

This excited me. Eileen gives me a hard time because I carry a pocket sized notebook wherever I go to track small data sets like the exact time we arrive at a function, the number of drinks she consumes, the time of sunset, my happiness level on a scale of 1 to 10. I was into Big Data before it was cool.

One Saturday night while she was getting ready for a friend’s 40th birthday bash, I dipped my toe in the water and it was bitten off. I misjudged the room and offered a whimsical observation on her outfit based on past data and anecdotes. What a bone headed move on my part.

Data can’t tell you what every man should already know in his heart. If your wife or girlfriend asks how she looks in those jeans, the right answer is “Great!”

Happier times, before Big Data was introduced into the relationship.

I have learned that some people appreciate Big Data and some people are more comfortable with privacy. Considering the difficult task of anonymizing our household data, I have my work cut out for me.

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