Most Romantic Relationships Start As Friendships, Study Finds by By Sarah Molano
Contrary to the popular perception that love typically sparks from passion, a new study finds two-thirds of romantic relationships begin as long-term friendships.
Though highly prevalent, the friends-to-lovers pathway to a relationship has been largely overlooked by science, said Danu Stinson, lead author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.
Stinson has studied relationship initiation for 20 years, and she noticed over the years that many participants reported they were forming romantic bonds with friends they had known for a while.
She began asking the question, “Were you friends with your partner before you became romantically involved?” in her other research and conducted a meta-analysis for this paper.
…She expected friends-first initiation to be common, but she was surprised at how dominant it was in the research. The prevalence of friends-first relationships was also consistent across ages and ethnic groups.
…That analysis found that 66% of couples began as friendships, many of them long-term friendships spanning several months or years.
In the final study, which only looked at 300 university students, the “friend stage” lasted almost 22 months on average before turning romantic.
Almost half of this sample said friends-first initiation was their preferred method of beginning a romantic relationship. However, the vast majority of the sample did not enter their friendships with the intention of a romantic relationship.
…These findings should prompt people to rethink their preconceived notions about relationships that often stem from “dominant dating scripts in our culture,” Stinson said.
“Dating scripts really say that you’re going to meet somebody, and a flash of lightning will strike you,” Stinson said. “I think if you really believe in that dating script, then it’s hard to imagine another situation” where you become closer with a friend and start a romantic relationship.