If romantic comedies are your favourite Netflix category, then you may be familiar with the old Hollywood trope of “love at first sight.” However, contrary to this popular adage, romantic relationships don’t begin when someone rounds a corner and bumps into you or when you lock eyes with a stranger from across the room. While it makes for a riveting meet-cute, a new study has found that two-thirds of romantic relationships actually begin as long-term friendships.
The obvious response may be: “well, duh!” But according to the study’s lead author Danu Stinson, this path to love has largely been overlooked by literature and research, with many choosing to focus on “romance between strangers.” While the latter may give some hope for those scrolling the interwebs and dating apps for “the one,” during her 20 years of studying relationship initiation, Stinson noticed that participants were forming romantic ties with friends they knew for quite some time, reports CNN.
First, comes friends, then comes a loving relationship?
Published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, Stinson‘s research features adults of all ages and consists of around 1900 people from Canada and the United States. With data collected over 18 years (from 2002 – 2020), the online study found that 66% of couples began as friends, with this “friendship stage” lasting several months or years.
If anything, these findings attempt to break the unhealthy stereotype regarding how relationships are formed, forcing people to rethink their preconceived notions about relationships.
As Stinson puts it: “Dating scripts really say that you’re going to meet somebody, and a flash of lightning will strike you. I think if you really believe in that dating script, then it’s hard to imagine another situation,” she says.
Some friendly benefits
A more surprising finding has to be that many of the couples indicated they were “friends with benefits ” first before they entered into a relationship.
“They’re cuddling by the fire, they’re going on trips together, they’re introducing their friends to their family, but they’re very clear that those are friendships,” Stinson said.
This blurred line between romantic partner and friendship may require a relook at the definition of friendship and romance, says Stinson.
But no matter your stance on how romantic relationships are formed, one thing is for sure, questioning how people enter relationships may be a crucial factor when understanding relationships in general.
To paraphrase The Spice Girls: If you wanna be my lover, you got to be my friend.