Two-thirds of romantic couples start out as friends, study finds

UVic psychologist, Danu Stinson, leads a new study on friendship and romantic relationships. Her new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science finds friends-first initiation of romance is often over looked by researchers. Examining a sample of previous studies on how relationships begin, the authors found that nearly 75 percent focused on the spark of romance between strangers. Only eight percent centered on romance that develops among friends over time.

“There are a lot of people who would feel very confident saying that we know why and how people choose partners and become a couple and fall in love, but our research suggests that is not the case,” says lead author Danu Anthony Stinson, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria, Canada. “We might have a good understanding of how strangers become attracted to each other and start dating, but that's simply not how most relationships begin.”

Given the prevalence of romantic relationships that begin platonically, Stinson would like to see further studies examining this kind of relationship initiation. She also hopes that this research will push people to revisit their preconceived notions about love and friendship. Stinson notes that we are often taught that romance and friendship are dissimilar types of relationships that form in different ways and meet distinct needs.

“Our research suggests that the lines between friendship and romance are blurry,” says Stinson, “and I think that forces us to rethink our assumptions about what makes a good friendship but also what makes a good romantic relationship.”

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Social Psychological and Personality Science (SPPS) is an official journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), the Association for Research in Personality (ARP), the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP), and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology (SESP). Social Psychological and Personality Science publishes innovative and rigorous short reports of empirical research on the latest advances in personality and social psychology.