A new study is challenging a lot of popular notions about love and romance by finding that, contrary to lots of Hollywood movies and daydreams, two-thirds of romantic relationships start out as long-term friendships — not passionate “love at first sight” flings.
Danu Stinson, is lead author of the study. She’s an associate professor of psychology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada who’s been researching love and romance for two decades, and she told CNN that she noticed how many of the couples she’d interview told her they met as friends. “Very few studies are really looking at this friends-first relationship initiation, despite our observation that it’s the most common form of relationship initiation by far,” Stinson said. She said this held true for romantic relationships across all ethnic and age groups, as well as sexual orientations.
Stinson decided to dig deeper into the research, since she noted that most cultural narratives and even most scientific studies around romance start with the notion that romance tends to begin as a passionate meeting between strangers. On average, most romantic couples had been friends for several months or even years before things turned romantic. In one study that focused exclusively on college students, the couple had been friends for an average of 22 months before the relationship evolved to something more.
“Dating scripts really say that you’re going to meet somebody, and a flash of lightning will strike you,” Stinson told CNN. “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.”