Queer dating | Your next partner is probably one of your friends

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New research has found that an overwhelming number of LGBTQ+ couples don’t meet on dating or hookup sites but actually start out as friends.

While we’ve all been entertained (brainwashed, maybe?) by the Hollywood narrative of love at first sight, the reality doesn’t seem to be quite so dramatic.

Published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, a study of data from about 1,900 Canadian university students and crowdsourced adults, revealed that two-thirds (66%) of romantic relationships began platonically. Friendships on average turned romantic after one to two years.

The researchers found little variation across gender, level of education, or ethnic groups, but the rate of friends-first initiation was even higher within LGBTQ+ communities, with a whopping 85 percent of such couples beginning as friendships.

“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,” said 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.”

Among university students, “friends-first initiators” were friends for one-to-two years before beginning a romantic relationship. Researchers noted that the vast majority of these participants reported that they did not enter their friendships with romantic intentions or attraction.

Stinson pointed out that the average length of pre-romance friendships means it is likely that the couples were genuine, platonic friends before transitioning to romance.

Nearly half of the students reported that starting as friends was their preferred way of developing a romantic relationship, making it far and away more popular than other options presented, such as meeting at a party or online.

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.”

So if you’re looking for your soulmate, don’t put all your eggs in the Grindr or Tinder basket and take another look at your circle of friends.

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