Journal article Open Access

The Friends-to-Lovers Pathway to Romance: Prevalent, Preferred, and Overlooked by Science

Stinson, Danu Anthony; Cameron, Jessica J.; Hoplock, Lisa B.

There is more than one pathway to romance, but relationship science does not reflect this reality. Our research reveals that relationship initiation studies published in popular journals (Study 1) and cited in popular textbooks (Study 2) overwhelmingly focus on romance that sparks between strangers and largely overlook romance that develops between friends. This limited focus might be justified if friends-first initiation was rare or undesirable, but our research reveals the opposite. In a meta-analysis of seven samples of university students and crowdsourced adults (Study 3; N = 1,897), two thirds reported friends-first initiation, and friends-first initiation was the preferred method of initiation among university students (Study 4). These studies affirm that friends-first initiation is a prevalent and preferred method of romantic relationship initiation that has been overlooked by relationship science. We discuss possible reasons for this oversight and consider the implications for dominant theories of relationship initiation.
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