Older people are enjoying longer and more active lives, and mature adults are increasingly embracing change, unwilling to settle for unhealthy relationships in their second half of life. According to Pew Research data, gray divorce among couples over the age of 50 nearly doubled from 1994 to 2015, and now many older adults are dating again. But before signing up for an online dating site, consider dating a friend – evidence shows that couples who start as friends may have happier and stronger relationships.
As marriage and society have evolved, couples now seek more from a union than mutual survival or even simple romantic love. Couples today hope to find a partner they share interests with, and who will bring more joy, fulfillment, and meaning to their lives. It’s a tall order to fill by swiping through profiles on a singles’ matching app.
According to a recent article in The Atlantic, Jessica Cameron, a psychology professor at the University of Manitoba has researched the theory that friendships which grow into romantic relationships are more fulfilling because they are based on the trust, support, and closeness of true friendship. With more opportunities for male/female friendships to develop in the 21st century, a growing percentage of romantic couples report having started out as friends. Research also shows that couples who were friends before they began dating were attracted to one another more by their inner qualities rather than their physical appearance or earning potential.
Romantic relationships that start as friendships also have the added benefit of well-established trust and understanding between partners. Because friends already know one another’s core values and personality quirks, and hold respect for one another, the relationship has a better chance of being balanced and stable. Many friends worry they will lose a close friendship if the relationship moves into the romance zone, but more often, the transition is gradual as the dynamic changes and is less likely to require a risky declaration. Still, open communication about expectations, and what may need to change, is essential for a successful romantic relationship.