People look for similar traits in all relationship types, according to a study published in 2002 in the "Journal of Social and Personal Relationships." People tended to prefer warm, open, attractive, funny and socially secure people, whether the relationship in question was platonic or romantic, the study noted. However, researchers found that once relationships became physical or romantic, people placed even more importance on these characteristics. These findings point to evidence that a close friendship can develop into something more if certain criteria have already been met.
A Good Candidate
The above-mentioned study, carried out at the Universities of California and Illinois, suggests that people who are already friends may be good candidates for a more serious relationship, as they have likely been selected as friends because of certain qualities. In fact, people who were platonic friends were likely already acceptable in terms of physical attractiveness, social standing and personality; this is because people tended to require these traits more often in opposite-sex friendships than in same-gender ones.
A Higher Standard
Both men and women expect a higher level of desirable traits when considering more serious relationships. While people generally desire a platonic friend to be expressive, intelligent and physically attractive, they expect higher levels of these traits in people they'd like to date or marry. For any relationship to cross the boundaries into consummate love, it must also comprise a high level of passion, intimacy and commitment, according to psychologist Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love.
Money and social status were found to be significantly more important when considering dating or marrying someone than in cases of just friendship. A high level of ambition is also more of a requirement in a serious relationship than it is in a friendship. In addition, people are more likely to take things to the next level if they are compatible in terms of values and background. Interestingly, the sense of humor that may have formed the basis for a friendship matters slightly less for people when considering whether someone is marriage material.
Men may be particularly keen to turn a platonic relationship into something more, because males more often than females enter into such friendships with one eye on taking things further, according to research published in the "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin" in October 2001. Men, more than women, are likely to start a cross-sex friendship based on sexual desire, while women tend to view protection as an important reason for initiating a cross-gender friendship. Being clear about each others' desires and motives is vital so that the trust in the relationship remains healthy.
- Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin: Opposite-Sex Friendship: Sex Differences and Similarities in Initiation, Selection and Dissolution
- The Triangle of Love: Intimacy, Passion, Commitment; Robert J. Sternberg
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