As coworkers at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., in the fictional sitcom “The Office,” Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly become good friends. It takes a while for their romantic feelings to grow, but a few seasons into the show, the two marry.

Their relationship follows what’s known as the friends to lovers trope. It’s a trope which has been around for a while. Jane Austen’s novel “Emma” features it between the two characters Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley.

Of course, there are many real-life examples of this happening as well. But are dating apps preventing this type of romance from blossoming? Are the days of Jim and Pam playing pranks on their coworkers and having dozens of conversations before falling in love gone? Say it isn’t so!

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What’s the friends to lovers trope?

In the friends to lovers trope, there’s a pair of friends who have a great friendship. They’ve taken a fair amount of time to get to know each other and then, after developing their friendship, they become romantically involved. Their relationship can look like Emma and Mr. Knightley’s with plenty of tension and back-and-forth.

Or their relationship can look like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who grow up together and then pine after each other before finally getting together.

This trope has spawned an entire subset of romance novels and there’s even some data which suggests it’s how most people want to meet their significant other, but is this really how couples are getting together?

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Are couples meeting each other online?

In general, people are getting married less and are more likely to be single. And the way dating works has changed. A Stanford study said among those who are in relationships, online dating is the most likely way in which they met each other. Around 40% of U.S. couples meet via dating apps and fewer couples are meeting via mutual friends.

Other studies offer more conservative numbers on that front. The Knot said their 2021 survey showed one in four couples met via dating app. E-Harmony said 20% of couples met via online dating services. There’s some conflicting data about exactly how many people are meeting via dating apps as opposed to other means.

In the same Stanford study, the authors said traditional ways of dating like meeting at church or meeting through school have been on the decline since the 1940s. Slate said the spread of the internet accelerated the pace at which these ways of meeting have declined.

As online dating has increased, there have been some preliminary studies on the longevity of these couples. A 2021 study from the Marriage Foundation found couples who meet online are more likely to have an early divorce (i.e. a divorce within three years of marriage) compared to couples who met via other means. Per Today, this doesn’t mean dating apps are ineffectual, but there are different challenges which arise from online dating.

Other means of meeting romantic partners often involve sharing social networks, which might be a reason why online dating has a higher early divorce rate. Today said, “Since the 2000s, online dating has surged in popularity and acceptance, currently responsible for more than half of couples. Before the 2000s, about two-thirds of couples met through family, at work or in social settings such as bars or parties.”

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Can you go from friends to lovers?

Even though that set of data shows dating apps as the most common way to meet someone, other data indicates the friends to lovers pathway isn’t as uncommon as it may seem.

In a 2021 study, researchers from University of Victoria analyzed seven studies on relationship initiation and said around 68% of those relationships were formed by the couple first being friends before entering a romantic relationship.

And nearly half of survey respondents said having a friendship turn into a relationship is the most favorable way to form a relationship, according to the study. Only 0.3% said meeting via online dating service was favorable.

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Where are couples meeting each other in real life?

The aforementioned Stanford study, which was a survey of 5,421 adults, said if couples aren’t meeting online, then 27% of them meet at a bar or restaurant, 20% through friends, 11% at work, 9% at school and 7% through family.

A poll through YouGov had some different results. The poll found that 18% said they met at work, 18% through mutual friends, 15% out in public and the rest met via online dating or through a hobby or through school. Results did differ among generations — younger people tended to meet their partners at bars or restaurants and older people tended to meet their partners via online dating.

The common places like school, work, church and restaurants are still where some couples are meeting each other. In fact, it seems most people would rather a relationship form from a friendship in the context of their social network rather than sporadically with a stranger.

Is online dating worth it?

It depends on your own personal priorities. Some dating apps like E-Harmony, Tinder and OkCupid are more general dating apps which don’t narrow in as much on the audience they are gathering.

Other online dating services are more specific. There are some dating websites like Mutual, which is specific to Latter-day Saints who are looking for someone who shares their same faith background, or other sites like Farmers Only, which is catered toward farmers and people who live in rural communities. Other apps like Lefty are geared toward people who are politically progressive, while apps like The Right Stuff are marketed toward political conservatives.

If online dating appeals to you, there are plenty of avenues to try, but if online dating isn’t what you would like to do, there are still ways to meet a partner offline.

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Friends to lovers in pop culture

Friends to lovers is the fabric of romantic comedies. Arguably, one of the most influential romantic comedies is the highly popular “When Harry Met Sally.” The characters’ friendship persists for over a decade before they fall in love.

There’s also the adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which has this trope. In “She’s the Man,” Viola and Duke become best friends while Viola tries to pass off as a teenage boy (her brother) so she can play on a soccer team which Duke is also on. The two fall in love as their friendship progresses.

Another example is “13 Going on 30.” Jenna is best friends with Matt and when Jenna’s birthday party goes horribly wrong, she makes a wish to be 30 instead of 13. Her wish is granted and she learns she and Matt have grown apart. The two rekindle their friendship and eventually fall for each other again. Then, when her wish is reversed and she’s no longer 30, she and Matt develop a romantic relationship.

Whether it’s “Always Be My Maybe” or Monica and Chandler in “Friends” or Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley, the friends to lovers trope is popular in everything from romantic comedies to sitcoms to fantasy novels. And with some data saying that’s how most people want their relationships to go, it doesn’t seem like that’ll change any time soon.