The 3 Paths To Finding A Relationship In 2018, According To 5,000 Singles

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Knowing how to get into a relationship isn't always easy. Some people go on a string of "official" dates, whether it's with people they meet online or in person. But if an ~official~ first date makes you feel really nervous and awkward, don't worry — it's not actually the most common way we meet partners anymore. In fact, according to Match's 2018 Singles In America survey, which surveyed over 5,000 singles of all sexual orientations and ethnicities, from 18-70+, there are three main strategies that led people into relationships — and the most common one may surprise you. Because for me, having a friends with benefits always meant that I never actually had any romantic feelings for them but, according to the survey, it's actually the most common way people have gotten into a relationship.

"We're learning so much about friends-with-benefits relationships, including who does it, when they do it, and why they do it," Dr. Justin Garcia, gender studies endowed professor and research scientist at The Kinsey Institute, and Scientific Advisor to Match, tells Bustle. "... There are a variety of reasons this might appeal to so many Americans. For some, it may feel like less pressure than traditional dating, for some it allows for focusing on a friendship connection from the start without the complexity of courtship, for others it allows for being more direct about the sexual aspects of a relationship. There is no right answer to this, rather it's what works for individuals and their partners — but we are seeing large portions of single Americans reporting that friends with benefits is something they have done, and will likely continue to do, to meet their intimate desires."

But that doesn't mean that a casual hookup with a friend is destined to turn into a relationship. "Engaging in a ‘friends with benefits’ (FWB) relationship can be like walking with a blindfold on," Lori Bizzoco, Relationship Expert and Founder of relationship advice site Cupid's Pulse, tells Bustle. "You never know the boundaries that are established in regards to what’s acceptable and what’s not. Having friends with benefits is bound to become problematic as a result of uncertainty! Being in a FWB relationship always has the potential to turn into a sticky situation, leaving one person with their feelings hurt." It's tricky to predict what will happen, so if you are in a FWB set up or thinking about getting into one, make sure that you're paying attention to your feelings and protecting yourself. It can be great, but it can also be really messy if you're not on the same page.

But FWB wasn't the only way people got into relationships, and the survey found that many people switched between the methods of meeting people. Here are the different paths to romance, according to the SIA survey.

1Friends With Benefits: 55%

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More than half of singles have had friends with benefits on their quest to romance — that's more than half. And if it goes well, it may turn into something more. But make sure to be upfront if you develop feelings for the other person or sense that you want more out of an FWB setup.

"Once you have decided that you'd like more from your situation, if you ask and you find out that they're strictly interested in casual sex, it's very hard to keep it going," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. As long as you're upfront, you'll have the choice to get out of it if they're not interested. And, if they are on the same page as you, you can progress into a romantic relationship.

2An Official First Date: 44%

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Although first dates can be awkward as hell, I'm not surprised that 44 percent of singles have had them turn into romance — they happen pretty naturally if you meet someone online. And though there are normally some sweaty hands and awkward silences, sometimes it really does work out.

3Hanging Out: 40%

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"Hanging out" is apparently code for building on a friendship first, rather than going straight into a relationship. So at first you're not having sex or dating, but spending time together as friends — and then eventually it transitions into something more. It sort of sounds like how things are in high school or college, and it's a pretty natural progression. Forty percent of singles have done this, so it seems like friendship really can blossom into love.

The good news is, if you're single and looking for something serious, so are 69 percent of singles — so there are a lot of folks ready to get into serious relationships. And as you can see from this list there are a lot of different ways to do it, but you don't need to stick to just one.

"Our data show that singles today are able to explore a variety of different paths to romance," Garcia says. "There isn't necessarily one that is better than the other, Singles in America reveals that all can lead to a committed relationship." Take it as a sign that if you meet someone you click with, it can turn into something more — no matter how it starts.