Don’t think you have a romantic type? Science says you do

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By Jenny Haward –  Brisbane Times

Whether you’re a seasoned dater or a serial monogamist, most of us like to feel that we’ve evolved, romantically, during the course of our lives. But now research has shown that, to some degree, we actually date a similar type of person again, and again.

Psychologists at the University of Toronto analysed data from a nine-year study in Germany that looked at the personality traits – including extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness – of individuals, as well as their ex and current partners, based on self-report.

“Our findings show that there is consistency in the personalities of people’s romantic partners, suggesting that people were dating a person similar to their ex-partner,” Yoobin Park, who worked on the research, says.

“I’d say whether [people] think they have a type or not, they do tend to end up dating with a similar type of person.”

While I’ve never really considered that I have a type beyond liking funny, confident, well-mannered men, I wonder if – in light of this research – some truly honest reflection on my previous partners’ personalities might shed more light on my actual type.

Although they couldn’t be more different physically, after really considering my exes, there is no ignoring that while they fit the aforementioned loose characteristics, they are also typically all independent, strong-willed and often emotionally-closed off Alpha males. Which is actually quite alarming. Not only are these traits at odds with my sensitive, emotional side, they probably don’t mesh that well with my extroverted, Alpha female traits either. No wonder I’m single, I grumble (fittingly) to no-one.

Reassuringly for me, 29-year-old Nate (not his real name) from Melbourne says he’s also only now beginning to recognise similarities between men he’s had relationships with.

“It’s something I’ve only recently started to realise. It seems I’m just continually drawn to guys that are quite playful, silly, light. Along with some of the beautiful, light, playful qualities also often comes a certain level of immaturity, at times thoughtlessness, and self-focus,” Nate says.

Clearly for Nate and I, dating the same type doesn’t always mean a series of blissful relationships or guaranteed personal happiness.

“Recently I’ve been thinking, is it maybe not the healthiest thing that I’m attracted to guys like this? Should I do some emotional inner work to try and change that, or do I just to find the right guy within the type?” he says.

Since we tend to end relationships for a reason, and those reasons are rarely joyful, it’s not too surprising that Park confirms dating someone who is similar to an ex can cause frustrations.

“Perhaps people encounter the same type of conflicts and experience some kind of hopelessness with this new partner who resembles the ex,” Park says.

Tokyo-based Sinéad, 27, has dated men, women and non-binary people, and says that there are common traits she has noted in all, such as an ability to show vulnerability and a sense of humour and creativity. But she admits that the type of person she has dated hasn’t always entirely suited her.

“I also find myself in relationships where I am in awe of the person, and I am always pushing myself to be interesting, to keep them captivated. Sometimes I’ve felt I’ve pushed myself to not always be authentic,” Sinéad says.

The thought of experiencing a Groundhog Day-style cycle of relationship problems might have you ready to fling your dating shoes out of the window in despair, but there are positives to dating the same type of person again and again.

“One implication of the partner personality consistency we identified for future relationship maintenance is that people might fare better with the new partner, to the extent that they can transfer the skills they learned from their past relationship to the new one,” Park explains.

On reflection, I’ve certainly learned to give space to partners who are similarly independent and strong-willed in recent years, and tried to understand the ways my sensitivity can be challenging for those who are less emotionally driven.

“Now that I think about it, it makes sense,” Nate agrees. “There are some things I’ve had to work on in previous relationships, like really owning communicating my emotional needs. Which, if I continue to date within the broad type it seems I’m into will be a particularly important skill.”

Sinéad admits that while two of her partners have been introverted, in contrast to her extroverted personality, this has actually helped her adapt the way she approaches relationships.

“In future and current relationships, I’ve been trying to find people who have similar “love languages” as me,” she says. “I can’t say I’ve been searching for new types of people, but I am trying to approach relationships a bit differently each time around”.

Ultimately, a realisation that you could be dating the same type of person in multiple relationships can be an opportunity for growth and positive personal change.

“You’re sort of always getting a bit better, both in terms of your own stuff and others’,” Nate says. “It feels like quite a healthy way to think about relationships to be honest.”

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