If you've ever taken the time to reflect back on the different romantic relationships you've had throughout your life, you've probably come to a conclusion about whether you have a type or you don't. Maybe all of your past partners have been so similar that it seems almost eerie, or maybe they've all been so uniquely themselves that you can't really find a thread that ties them together. A new study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated this very question. According to the study's findings, you probably do tend to be drawn to a specific kind of person.
The researchers examined the current partners and previous partners of 332 different people to determine whether any patterns emerged. You might expect that you date people who you have things in common with, but the study's findings unearthed a different interesting correlation: Your partners are all probably pretty similar. While you probably think of having a "type" to mean liking certain physical characteristics, the researchers discovered that the personalities of a person's partners tend to be remarkably close to each other, even more so than to themselves.
"The degree of consistency from one relationship to the next suggests that people may indeed have a 'type'," the study's co-author Geoff MacDonald, a professor in the Department of Psychology at U of T, said in a press release. "And though our data do not make clear why people's partners exhibit similar personalities, it is noteworthy that we found partner similarity above and beyond similarity to oneself." In other words, people are likely to date other folks who share characteristics with each other.
It turns out that there's likely a very practical reason that people may date similar personality types. "In every relationship, people learn strategies for working with their partner's personality," lead author Yoobin Park, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science at U of T, said in a press release. "If your new partner's personality resembles your ex-partner's personality," Park said, "transferring the skills you learned might be an effective way to start a new relationship on a good footing." This makes sense, really. If your first relationship was with someone who enjoyed exploring your city on the weekend, for example, then you probably adjusted to that kind of lifestyle and were ready to be adventurous when you met your next partner.
But this kind of pattern-forming behavior may not always be a healthy thing, clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone, PhD, an expert in self-destructive behaviors, wrote for Psychology Today. "Our early attachment styles, and the defenses and adaptations we form around them, have a strong influence on the partners we choose in the present," she said. To break any harmful patterns of choosing the same kinds of partners, meditate on what problems you see arising in your relationships over and over again. For example, did many of your partners want you to take care of or control them? Did they all tend to avoid opening up to you? Being aware of these kinds of issues can help you look out for them early on in future relationships, rather than fall into the same cycle again, according to Dr. Firestone.
While recognizing that all of your past loves have had the same personality quirks might not affect who you decide to date much, it could potentially be a useful bit of information for getting to know yourself more. It may even help you identify what personality traits are important to you to have in a partner, and which you'd like to steer clear of in the future.