8 Reasons Why You Always Date the Same Type
Last Updated: Jun 28, 2017
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When it comes to dating and relationships, you probably have a type. Perhaps you fall for free-wheeling musicians or artists, or maybe you make a beeline for bookish, intellectual types. You might consistently go gaga over redheads or blonds or prefer dark-skinned, brown-eyed partners. After years of experience, you probably know what your particular “type” is, but how did you get this type? It’s not just a matter of taste or coincidence -- there are actually several scientific and psychological components that can contribute to you swooning over a preferred brand of soulmate. While you may gravitate toward this type again and again, it may not necessarily be right for you. According to dating coach Evan Marc Katz, that’s when you need to consider the personality characteristics of the person you’re dating -- more than anything else. “The most important thing… is being with a partner who makes you feel good,” he says.
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YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY
“Are you dating someone?” If you’re single, this is the #1 question that your friends, family and coworkers will ask. (Cue your sighing and eye-rolling…) Then, of course, they’ll ask you what he or she is like. Katie Chen, Personal Matchmaker at Catch Matchmaking, says, “Because your friends and family are always going to weigh in and give their opinion, they’re shaping who you think is your type.” She elaborates, “Say, a guy tells his family that the girl he’s chasing is a high-level executive that seems too busy for him -- and the family is more into traditional gender roles. The family will say, ‘Find a nice, sweet girl with more time for you.’ If the guy accepts that opinion and adopts it as his own, then it’s shaping his type.”
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African couple talking at bar
YOUR BODY CHEMISTRY
Even if you’re not actively looking for a mate, your hormones and body chemistry are probably on the prowl FOR you. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and consultant for Chemistry.com, believes that people choose partners whose chemicals complement their own. She says there are four main personality types based on the chemicals in our body: The Explorer, who has high dopamine (the motivating/pleasure-seeking chemical) levels, is curious and adventurous. The Builder, who has high serotonin levels, is calm, conventional and ruled by schedules. The Director, with high testosterone levels, is focused and logical. Finally, the Negotiator, with high estrogen, is compassionate and imaginative. While the personality types with the same chemicals can attract each other, opposites tend to feel major sparks, as well.
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“Kissing cousins” probably takes you to a bad place, but there is a bit of truth in the idea: Similar genes can sway you to a particular match. When you pick a mate based on similar education, social class, or race, it’s called assortive mating. But behavioral scientist Benjamin Domingue and his colleagues at the University of Colorado Boulder took this one step further. They conducted a study to find out if assortive mating happens at a genetic level. They gathered 825 opposite-sex non-Hispanic white couples. After analyzing data from nearly 2 million spots in each person’s genome, they compared the genome with their partner’s genome. Then, they randomly paired the genomes up with other people’s genomes. They found that the couples were more likely to be similar to each other than the people who were randomly paired up. However, they concluded that, while “genetic assortive mating” can be a factor in “type,” assortive mating based on education was still three times stronger than sorting based on genes.
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YOUR COMMON GROUND
It’s true: Birds of a feather DO have a tendency to flock together. That’s why you may pursue someone with a similar background and values. They might share your attitude or habits and even like the same music and movies as you. This may sound like a no-brainer, but there’s actually a name for it: homophily, which means “love of the same.” And it’s not just happening in the real world; it’s a pattern that’s going on in the virtual world, as well. After all, one-fourth of people have met their spouses online, most likely by seeking out someone who’s similar to them. Andrew T. Fiore and Judith S. Donath of MIT Media Laboratory studied this pattern and found that the highest-ranked characteristics for online users who demonstrated homophily were race, marital status, drinking and smoking habits, physical appearance, and religion. Overall, their verdict: You like someone like yourself most of the time, online or off.
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YOUR GENDER ARCHETYPE
In Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels and Disney movies, Tarzan had MAJOR manliness. (Hey, he was raised by apes. It happens.) So, it’s no surprise that he had his eye on Jane, the ultra-feminine damsel in distress. In reality, these gender archetypes are pretty true to form: Studies have shown your tendency to take on a more masculine or feminine role is linked to what you prefer in a mate. A 2011 paper in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology notes that hyperfemininity, which is “strongly leaning towards feminine attitudes and beliefs,” is characterized by having a clear preference for more traditional masculine behaviors and a higher tolerance for male sexual aggression and force. Hypermasculine men may also pick women who show more stereotypical “female” qualities.
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YOUR B.O. (YES, BODY ODOR)
Sure, AXE body spray, colognes, and designer perfume may lure a handful of admirers. But the real scent that boosts your sexiness is your own natural musk. You may not realize it, but your major histocompatibility complex (or MHC genes) -- which are genetically encoded cell surface molecules that normally control your immune system -- are also working overtime to help you score a mate, and in this case, opposites attract. According to Martie Haselton, PhD, with the communications studies and psychology departments at the University of California, Los Angeles, “People rate the body odors of people with MHC genes that are unlike their own more attractive.” Meaning, your body wants you to be attracted to someone who doesn’t smell like you, so your MHC genes are heavily involved in determining the pleasantness in a person’s sweat.
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YOUR MATE = YOUR DOPPELGäNGER
It may seem narcissistic to be attracted to someone who looks like you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a factor in your “type.” According to David Perrett, a researcher at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, we are attracted to people who resemble our parents or ourselves. The reason? People want a mate who looks familiar. Perrett showed his students photos of the opposite sex and asked them to rate them on attractiveness. For one of the photos, he morphed the picture of the student into a photo of the opposite sex. Of the many photos they could choose from, the students almost always preferred the face that was basically their own. His studies also found that people tend to be attracted to specific features that resemble those of their mom or dad, such as eye color and hair color. His explanation is imprinting: “When we’re infants, our parents are the first humans we trust. So we unconsciously take people with the same facial features to be more trustworthy -- and mateworthy -- than others.”
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From your childhood experiences to your parents to your evil (and not-so-evil) exes, it all plays a role in determining your type. Psychotherapist Lynn Ianni says, “The characteristics you repress or reject in either parent -- like having a bad temper or being overbearing -- are the ones you’ll most likely pick in a partner because they give you a sense of recognition.” So, when you meet someone with these familiar repressed qualities, a sensor goes off, and it’s what you experience as ‘chemistry.’ Even from one ex to a new love interest, that sense of familiarity can be a powerful aphrodisiac. She adds, “It doesn’t necessarily feel good, but it feels correct, like you’ve known this person forever. That’s the ‘connection’ you feel.”
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