Have you ever emerged from a very difficult relationship, swearing off ever dating someone like that again, only to find yourself later gravitating towards people who share a lot in common with your ex?
I sure have. And at that point, it becomes a mental wrestling match where I weigh the pros and cons and try to remind myself that people can have similar characteristics and yet not carry the same baggage or engage in the same difficult behaviors.
In other words, I have a type. For better or worse. And odds are, whether you realize it or not, you probably do, too.
Researchers Aren’t Sure Exactly Why, But Just About Everyone Has a Type
A new study suggests that we probably do seek out partners who are the same type — i.e., share similar personality characteristics — over and over again.
What could be behind this? At this point, researchers aren’t exactly sure. However, they did find that not only do we seek out the same type of person over and over again, most commonly those partners have a lot in common with us.
So in other words, even though we might consciously direct our efforts to finding partners who have different qualities, there are stable personality qualities within us that are nonetheless connecting with folks.
However, they were also careful to explain that the effect wasn’t completely explained by this similarity effect. And even when past partners had been relatively dissimilar to us, we were still nonetheless more likely to have future partners with those same qualities.
Extroverted and People Higher in Openness to Experience Were Less Likely to Have a Firm Type
While this similarity among a person’s partners was found across the entire sample, the researchers did note that it was weaker in individuals with certain personality traits.
Specifically, extroverted folks and people with a higher openness to experience were more likely to not have a type. And instead they were a bit more likely to go on to have future partners that were less similar to their past ones.
Openness to experience is a highly researched personality dimension. When a person is high on openness to experience, they are more receptive to new ideas and unconventional beliefs and are willing to try new things.
Consensually Non-Monogamous Individuals Are Higher in Openness to Experience
I found this notion that individuals highly open to experience are less likely to have a type very interesting. One reason for this is that a study correlating personality traits with polyamory and other forms of consensual non-monogamy revealed that one of the key personality differences between folks who are willing to engage in consensual non-monogamy is that they have a higher openness to experience.
Could It Be that Polyamorous People Are Slightly Less Likely to Have a Firm Type?
So looking at these findings together, it might seem that polyamorous folks could be slightly less likely to have a “type” when dating than their monogamous counterparts. And some that I’ve met have told me that this is the major reason that they’re polyamorous — they specifically enjoy the variety of dating experiences and the potential to be with partners who are all quite different from one another.
Obviously, there would be no way to tell without a formal empirical study, but it does make intuitive sense as I look around at the polyamorous folks I know.
Now, there do indeed seem to be ones who still have a distinct “type” (including me, actually), but there are others I know who certainly don’t. And when I look at the ones who really don’t have a type, they do seem to be the most extroverted and bold polyamorists I know.
So maybe there’s something here. Interesting to think about anyway.
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.
My new book is out!
Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).