Have a type? Me, too, though as I’ve gotten older, my type has evolved.
Am I still choosing the same sort of man over and over again, not only physically but temperamentally and otherwise, unaware that I’m doing so? If so, why?
This Psych Central post on exes is fascinating, offering insights into how and why we choose the same partners over and over. The article asks that we consider what we would discover if we put our current and past loves in a room together.
Would they all resemble each other? Would they share common interests? Would their behavioral traits be similar, including the ones that drive us nuts?
The very thought of looking at who we’ve loved collectively gives me pause. Not that I thought I didn’t have a “type” mind you, but in looking back over (too many?) years of relationships, there are remarkable similarities.
Looking Back at Exes: What Do You See?
Hmmm. If I see similarities (especially in failed relationships), does that mean I haven’t learned any lessons from my experience?
And what should I consider a “failed” relationship, anyway?
These are questions I’m asking myself, even as I recognize that I extricate myself from less than optimal relationships much more quickly than I did 10 years ago, that my post-divorce dating over the years has included a broader, more diverse group, and that what I want out of relationship has evolved.
Yet the topic intrigues me, especially as I consider all the cool, caring people I’ve encountered over the years — both men and women — who are without a good relationship and still hoping, wishing, trying to find and develop exactly that.
Psych Central cites a new study that tells us:
… your exes (as well as your current partner) most likely share quite a few similarities in both physical appearance and personality traits. This applies to both long-term and short-term relationships.
Testing The Premise of a Lifelong Type
Using myself to test the premise, I come up with the following.
Let’s see… If I consider how many times I’ve been in love… I’ll put that count at seven… (Now, now. No judgment, please. I’m no longer 30 and I’ve been single for a long time…)
- 6 out of 7 of the men in my life have been between 6′ and 6’3″ tall
- 5 out of the 7 have had dark hair and dark eyes
- 5 out of the 7 were European, the other two of Mediterranean descent
- 6 out of the 7 had gorgeous hands
As for background, profession, and attributes more typical of those found on a “shopping for a mate” checklist…
- 6 out of 7 were highly intelligent
- 5 out of 7 had post-grad degrees
- 4 out of 7 were academic / hybrid types (okay… nerdy)
- 3 out of 7 were more traditional “business” guys
- 1 out of 7 was extremely well-off financially, 1 was struggling financially, 5 in the middle, closer to the “managing” category
- 5 out of 7 had kids (at some point)
- 5 out of 7 were highly opinionated
A few personal insights? I see commonality in character and values (or so I initially thought). And to my surprise, none were full-time artists, musicians, or other creatives.
Your Personality Type? Behavioral Type? Is It Set for a Lifetime?
Odds and ends? What my former heartbreakers did or didn’t have? And what’s a “wash” to me?
Some were bearded, some were not. Some were thin, some were definitely not. Some were bald or with thinning hair, some were not. Some were introverts, some were extroverts, some — like me — could go both ways. And while I found each and every one to be attractive to me, not a one could be deemed classically handsome as I have always liked what I think of as “interesting” faces.
And I’m still mulling the “no creatives” finding…
As interesting as it is that we have “types,” do they in fact persist over a lifetime? And if so, why? Are there factors beyond the obvious that draw us to the same sort of men and women — good for us or not — over and over?
We might agree that we take comfort in the familiar. Maybe that’s going for the “safe choice.” Maybe it’s knowing we belong to the opposites attract crowd. Maybe it’s making a beeline for the bad boy, or the female equivalent.
Trying something new? Stepping out of our comfort zone? In a romantic relationship, that can feel unsettling. Still, something new and different is an adventure, so adopting a “why not?” attitude may be just the ticket.
Romantic Supply and Demand
Whether we decide to go for the familiar or a change in type, what about the reality of who is actually available?
On a practical level, based on demographics — age, gender, ethnicity and so on — we may face changing formulas of romantic supply and demand. For example, older men have more flexibility in pairing up with younger women. And, statistically, there are more older single women than men.
These factors put maturing women at a disadvantage — more of us and a smaller pool of potential partners.
Of course, the forces of supply and demand will also alter as we shift locations (cities, regions, countries).
Moreover, as we grow older — even by our mid-thirties and forties, especially if we have childcare responsibilities as part of the “package” we bring to the dating marketplace — we are often required to expand or shift what we’re looking for in a partner.
The Psych Central article highlights other elements that come into play. Specifically, aspects of our upbringing as defined by geography. Where we grow up, where we reside, the environments we frequent… all of these influence our expectations. Expectations set the stage for our “normal,” which we may like or rebel against at various points in time.
You’re Older. Choices Narrow. So Now What?
Sure, we’re creatures of habit. We have triggers. We repeat patterns. These patterns are both positive and negative. Although it always takes two to tango as they say, if we choose the same problem partners time and time again, we’re likely to revisit the same or similar dramas, with a similar eventual end.
I don’t underestimate the challenges involved in meeting appropriate people as we grow older. I mused on the obstacles inherent in online dating just a few days back, and these obstacles seem more onerous as we age. Among their drawbacks: These are meeting venues where looks are overwhelmingly and disproportionately important to the process, putting our older selves at a relative disadvantage.
Given that many of us aren’t out in the world as much as we once were in “traditional” jobs, parenting activities, sporting or other pursuits, we may view dating sites and apps as our only option, though more intrepid spirits may realize that needn’t be the case. However we choose to meet new people, hoping for potential partners, might the nature of changing supply and demand encourage us to move beyond our usual types?
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