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Current, Former Romantic Partners Often Share Similar Traits

If all of your exes were placed in a single room, would others be able to detect similarities among them? Would your ex-partners have a similar look or similar interests?

Findings from a new study at the University of California, Davis  suggest they probably would — 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.

“Do people have a type? Yes,” said the study’s primary author, Dr. Paul Eastwick, associate professor of psychology. “But sometimes it reflects your personal desirability and sometimes it reflects where you live.”

For outward qualities, such as attractiveness, similarities emerge because good-looking people tend to attract other good-looking people, say the researchers. However, for qualities that vary widely depending on where you live, such as education or religion, similarities tend to emerge because educated or religious people happen to meet each other, not necessarily because they actively select each other.

The researchers, who conducted three slightly different studies, looked at the characteristics of people in more than 1,000 current and past heterosexual relationships. The information was provided voluntarily through social media sites and live interviews in recent years, culminating in 2014.

In one of the studies, researchers found that people’s past partners shared similar physical qualities. This was true even when the partners were short-term or casual relationships. The researchers wrote that “during the partner selection process, people may have difficulty differentiating between partners that prove to be casual and short-term versus committed and long-term.”

While intelligence or educational level did play a role, Eastwick said, it was often related to where the people went to school or the field in which they worked.

A second study examined the ex-partners of several hundred young adults sampled from schools across the United States. The exes of a particular person tended to be very similar on variables like education, religiosity, and intelligence, but this type of similarity was entirely due to the school that people attended.

Within their local school context, people were no more or less likely to select educated, intelligent, or religious partners.

The study differs from most other research on relationships because this study surveys people’s relationships over time, not just one committed relationship, Eastwick said.

The findings were published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology of the American Psychological Association.

Source: University of California, Davis

Current, Former Romantic Partners Often Share Similar Traits

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Current, Former Romantic Partners Often Share Similar Traits. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 26 Mar 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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