When it comes to dating, a new study finds that we do indeed have a type. Even after heartbreak and vowing “never again,” we tend to look for love with the same type of person over and over again.
“It’s common that when a relationship ends, people attribute the breakup to their ex-partner’s personality and decide they need to date a different type of person,” said lead author Yoobin Park, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto (U of T).
“Our research suggests there’s a strong tendency to nevertheless continue to date a similar personality.”
Using data from an ongoing multi-year study of German couples and families across several age groups, the researchers compared the personalities of current and past partners of 332 people. Their findings suggest a significant consistency in the personalities of an individual’s romantic partners.
“The effect is more than just a tendency to date someone similar to yourself,” says Park.
Participants in the study, along with a sample of current and past partners, assessed their own personality traits related to agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience.
For example, they were asked to rate how much they identified with a series of statements such as, “I am usually modest and reserved,” “I am interested in many different kinds of things” and “I make plans and carry them out.” Respondents were asked to rate their disagreement or agreement with each statement on a five-point scale.
An analysis of the responses showed that overall, the current partners of individuals described themselves in ways that were similar to past partners.
“The degree of consistency from one relationship to the next suggests that people may indeed have a ‘type’,” said co-author Dr. Geoff MacDonald, a professor in the Department of Psychology. “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.”
By getting first-person testimonials of someone’s partners rather than relying on someone’s own description of them, the study accounts for biases found in other studies.
“Our study was particularly rigorous because we didn’t just rely on one person recalling their various partners’ personalities,” said Park. “We had reports from the partners themselves in real time.”
The researchers say the findings offer ways to keep relationships healthy and couples happy.
“In every relationship, people learn strategies for working with their partner’s personality,” says Park. “If your new partner’s personality resembles your ex-partner’s personality, transferring the skills you learned might be an effective way to start a new relationship on a good footing.”
On the other hand, Park says the strategies can also be negative, and that more research is needed to determine how much meeting someone similar to an ex-partner is a plus, and how much it’s a minus when moving to a new relationship.
“So, if you find you’re having the same issues in relationship after relationship,” says Park, “you may want to think about how gravitating toward the same personality traits in a partner is contributing to the consistency in your problems.”
The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: University of Toronto