Maybe you’re at a café, or talking a walk in the park, enjoying the sun or maybe you’re aimlessly scrolling through your favorite social media accounts, and then wham! It happens; your ex appears out of nowhere.
Like a fat, grey cloud about to unleash rain on your sunshiny day, he/ she pops up in your field of vision ominous and carefree. And whether you have an interaction or not, as you take in his/ her features, you honestly begin to wonder, ‘Why did I like you?’
This is a question that on its own may seem petty or even angry, but it’s a very good question. What was it about your exes that appealed to you?
Now we all know that we have a checklist of qualities and attributes that we are looking for in our partners, yet most still site incompatible personalities and morals as the major reasons the relationships dissolve.
What is even more interesting is the realization that most of us have a ‘ dating type’ and according to a study conducted at the University of Toronto, people despite their best intentions to date outside of that type, some can’t help but to gravitate to similar partners.
Lead author Yoobin Park, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science at U of T says, “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. “Our research suggests there’s a strong tendency to nevertheless continue to date a similar personality”.
Co-author Geoff MacDonald, a professor in the Department of Psychology at U of T, concurs, noting “The degree of consistency from one relationship to the next suggests that people may indeed have a ‘type’. 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.”
So then why do you have this dating type?
James Green, a certified love coach and author tells Bustle that life is all about patterns, including what we eat, the way we dress and even the side of the bed we sleep on and dating is no exception.
“When you begin your ‘dating career’ it’s a lot like a record that has yet to be recorded. Still smooth. As you begin to have romantic relationships, ridges begin to form. Depending on the length of time you spend in these relationships and the impact (positive or negative) they have on you, that will determine how deep these ridges become,” says Green.
It may seem quite crazy to think that after a series of bad relationships that you wouldn’t start trying to stay away from those who are ‘wrong for you’ and in truth, consciously that is exactly what you begin to do, the problem however is that “subconsciously, an imprint has been left by them that we may not be fully aware of,” Green says. And that is one of the reasons you will find yourself subconsciously being attracted to people who are similar.
So how do we stop this pattern of unhappiness?
There are a few psychology based theories that may help you to move from your past dating type and move to a new, more compatible one.
Unsurprisingly, it all starts with inner work, self awareness and empathetic healing. Humans choose things that feel comfortable and normal, regardless of if it’s toxic or unfulfilling and this is especially the case when you are seeking healthy relationships, but unhealthy ones are all you know.
While it may seem easy in theory to accept the person who is willing to enter into a healthy relationship with you, the actual truth is that the reality of it is scary, and leads to fear and insecurities raising their heads which leads to self sabotage and reverting to situation that feel more familiar.
To avoid a return trip to the relationship bad lands licensed professional clinical counselor who specializes in trauma-focused therapy, ” Maryann W. Mathai, suggests, “Ask yourself whether this feels familiar or uncomfortable,” she says. “Explore who else in your life makes you feel this way and whether you get your needs met in those relationships.” If not, it’s best to leave that situation alone”.
As you have guessed, the key to unlocking your new relationship ‘dating type’ is to move through your past to the real root of why you look for what you do in your romantic and even platonic relationships.
The past leaves imprints on our body and mind and in order to fully live freely and happily, it is important to learn how to process and learn from these experiences.
“Romantic relationships can serve as surrogate relationships for ones that didn’t turn out so well earlier in our lives,” Erika Martinez, Psy.D., clinical psychologist who specializes in helping people get unstuck in love, work, and life, tells Bustle.
Usually something about the type of people you date reminds you in some way of someone you’ve had a difficult relationship with in your past, including parents, siblings, deep yet turbulent friendships to name a few and since the brain is always looking for ways to resolve drama, you could find yourself in these relationships, as a way for you to subconsciously resolve the past drama with that person in your new relationship.
“By being in a relationship with someone similar, you’re making an effort to psychologically heal the wounds of that past relationship,” Martinez says. “The issue is you’re likely to get hurt again, which only re-wounds you.”
Heather Z. Lyons, PhD, licensed psychologist who specializes in individual and couples therapy, adds, “We recreate the past in current relationships by ‘picking, provoking, or projecting.’ That is, we might pick someone similar to our ex or early caregiver, provoke them to act in ways similar, or project.”
This is where introspection comes in and saves the day, especially since you cannot change the past but you can heal it by taking the time to become aware of your patterns and making the conscious decision to resolve those wounds, thus allowing yourself to set new, healthier dating patterns, from a much healthier and safer mental state.