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Relationships: yes, you do have a type – and it’s likely to be your ex

Relationships: yes, you do have a type – and it’s likely to be your ex

A new study reveals that people do indeed have a 'type' when it comes to dating, and that despite best intentions to date outside that type - for example, after a bad relationship - some will gravitate to similar partners.

Relationships: yes, you do have a type – and it’s likely to be your ex

Do you find that when you meet a potential new partner, it can often seem like a case of deja vu? Well, new research has backed up what many have long suspected: people really do have a type when it comes to coupling up.

While those going through a break-up may be tempted to try something different, it seems that most will end up with someone similar to their previous partners. At least this is according to social psychologists at the University of Toronto.

A study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows people often look for love with the same type of person over and over again.

For the study, researchers used the longitudinal German Family Panel study to assess where more than 12,000 survey participants fitted with the “big five” personality traits – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Over nine years, the researchers tracked the relationship status of these people, who had to pop the rather unusual question to partners of whether they would mind filling out the same personality questionnaire for the good of science.

After nine years and thousands of questionnaires, the researchers ended up with 332 participants who had been in relationships with at least two different romantic partners who were both happy to participate in the study.

Their primary finding was the existence of a significant consistency in the personalities of an individual’s romantic partners. “The results revealed a significant degree of distinctive partner similarity, suggesting that there may indeed be a unique type of person each individual ends up with,” the study’s authors write.

“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 PhD student in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science at U of T. “Our research suggests there’s a strong tendency to nevertheless continue to date a similar personality.”

Like it or not, your type might be closer to your own personality than you’d like to admit. The research showed that the personalities of the partners were not only similar to each other, but to the participants themselves.

“So, if you find you’re having the same issues in relationship after relationship,” said 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.”

More research is needed to understand this pattern, the researchers said, which could be used to create a “matching” algorithm, or improve education around romantic relationships.

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