How Dating Your ‘Type’ Might Be Holding You Back
Is it bad to have a type? Experts weigh in and offer advice for creating healthy standards for dating.
Chances are that when it comes to dating, you’ve created a “type.” Whether that’s based on looks, personality traits, hobbies, or some combination, it’s a very common way to respond to the majority of suitors that come your way. Amy McManus, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, agrees that almost everyone has a certain kind of person to whom they are attracted. “It usually has to do with appearance or lifestyle, but it can also be more of a character trait or attitude that attracts you, like confidence, intelligence or athleticism,” McManus explains. But is it bad to have a type?
The problem is that when you become too fixated on dating your type, you limit your pool of potential partners. Focusing only on people who meet a shortlist of standards, especially when those standards have to do with physical attraction, lessens your chances of finding someone who possesses all of the characteristics that are conducive to love and happiness. Think communication skills, trustworthiness, empathy, and respect. “It’s a mistake to limit yourself in that way, because someone who is not what you believe to be your ‘type’ might make a great partner,” McManus says.
What’s more, just because someone checks off all your boxes doesn’t necessarily mean they will make you happy in the long run. “The obvious attraction factors—good-looking, successful, charismatic, clever texters—are not related to the characteristics that make someone a good partner,” McManus says. And constantly falling for the same ole characteristics can lead to a pattern of unhealthy relationships that end up going nowhere. The super-successful one who isn’t ready for commitment, the witty one who ends up ghosting you after a few weeks, the charming one who parties a little too much…
Sound familiar? If so, then it may be time to rethink your dating prerequisites and try ditching your “type” altogether. (And, no, this doesn’t mean you have to settle.) “When you are flexible and empathetic, you can see past ‘types’ and into the deeper realms that truly matter in relationships,” says Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, dating coach, founder of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching, and author of Exaholics. Ahead, three expert-recommended tips for finding relationship success outside of your type.
Determine what’s most important to you
Dr. Bobby suggests spending some time figuring out what is really important to you in terms of values, long-term goals, and core characteristics. For example, say you are family-oriented, you will probably want to date someone who also prioritizes family time over extra face time with their boss. Or, perhaps you value your independence, in which case you will want a partner who gives you space and respects your boundaries.
“Understanding your own character and values will help you identify those who are truly most compatible with you, lessening the chance you’ll have your head turned by someone who displays superficial characteristics but lacks the qualities that will sustain a happy, healthy long-term partnership,” says Dr. Bobby.
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Make a list of deal breakers
Instead of a checklist of what you’re attracted to, McManus recommends making a list of “deal-breakers.” These are things that a potential partner must have (like ambition, sense of humor, desire to one day have children) or not have (e.g. a smoking habit, emotional baggage, or a job that requires a lot of travel) in order for a relationship with you to work.
Pinpoint negative patterns in your past
Along those lines, Paulette Sherman, psychologist, author of Dating from the Inside Out, and the host of The Love Psychologist podcast, suggests writing down the significant partners from your past and their constellation of traits to see which ones repeat. Doing so, she explains, will allow you to learn from your experience and seek out opposite traits in prospective dates.
“You may find your exes were all particularly close to their mothers, they were slow to make decisions, or they were passive-aggressive,” Sherman says. “Once you pinpoint the overlapping traits, if they do not serve you, you can make a conscious effort to avoid them in future partners.”
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TLDR: Is it bad to have a type?
To answer your question, no, not necessarily. But only dating your “type” might be preventing you from finding a successful relationship. “Challenging your norms will allow new prospects in, and you may find yourself falling for a type of person who surprises you,” says Sherman.