A few years ago, one of my best guy friends was helping me pack before I moved into a new apartment. As he was helping me wrap knickknacks in newspaper, we stumbled across a box of photos I had saved from college. Within this box: photos of almost every dude I had dated since high school. As my friend Chris combed through the photos, I introduced the key players. When we got to the end of the trip down memory lane, he had one comment: “I know these are different men, but they all look like the same guy.”
Chris was kind of right. I’ve always known I have a physical type. Broadly speaking, I like dark-haired men with an athletic physique. Although the men he singled out were of different heights, eye-color and ethnicities, they all had something about them that was similar. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but my friend noticed it right away.
If you feel like you’re always dating the same kind of people, you might be right, according to science. A new study from the University of California, Davis brings together the results of three different studies, which together looked at the characteristics of people in more than 1,000 past and present heterosexual relationships. The end result: the study found that the people we date are similar, both physically and personality-wise.
To reach this conclusion, data was collected from participants through social media sites and live interviews carried out over the last few years. According to primary author Paul Eastwick, the research differed from other studies because it looked at people’s relationships over time and not at just one committed relationship.
Here’s what they were able to determine and what it means for our dating lives.
1.When it comes to looks, past partners do have similar physical appearances.
This holds true for both casual and long-term relationships. According to the research, when it comes to observable qualities like attractiveness, exes show similarities because attractive people seduce other attractive people. This makes sense to a certain degree. Perhaps I go after the same kinds of physical types because I’ve had success in dating or seducing them in the past. However, the leaders of the study were also careful to point out that other similarities can be influenced by environment.
2. Environment matters.
The study also looked at the ex-partners of several hundred young adults in schools across the United States and found that a person’s exes tended to be very similar on variables such as education, religiosity and intelligence. Because some qualities, like education and religion, vary depending on where you live, similarities are found because educated or religious people are more likely to meet each other, not because educated or religious people actively select each other.
In other words, who you date often depends on your geographic area and what circles you run in, which makes a lot of sense. I tend to be attracted to ambitious, creative and smart men. Consequently, almost all of my exes are university educated – not because I don’t date men who aren’t, but because these are just the people I meet. I’ve always lived in large urban cores and interacted within social groups with peers of a similar educational background.
The question is, can you change your type? Although the study definitely implies our dating types are rather ingrained, I do think it’s possible to change course and date beyond your usual type – both physically and characteristically.
Although I’ve always had a preference for clean cut, dark-haired gents, since moving to a new area of the country, I’ve had to adjust my expectations because my typical kind of guy doesn’t exist here in large numbers. I’ve experimented with dating light-haired dudes with athletic bodies, dark-haired dudes with dad bods and everything in between, and have found that the physical type I’m attracted to is actually much more broad than I initially thought. I still love a clean-cut dude, but have found that in this city I actually have more in common with the artsy, hipster guys. The lesson here: don’t be afraid to experiment and meet as many different kinds of people as possible.
“Do people have a type?” Eastwick said, “Yes, but sometimes it reflects your personal desirability and sometimes it reflects where you live.” We can’t necessarily change our personal desirability, but we can change our location. If the types of people you’re meeting don’t seem to be cutting it, try interacting in a different social circle. For example, if you’re tired of dating jocks, maybe try attending a few art openings. If cooler-than-thou hipster types are working your last nerve, ditch your usual ultra-hip dive bar and instead attend a charity event for a cause that interests you. Move cities or neighborhoods if you feel inspired. Switch your location and you may find exactly who you’re looking for.