If you’ve ever come out of a relationship and thought you need to start dating someone different from your usual ‘type,’ it might not be as easy as it seems according to new research.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Toronto (U of T), Canada, the new study set out to investigate whether we are drawn to the same type of person across romantic relationships, by comparing the personalities of the current and past partners of 332 people.
The partners were asked to assess their own personality traits related to agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience, reporting on 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.”
The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that people did indeed appear to look for relationships with the same type of person again and again, with the team finding that both current and ex-partners described themselves in a similar way.
“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,” says lead author Yoobin Park.”Our research suggests there’s a strong tendency to nevertheless continue to date a similar personality.”
“The degree of consistency from one relationship to the next suggests that people may indeed have a ‘type’,” added co-author Geoff MacDonald. “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 asking partners to report on their own personalities, rather than ask someone else to describe them, the team were also able to gather more accurate results than other previous 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 now say the findings could suggest ways to build a happier and healthier relationship.
“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.