When you’re in the dating world, it’s not uncommon to be drawn to a certain “type” of person. Maybe you’re interested in a physical type, such as people who are taller than you or brunettes with curly hair. Or perhaps you gravitate toward a certain personality type like someone who is more reserved than extroverted, with hobbies and interests that most closely align with your own. After all, being selective has never been easier with the abundance of dating apps and websites at our disposal-many of which allow filtering by lifestyle and physical traits.
But whatever your preferences have been up to this point, you may want to reconsider your screening prerequisites and recognize that dating someone who isn’t your typical type can be quite beneficial. In fact, our experts say it might be the key to developing a meaningful, fulfilling relationship.
Ahead, we breakdown why we seem to press repeat when it comes to relationships, and five reasons mental health professionals say you should consider breaking that pattern and dating people who aren’t your type.
Why Do We Date the Same Type?
According to experts, there are many layers that make up the reasons why we’re drawn to a specific type. From the evolutionary perspective, for example, pairing up was a means for survival as opposed to seeking love and attraction, explains Dr. Shannon Curry, a clinical psychologist and Director of Curry Psychology Group in Newport Beach, California. “In the early days of human existence, life was short and brutal. Those who chose male partners who were healthy, strong, and capable of providing protection and access to resources were more likely to survive.” And those who selected female partners who were healthy and fertile (plush lips, symmetrical face) were more likely to continue their genetic lineage, Curry adds.
Then, there’s an individual’s personal history to consider. “We also tend to choose partners based on our early experiences with parents or other primary caregivers,” adds Curry. These formative interactions inform our sense of self-worth and expectations for others’ behavior that carry over into adulthood, says Curry. Genesis Games, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Miami, adds that these important people “can be biological parents, step-parents, grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, and even nannies. The absence of one of these adults can also leave a mark and influence our ‘type.'”
For example, if we grow up experiencing comfort and affection, “we learn that we are worthy of love and that we can expect others to treat us with care and kindness,” says Curry. On the other hand, if we were surrounded by pain and fear, we may view this as normal, too. That said, from a neurological perspective, our brain loves shortcuts. It’s human instinct to “seek out patterns and operate according to them,” writes Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist, and author of Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today.
And finally, “We probably end up dating similar kinds of people because we do have a type, because we attract a certain type of person, and because we just happen to be in situations where we encounter a certain type of person more frequently,” writes Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., for Psychology Today.
Why Is It Important to Break the Cycle?
Dating a “type” is limiting. If you only date a certain type of person, you limit the number of people who could potentially be right for you. And while you shouldn’t lower your standards or feel like you’re settling, you should open your mind and give other people a chance-even though they don’t necessarily fall into your usual dating category. After all, you simply don’t know who you’re going to mesh with, and that’s true for people who are your type or not. “Statistically speaking, if we reduce the dating pool to singles who meet strict physical and monetary criteria, our odds of meeting someone who also possesses the personality traits that are conducive to lasting happiness significantly decrease,” says Curry.