What’s your type? Relationship study shows new partners are often similar to old ones

TORONTO, Canada — What do you look for in a partner? In the dating world, it’s very common for singles to seek out someone similar to themselves. Now, a study from the University of Toronto shows that not only do people prefer romantic partners similar to themselves, but also a partner who is similar to their previous partners, too.

The study suggests that people do indeed have a specific “type” when it comes to romance. After people get out of a bad relationship, it’s very common for them to decide that they need to date someone totally different. Turns out it may be very difficult for them to escape their “type.”

“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, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto, in a press release. “Our research suggests there’s a strong tendency to nevertheless continue to date a similar personality.”

The study analyzed the personalities of the past and current partners of 332 individuals. They were asked to assess how much they agreed or disagreed with statements about their personality on a five-point scale. These statements included things like, “I am usually modest and reserved,” “I trust others easily,” and, “I am interested in many different kinds of things.”

The analysis reveals that the past partners of individuals have very similar personalities to their current partners. “The degree of consistency from one relationship to the next suggests that people may indeed have a ‘type’,” says Geoff MacDonald, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto.

The data also show that partners’ personalities are often more similar than they are to themselves. “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,” MacDonald notes.

The researchers comment on the uniqueness of their study. “Our study was particularly rigorous because we didn’t just rely on one person recalling their various partners’ personalities,” says Park. “We had reports from the partners themselves in real time.”

The findings of these studies can help people navigate the romantic world a little better. If they find that they’re running into the same hiccups in relationship after relationship, they can try and identify the personality traits in their partners that lead to the same conflicts arising over and over again.

Park concludes by suggesting ways people can use these findings to their advantage: “In every relationship, people learn strategies for working with their partner’s personality. 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.”

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.