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The Relationship Comfort Zone

People may gravitate toward the same personality type again and again.


Having a “type” may be about more than just looks—people show consistency in the personalities of their romantic partners, too.

Researchers at the University of Toronto analyzed the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism) in 332 people and in their current and former partners. They discovered that an individual’s various partners were all subtly, but significantly, similar to one another.

We tend to date people who are like us, so logically our partners should be somewhat like each other, too. But the data in this study revealed that past and current companions were similar to each other even when this factor was accounted for. This tendency isn’t fully understood but may represent a “cognitive laziness” in which people prefer the familiar, says Dustin Wood of the University of Alabama, who was not involved with the research.

We might not be able to control who we’re drawn to, but we can influence how a relationship unfolds, says lead researcher Yoobin Park. If you’ve had bad luck with a series of similar partners, a new love interest with the same personality isn’t necessarily a poor choice. If you encounter problems reminiscent of those you had in previous romances, she suggests thinking about how to handle the situation differently. “Even with the same type of person,” Park says, “how you behave can change the fate of the relationship.”