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When It Comes to Love, Do You Have a “Type?"

New research shows whether we tend to stick to the familiar.

Stockpic/Pexels CC0
Source: Stockpic/Pexels CC0

According to research recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, when it comes to romantic partners, there is a “significant degree of unique similarity between an individual’s past and current partners” that cannot be explained by other factors accounted for, including the inclination to date someone similar to oneself.

Researchers from the University of Toronto used data from a 9-year longitudinal study in Germany to compare the personalities of the current and past partners of 332 people. The study participants, which ranged in age, had their own personality assessed as related to the "Big 5" personality traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience), and were asked to rate, on a 5-point scale, how much they identified or disagreed with statements including: "I am usually modest and reserved," "I am interested in many different kinds of things" and "I make plans and carry them out."

Indeed, the researchers found that the way current and past partners described themselves was incredibly similar, thus suggesting that we tend to have a “type."

The exception to this, however, was people who reported being higher in extraversion or openness to experience, who had less of a partnered personality pattern, suggesting they would be less likely to fall into a pattern or have a "type."

Because the researchers examined self-reported measures by both partners, the study was able to account for a number of biases that might otherwise exist if only one partner was assessing the personality of his or her current or past partners, suggesting the scientific finding of "types" endured more rigorous study.

While this research might suggest that the future is bleak for those with a history of dating unhealthy partners, it could actually help people who have had problematic relationship patterns in the past better think through what personality traits they’d do better with, and seek out something different instead. If this sounds familiar, and you'd like to break out of your set patterns, it may be beneficial to speak to a trained professional. Good luck!


Park, Y., & MacDonald, G. (2019). Consistency between individuals' past and current romantic partners' own reports of their personalities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201902937.