So you’ve fallen in love. How exciting! And how gorgeous that you’re telling all your friends that it’s “meant to be”.
Some will roll their eyes, others will try to be kind when it all falls apart and goes down the much-dirtied drain of disappointment.
But the fact is, you were right. It was meant to be.
Two new studies show that we tend to be drawn to a certain type of person, again and again, until we get it right. Or not.
Intuitively, people seem to know this already.
“He’s just not my type,” is the default excuse we give when passing over someone who may in fact have made a great companion and bed warmer.
“They simply weren’t,” as another saying goes, “The one.”
It wasn’t meant to be.
It all sounds a little too inky-binky – except evidence is mounting that we are, in the main, stuck with a type.
It’s not you, it’s science
Over the past three years, Czech and US researchers conducted several studies that found consistency in preferences for eye and hair colour, attractiveness, masculinity, vitality, depression, delinquency, religiosity, educational aspirations, self-esteem, and intelligence.
Of course these are traits, not a whole personality.
Now comes a study from the University of Toronto that presents “strong evidence” – as per this review at The Conversation UK – that we “consistently seek a particular personality type across partners”.
“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.
“Our research suggests there’s a strong tendency to nevertheless continue to date a similar personality.”
Using data from an ongoing multi-year study on couples and families across several age groups, Ms Park and co-author Geoff MacDonald, a professor in the university’s Department of Psychology, compared the personalities of current and past partners of 332 people.
According to a statement from the university, participants in the study – along with a sample of current and past partners – assessed their own personality traits related to agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness to experience.
They were polled 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”.
Respondents were asked to rate their disagreement or agreement with each statement on a five-point scale.
The researchers found that overall, the current partners of individuals described themselves in ways that were similar to past partners.
“The degree of consistency from one relationship to the next suggests that people may indeed have a ‘type’,” Dr MacDonald said.
“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.”
Learn – or don’t
So what’s the advantage here? Well, just as Bill Murray learned to be a good person – and to play the piano – in the movie Groundhog Day, where he lived the same day over and over until he got it right, teaming up with a similar personality allows relationships to be semi-controlled learning environments.
“In every relationship, people learn strategies for working with their partner’s personality,” Ms Park said.
“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.”
On the other hand: “If you find you’re having the same issues in relationship after relationship, you may want to think about how gravitating toward the same personality traits in a partner is contributing to the consistency in your problems.”