Repeatedly Dating The Same Type Of People Is Normal And There's A Distinct Reason Why We Do It

When it comes to dating, we often hear people say they have a "type." Whether that type is the tattooed person who hangs around dive bars, the doctor who still brags about their days at New Haven (as the Yale students like to call it), or the emotionally unavailable person who has zero interest in getting their life — romantic or professional — in order, we can probably all agree that we look for similar types of people. Even if it's subconscious.


According to a 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal, there's evidence that many of us have a type as proven by the similarities of our current and past 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," lead author of the study Yoobin Park told Metro UK. "Our research suggests there's a strong tendency to nevertheless continue to date a similar personality."

But while this is the case and there's research to back it up, the reason why we do it explains a lot about us as not just daters, but as humans.

We create partnering patterns

As the 2019 study found, as much as we tend to think we change over time, as do our interests, research proves otherwise — we don't change as much as we assume, meaning we fall into patterns and this can be reflected in how we date.


"Life is all about patterns, from what we eat to how we dress to which side of the bed we get out of," certified love coach and author James Green tells Bustle. "The same can be said for dating. When you begin your 'dating career' it's a lot like a record that has yet to be recorded. Still smooth. As you begin to have romantic relationships, ridges begin to form. Depending on the length of time you spend in these relationships and the impact (positive or negative) they have on you, that will determine how deep these ridges become."

What we may perceive as specific uniqueness in each partner that comes along, isn't so much about uniqueness and more about the fact that our types have become a pattern we've created and can't shake off.


We're comfortable with familiarity

Human beings are creatures of habit. Because of this, even the most adventuresome people tend to stick with what they know. We have comfort foods, comfort movies, comfort music — a whole slew of things that we turn to when we feel the need to be comforted.


As Theresa E. DiDonato, Ph.D., writes for Psychology Today, this contributes to why we date a "familiar-but-different person." It's because it's something we know, a form of comfort, and in some ways doesn't require the effort to get to know them when so much of who they are is similar to previous relationships and partners.

"There is something about the constellation of qualities that some people have that one might be particularly drawn to," relationship and well-being coach Shula Melamed tells MindBodyGreen. "It could be that people with these qualities tend to bring out the best in us or might have more commonality or complementarity."

To an extent, we know what we're getting into, and we already have ironed out how to handle it.


Our location

According to a 2017 study by The University of California, Davis, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, our "type" is often dependent upon our location. Think about it: If you go to the same coffee shop every morning, the same deli every afternoon for lunch, go to the same gym, same bar, same movie theater, same stores, same everything day in and day out, you can't help but run into the same type of people over and over again. If you go to the independent coffee shop because you shun corporations like Starbucks and that's where you met your ex because they feel the same way, you better believe that the next person you date whom you meet at that same coffee shop isn't going to be too far of a stretch from your ex.


"Type was based on where I live and who I have the good fortune to date," associate professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, and an author of the study Paul Eastwick tells Today. "It is driven by the people you encounter."

Where we live and how we live in that corner of the world has a lot to say in why we keep dating the same types over and over.

We subconsciously want to make it right

Along with the coziness of familiarity that comes with dating the same type of person, also comes the hope that we can have another chance at making it right. If you've been burned time and again by the same type of person and yet you keep going back, then what you're actually dealing with is what Freud called "repetition compulsion" (via MedicalNewsToday). According to Freud, repetition compulsion basically means we want a relationship with the same type of person because we think we can get it right this time, because we've learned from the past experiences. Although there are varying degrees of repetition compulsion, some of which may stem from just wanting to get it right with the same type of person or to have the opportunity to reenact past trauma, it can still be a legitimate reason why some people seek out the same person to date. 


While there's nothing wrong with having a type and always dating that type, if that type happens to be abusive in any way, then it's time to take a step back and ask yourself why you're doing this and how you can stop this behavior. If you can't change the pattern on your own, then it's time to look into connecting with a mental health professional. When it causes harm to your well-being, having a type is indeed a bad thing. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.