Dating Outside Of Your 'Type' May Be The Key To Happily Ever After

While it has always been common for people to claim to be attracted to a particular "type," online dating has significantly enhanced the ability to filter out anyone who doesn't fit a strict set of criteria. Don't want to date anyone who is less than 6 feet tall? Filtered. Unwilling to even consider a person who makes less than $150k per year? Filtered. These technological advances may seem like a much more efficient way of approaching dating, but there may be downsides to sorting and filtering human beings like an online shopping style.


According to Brides, experts like Dr. Shannon Curry of Curry Psychology Group agree that your preference may have more to do with leftover evolutionary advantages, family history, and past personal trauma than actual compatibility. Here's what to consider and how to push yourself toward stepping out of your comfort zone when it comes to selecting a potential romantic partner.

Assess what is familiar

You've likely heard the adage that men marry women like their mothers while women marry men like their fathers. While the truth is not nearly so simple — or heteronormative — the influences present in early life significantly influence how a person's expectations for partners and relationships develop. Consciously or subconsciously, people tend to seek out what is familiar to them. If you've spent your life surrounded by people who offered love, kindness, and compassion, this isn't a problem.


However, if you struggled with abandonment, abuse, neglect, mistreatment, co-dependency, or any other dysfunction within your close relationships during your formative years, your "type" is likely skewed. Try to honestly assess the traits your past partners have shared. Then, ask yourself if they are reminiscent of any major adult influences in your life when you were a child or teenager. Realizing the root of your current preferences can help you understand that they may be outdated coping mechanisms you're ready to move past. 

Reduce your criteria

Before the days of Tinder and Bumble, dating consisted of running into a stranger or meeting a friend of a friend, feeling a spark, and seeing where it went. There were no automatically excluding potential partners due to relatively arbitrary criteria since most meetings were spontaneous and were all in person. The result was generations of lifelong marriages and long-term relationships between people who may never have given each other a chance if an initial left swipe had been an option.


Take some time to consider each of the criteria you've been using to pre-judge the singles you come across on dating apps or websites. Your goal is to separate reasonable standards from non-essential preferences. Expecting a partner to be actively employed is a reasonable standard; insisting that they be a high-income earner might rule out a person who is perfect for you but happens to make an average amount of money. Decide which of your current requirements are potential deal breakers and which can be relaxed to let the right one in. 

Consider attachment styles

In the same way your interactions with caregivers and authority figures have shaped your familiar relationship dynamics, your potential partners also have the same experience. Trusting and attentive relationships with your early caregivers result in a secure attachment style, while unattuned caregivers result in an insecure one. Knowing your attachment style and learning to identify that in others can help you select potential partners whose approaches to relationships are similar to or compatible with your own.


Keep in mind that a person can modify their attachment style through the dedicated work of self-development. This is good news because it means that people who grew up with troubled family dynamics are not doomed to a future of dysfunction. If your attachment style is insecure, commit to doing the work to move it closer to secure the health of your relationships. Then, look for potential partners who have done the same work. This will have a much more positive impact on your future partnerships than focusing on specific physical, financial, or even personality traits. 

Change your definitions

Your dating preference can be consistent throughout your life. Every time you have identified a particular trait as attractive, it has reinforced that truth within your brain, creating an unconscious thought pattern. However, thanks to neuroplasticity, you can intentionally train your brain to respond to other traits similarly, via Psychology Today. All it takes is intention and repetition. When you come across a dating profile or meet someone in person and spot the traits you've identified as standards rather than arbitrary preferences, find one feature that you find interesting, distinguished, or attractive about them instead.


Mindfully recall how you've felt when you've met someone who met all your preconceived requirements for attractiveness. Recall what was happening in your mind and what you felt in your body. Focus on experiencing these sensations whenever you deliberately think about the trait you've selected in your new potential partner. Eventually, these feelings will start to take place automatically. 

Be on the lookout for toxic patterns

When you thoroughly assess the history behind your romantic preferences and the commonalities of your previous relationships, you may uncover a history of abuse or toxic behavior that you hadn't realized existed. Whether these behaviors have tended to take place on your part, your partners' part, or both, it's important to address these issues before you enter into a new relationship.


Consider working with a therapist, counselor, life coach, alternative healer, relationship coach, or other professional to get an objective viewpoint on these patterns. Healing your individual and generational trauma is the first step to truly opening yourself to the possibility of a deep and transformative relationship with another person.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website