Have You Ever Noticed What All Your Exes Have In Common?

Photographed by Lula Hyers.
Do you have a definite "type" when selecting romantic partners? Like, maybe you have a thing for tattoos. Or maybe you're into intellectual people who like to read. Or, perhaps, you like your partners to have a sense of adventure. Whatever it is, I think that many people would agree that their exes all have certain things in common (in my case, it's emotional unavailability and terrible communication skills).
Researchers set out to determine how people choose partners, and whether there were any demonstrable patterns (aside from the fact that they were all chosen by the same person, of course). And what they found was that people do, in fact, have a type. When looking at people's exes, they found that they all shared certain characteristics in common (turns out that emotional availability and communication skills were not characteristics on the researchers' lists, alas).
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The study, out of the University of California, was recently published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It looked at three different studies and compiled the results into a cohesive resource. In total, the characteristics of people in more than 1,000 past and present heterosexual relationships were examined through personal interviews and social media. What the researchers found was that people do have a type, but that "sometimes it reflects your personal desirability and sometimes it reflects where you live," according to Paul Eastwick, associate professor of psychology and the study’s primary author.
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It turns out that where we live and our demographic groups have a great impact on who we date, not necessarily because they shape our preferences, but because they influence who we are exposed to. For example, people of a certain educational level tend to date people of a similar educational level, but that is because they may go to school together or work together and, therefore, meet each other. The same is true of people who are religious; they're likely to meet other religious people because of their lifestyle. In these cases, choice is more about our environment than our preferences.
However, when it comes to looks, researchers found that people's partners all have a similar level of attractiveness. “…during the partner selection process, people may have difficulty differentiating between partners that prove to be casual and short-term versus committed and long-term,” the study said. Why is this? Likely because "attractive" people tend to seduce other "attractive" people (though let's not get started on how subjective attractiveness is, something not necessarily addressed in this study).
So if you can't help the fact that you have a type, at least now you know science backs you up.
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