It's only natural to have a "type" in relationships—not just for physical attraction, but emotional and psychological compatibility, too. After all, it stands to reason that there might be some similarities in the people you find it possible to conduct a relationship with. Not everyone can, or wants to, date each other!
New research from the University of Toronto sheds some light on the whole "type" thing. By conducting personality surveys of the current and previous partners of over 300 people, the researchers sought to find if a type exists. They found that it did; they called it "a significant consistency in the personalities of an individual's romantic partners." They also checked to make sure people don't just date people like themselves and found that the effect goes above and beyond that tendency.
The researchers note that this might actually help with relationships. Having similar romantic partners allows you to learn from past mistakes and figure out how to best operate in a relationship. So how can you take this to heart? We asked relationship experts for their best tips, as they relate to this study, for how to keep your relationship happy and healthy.
1. Know Yourself
One major benefit of recognizing that you have a type is that it gives you information about yourself—what you gravitate toward, your relationship patterns, what works for you and what doesn't, and maybe even some insight about your current relationships.
This realization is especially important to fine-tune as you grow. "If, as this study suggests, we all have types that we tend toward, you'll be able to recognize your type when you see it," says relationship expert April Masini. You can even filter for your type when you're using dating apps and websites, or when you're out and about in real life, she adds.
Keep in mind, the longest and most intimate relationship you'll have is with yourself. "When all is said and done, we are the common denominator in our lives. Whether it's in our platonic, professional or romantic lives, we are the one thing that remains constant," says Brad Kenny, a relationship and dating coach. "What does that say? It says we can place blame on others for being 'crazy, unreasonable, insert reason here' yet we're the constant variable that is always present."
It's not always easy to admit that, though, which explains why some individuals fall into a pattern of surrounding themselves with the same types of people (even when those people aren't "good" for us).
"Often what is familiar is also negative or painful in some way, and our unconscious reasons for seeking out the same sort of relationship is to 'get it right' this time, to make it better, or even just because it feels 'right' and comfortable. So if we are destined to repeat our histories, the key to happiness is to be able to discern the difference between the here and now and the past," says psychologist Gillian Karp.
You can break the cycle, though, by being more mindful of your preferences. "If this 'type' is not made conscious, you can keep picking critical partners for example, even though that is not healthy for you. Thus, it's important to reflect upon your type to ascertain what works and does not," says Dr. Paulette Sherman, author of Dating From the Inside Out.
2. Communication Is Key
"Communication is one of the most essential values any relationship should have. You should be able to communicate well to your partner—say the things you need to say without the fear of hurting the other, show your feelings whether they're good or bad without losing your ground," says Celia Schweyer, a dating expert at Dating Scout. "A well-established, good communication between you and your partner shall make the relationship healthy; a healthy relationship is a happy relationship."
3. Focus On What Works
"In the beginning of a relationship, we naturally experience a high level of positive emotions. As a relationship develops, we can't expect to naturally experience the same frequency of "high-arousal" positive emotions like amusement and joy," say Suzie Paleggi Pawelski and James Pawelski, the co-authors (and husband and wife) behind the book Happy Together. "Rather we must notice what tends to lead to these feelings and then schedule those activities into our daily lives. Think back to the beginning of the relationship and those things that you enjoyed doing together as a couple and make it a priority to schedule them into your day."
It's also important to accept your partner for who they are, and not who you think they should be. "The imperfections of your partner should be something that you embrace. If your partner's negative traits are something that you find triggering from past relationships, it’s a sign that your type might need a little rethinking and is rooted in more than just common values," says Adina Mahalli, a certified relationship expert.
Understanding that you have a type doesn't need to seem scary or confining; instead, it can be another piece of information that allows you to better know yourself, and grow accordingly. Speaking with a therapist could also be a help in figuring out what, and why, your type is the way it is, and what that says about you and the way you interact with the world. And learning about yourself is key to becoming the best version of yourself.