Yet still, where love was supposed to flourish and thrive, it withered and died. Our ‘types’ alluded to nothing but success yet still, we failed. So where does that put the idea of ‘types’ and how ‘types’ work towards relationships? Much like everything else when it comes to love, science aims to disprove what our hearts want to believe. It is as if love cannot exist both in the heart and in the mind at the same time. In fact, studies in personal and societal psychology have gone so far as to try and understand types and anticipate its, much like all the other aspects of romantic love that we wish to believe in when picking our partners, validity in predicting the success or failure of relationships. I sincerely and honestly believe that Beautiful was exactly my type when I first met her. Science would like me to believe that this is beside the fact and that our relationship had the opportunity and impetus to thrive and grow in spite of it, rather than because of it. According to studies and interviews of newlywed couples, those celebrating ten-plus years of commitment, and people who use online dating, there really is no evidence that being introduced to someone who is exactly our type determines whether or not we would like the person more or less than someone who is not our type. We are primal creatures who rely on instinct and intuition when making decisions. Therefore having a ‘type’ means nothing when we come face-to-face with someone. Much like the sensation of ‘love at first sight’ actually, we rely on gut-instinct and intuition to decide whether or not we like someone.
When we use something like online dating, we often fill out questionnaires that the designers boast will help us find our ‘ideal match’. I spent countless hours of countless days poring over every aspect of my online profile, answering every nuanced and ridiculous question, trying to boost every odd, every probability, that of the countless other lonely and longing souls of the world, I would find my perfect match. Now, according to these studies, I am told that I would have had the exact same odds, maybe even better, if I had gone to a singles bar mixer and done speed dating. Perhaps better I say, because the most important criteria of a potential partner was satisfied: we met.
The experiment done by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology was this: students were asked to describe their ideal romantic partner in as specific or general terms as they saw fit. Afterwards the students were supposedly randomly assigned partners to perform a series of lab experiments with. The partner was actually a member of the study who was instructed, based on the students’ feedback, to be exactly how their ideal partner was envisioned to be. Afterwards the students were asked if they were interested in dating their partner. To no surprise to them, but to the surprise I am sure of most die-hard romantics, the results were not overwhelmingly in the affirmative. In fact the results were about break-even with some seeing great potential and interest and others finding their supposed ‘ideal partners’ in real life unappealing. No matter what we may imagine or envision we want in a partner, the truth is this is emphatically cast aside when faced with the physical reality of meeting someone face-to-face and evaluating them in that moment.
This is true of both the positive traits we believe we seek in a partner and the deal-breakers as well. It is all a matter of perspective. For example, if we believe we might want someone exciting and adventurous, we would tend to be drawn to more outgoing and extroverted people. There is no guarantee that we will actually be attracted to these types of people, and perhaps when we do encounter them and find ourselves unattracted, we justify this by saying these ‘outgoing’ and ‘extroverted’ people are actually ‘reckless’ and ‘dangerous’. The type is still a pre-existing condition and we are so attached to it that even when faced with the literal expression of our ideals, if it doesn’t match our hopes we simply shift perspective. Most people would probably agree that they would want what they consider to be a ‘drama-free’ relationship and would consider self-proclaimed ‘drama kings’ or ‘drama queens’ deal-breakers. But for as many people we may know who declare they want to avoid drama we know equal numbers of people who have at some point dated someone they considered ‘passionate’ or ‘courageous’ or ‘invigorating’. In fact these could often be the very same people! What happens when we actually have the opportunity to meet someone face to face and make our own impressions often drastically differs from our expectations but we explain away these dissonances by splitting hairs to maintain illusions.
More importantly, when it comes to how ‘type’ relates to predicting the lasting success of a relationship, there is no guarantee that being with someone who is everything we believe we want necessarily equates to happiness. Preferences and ‘types’ are often reflections of our current state of mind and current status. We desire what we lack in life or perhaps what we want to emphasize that we already have. It is a temporary whim attached to a very permanent emotion. People change with time; at the same time our preferences and desires shift and sway our partners are growing and changing as well. In committed relationships in fact it is suggested that our view of our ideal mate changes over time to more closely reflect our partners. So whether our ‘type’ shifts to make more room for the people we are actually attracted to or it mirrors the love we currently have, the most important thing to realize is that it is a fluid and dynamic characteristic that is flexible and malleable enough to not have to preclude our opportunities to explore romance with anyone and everyone our heart may lead us to. Our gut will tell us how we really feel and our ‘type’ can either come along or be cast aside anyways.
Knowing this, you should feel more comfortable and more inspired to simply get out there and meet as many people as possible. We can remove the pressure of worrying too much about finding our ideal ‘type’ and focus more on what really matters: making sure we actually get to meet face to face and make our own decisions. And just get out there and meet people because here’s something else to reassure you: aside from meeting, it doesn’t matter where or how you meet. Society has for the most part removed the stigma of online dating and it is an antiquated notion to think that bars are only for hookups and good girls can only ever be found at church.
Ultimately though I do still think that having a ‘type’ can serve as a useful benchmark. As much as we might seek beyond our personal preferences and try to push back against our own expectations ‘types’ are much like stereotypes; we are trying to make judgements as quickly as possible and we use our past to help inform ourselves. Certain key fundamental ideals and truths can and probably should be held up to protect us against harmful people and relationships and also ensure the continued promotion of key moral values and principles. ‘Types’ when used sparingly and only for the most important things can help guide our decisions. Just being aware of the fact that they are there and are subconsciously influencing our decisions helps us know when and where to move with or against ‘the tide. Know you have a type but recently suffering from a pattern of disappointment? Time to be aware of your type and actively avoid it. Wondering what you need to work on within yourself or need help motivating that change you’ve always wanted? Researchers have defined what they call the ‘Michelangelo effect’, after the artist Michelangelo who was rumored to be able to ‘see’ the work of art hidden in a raw slab of marble. This can also explain how, if we can recognize it in our types, we see in them the idealized version of ourselves and who we strive to be. In these instances going after our type can inspire our efforts to improve. This even works in reverse. You might not think or believe you have a type, but humans are creatures of habit, and if you were to line all your past relationships up against each other, there would certainly be some similarities that come to light, helping you discover what type you might be chasing after and then letting you decide what your type has gotten you so far. As long as ‘types’ tend to focus more on beliefs, values, and priorities over looks, and as long as you are giving yourself the opportunity to meet and explore versus spending too much time focused on pursuing a pinpoint accurate depiction, and as long as you are aware that a ‘type’ is really just an amalgamation of stereotypes, familiar aspects, and our aspirations, there can be great benefit in the awareness of ‘types’ when meeting potential dates.
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