Is there a reason you keep dating people similar to your ex?

Is there a reason you keep dating people similar to your ex?
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on

Have you ever dated two people with similar personalities, looks or both? Your current significant other may be more similar to a former partner than you realize. And, it turns out, there may be a scientific reason behind that. While it may seem strange to date someone who reminds you of an ended relationship, having a “type” may not be all that weird.

Yoobin Park, a postdoctoral scholar at the Network for Emotional Well-being lab at the University of California, San Francisco, conducted a study on this idea, working through an explanation for the phenomenon. Over nine years, he investigated the personalities of the exes and current partners of 12,000 people. They were surveyed in the cases of breakups and new relationships.

As a baseline, you may just date someone like your ex because you are choosing from a similar pool of people. Because of the types of places you go and the people you meet, the people you date will likely have a similar level of education, political attitude and personality. This also means they may be similar to you, too.

But, one person may be distinctly similar to another you’ve dated before. Evidence suggests that individuals really have a “type” when dating; it’s known as distinctive partner similarity.

Park explains: “In every relationship, people learn strategies for working with their partner’s personality. If your new partner’s personality resembles your ex-partner’s personality, transferring the skills you learned might be an effective way to start a new relationship on a good footing.”

But, if you continue having the same problems across relationships, Park suggests that you evaluate what kind of partner you were in your previous relationships. If you’re dating similar people or even behaving the same way – it may be you, not them.

Your idea of an “ideal partner” may change over time, though, especially after a breakup. Of course, there’s no reason to change your preferences when you’re in a stable relationship or even single. But a breakup is the perfect time to re-evaluate exactly what we want.