Do you have a romantic “type?” If you think you do, chances are, you’re believing a lie. Whether it’s a lie of your own making or not makes little difference. By thinking you have a particular “type,” and acting as if this belief were true, you’re filtering out possible mates or partners who don’t “fit” your preconceived notion of the “type” of person you’ve convinced yourself you’re exclusively attracted to. This lie becomes self-fulfilling, because it justifies and reinforces itself. As a result, you foreclose experiences that would challenge this belief before the experiences can unfold.
Don’t dismiss “not-my-typers” too quickly; give people a chance to surprise, delight and challenge your preconceived notions of who is or isn’t your “type.” How can you discover what’s possible beyond the “not-my-type” line-in-the-sand you’ve drawn, or disprove your own belief about who is your “type,” if you won’t loosen your grip on the entrenched beliefs you’ve gotten so attached to?
My husband was “not my type.” I dated artistic men, preferably with a head of thick, dark hair, who read or wrote literature and/or poetry, made movies or music, who wielded or planned to wield power in their area of expertise–or were determined to work as adjunct professors in small, sexy college towns. My “type” of partner was slender, self-conscious, broodingly handsome, ruggedly stylish, always tuned in to their own potential to attract admirers: Ted Hughes types, but less cynical, nicer. My husband was none of these things. He didn’t read literature or poetry, he wasn’t slender, style meant nothing to him, and he seemed utterly indifferent to how others perceived him. He grew up on the streets of New York, misused the past participle regularly (“I could have drove”), was bald, real, raw, and rough around the edges. As it turned out, he was much more my type than “my type” had ever been.
“But what if I just know the type of individual I’m attracted to?” you might wonder. We may think we know who we’re attracted to, at least theoretically, but in reality, a mix of conscious and unconscious forces go into our attractions, whether we like it or not. So although part of you may believe you’re attracted to confident, tall, blonde men (who are strong, loving and generous) or to sensitive, kind, supermodels who are humbly brilliant and nerdy and absolutely devoted of you, your unconscious may be making different choices that are far more interesting and complex.
The mix of conscious and unconscious factors that go into attraction often lead to unpredictable twists and turns in our evolving mating games. Letting go of a rigid idea of “type” can help us avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, as we consider opening to what’s possible in the relationship we’re in, rather than trying to force a relationship to meet a self-centered, preconceived standard.
Social exchange theorists believe that romantic behavior, like all social behavior, is an exchange process, and that we are with people romantically because ultimately, we stand to gain something we want and need from the romantic alliance. You may feel you gain something from the “type” of person you’ve come to believe you’re exclusively drawn to, but the gain you get from a “type” isn’t what sustains a growing relationship. Focusing on a romantic partner either being or not being “your type” suggests a static view of attraction. In reality, relationships are dynamic feedback loops that shift, adjust, and evolve.
Ultimately, focusing less on who is or isn’t our type and more on enjoying the people we have the opportunity to get to know better enlarges our hearts and our minds. It allows us to see and take in the people who can and do love us, rather than getting hung up on a certain fantasy of a person we’ve convinced ourselves we need to feel worthy or whole.
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