Can’t stop dating narcissists? Always dating guys with mommy issues? Keep going for the emotionally unavailable men? You’re not alone. A 2019 study by the University of Toronto found that many of us continue to date people just like our exes no matter how many times it doesn’t work out. So why is it that you clearly have a guy type and can’t stop dating the same dudes? There may be more reasons than you’d expect.
Familiarity We like what we know, and familiarity makes us feel safe. It makes us feel more confident stepping into a relationship that’s similar to what we’re accustomed to, even if that’s not actually good for us. “As a trauma-focused clinician who spends most of her time helping survivors of partner violence choose healthy relationships, I’ve noticed how difficult it is for people to lean into loving and nurturing relationships simply because it’s not the norm in their lives,” says licensed clinical counselor Maryann W. Mathai. Put it this way – if you see a brand-new band in concert, but you know none of the songs, you may love the music. But you’d be quicker to say yes to seeing that band you find mediocre and can recite all the lyrics to and sing along. You’d feel like you fit in better there, even if you don’t particularly love it. Change is scary, and old habits die hard.
Pheromones Research on pheromones is fairly weak, but we do know that there are four different types and they give off several kinds of indicators. One of them is the readiness and ability to mate. Senses are imperative for arousal, and our olfactory system can pick up a potential lover’s pheromones and tell us if we’re compatible for procreation. Initial attraction to someone could just be your bodies signaling to each other that you’d be perfect mates to reproduce. Some would call it “love at first sight.” Science would call it a pheromonal reaction. Pheromones can help explain why there are certain people you’re sexually repellent of, and some that make you immediately want to jump their bones.
Trauma bonding Trauma bonding is an emotional attachment to someone that usually occurs through repeated cycles of abuse, devaluation, and positive reinforcement. Initially, this person will seem like they can make you feel all better. They understand you and accept you. Then, the toxic cycle starts. As much as it hurts or we know it’s bad for us, it’s an addiction that can be as hard to break as any other. “By being in a relationship with someone similar, you’re making an effort to psychologically heal the wounds of that past relationship,” explains Erika Martinez, PsyD. “The issue is you’re likely to get hurt again, which only re-wounds you.”
Resemblance to family members Sounds incestuous, huh? We learn this from the king of familial and sexual psychology himself, Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that we have a deeply suppressed desire for our parents. While this concept is highly questionable (to say the least), the idea that we are attracted to people that look like they could be a part of our immediate family has been proven. Researchers refer to this as the mere-exposure effect, and it has more to do with familiarity than anything else. Faces that are similar to those we already deeply know and love generally appear more likable, or sympathetic, to us.
Reinforcement of our own limiting beliefs Let’s say you think you’re too needy and want to change that. You’ll find people who will also make you feel needy so you feel correct in your feeling that you need to change your needs. Maybe you feel like the world is out to get you and that’s why you can’t get ahead in life. You’ll be drawn to people who agree that it’s the world to blame for any shortcomings. Perhaps you think that all men have the emotional intelligence of a piece of toast. You’ll easily find partners who back up that preconceived notion. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and most people will subconsciously do anything within their power to back up the belief that their perception of the world is the right one.
More things that affect your ‘guy type’
Misunderstanding of what love means Maybe your parents yelled at you a lot. You knew that your parents loved you, but they expressed themselves loudly. You’ll probably be attracted to partners who also express themselves in a loud way because you learned that that means they care. Maybe you’ve had a lot of partners who had jealousy issues. You’ve probably learned to think that if someone isn’t jealous, they don’t love you enough. Everybody has different love languages. Over time (and based on your own love language), you’ve learned to recognize certain things as acts of love and overlook other things that may be an expression of love that you don’t know as such.
Circumstances & surroundings Oftentimes, we’re surrounded by many of the same people who share many similar qualities. Whether that be because of where you live, your current friend group, or the places you frequent. There’s a demographic for everything. Maybe it’s hard to get away from the party guys because you’re always going to parties, or you can’t stop dating misogynists because you have a lot of people in your social circle who share those same values. Expanding your horizons could expand the type of romantic prospects around you, too.
Personal agenda We want to find someone who shares our values, hobbies, interests, etc. But we also want someone who can fit into the mold that is ourselves. If you like a challenge, you’ll be attracted to guys that challenge you. You could be someone who likes to be in control without question, so you’ll gravitate toward agreeable people. If it benefits you to have someone to push you to find motivation, you’ll like people who urge you in that direction. Maybe, even, you need a certain level of validation or an “ego-boost,” so you’re attracted to unintelligent guys because they make you feel smarter. In addition, everyone has a certain kind of attachment style. So, you find people with an attachment style that corresponds well with yours (or, as previously talked about, have an attachment style that reaffirms that yours is problematic). We look for someone who works with our lifestyle, and thus we don’t find anyone outside of that.
They’re just who you attract Everyone is looking for the kind of person who complements them. You may be fulfilling a certain set of needs for a certain type of man. Guys looking for a “housewife” type of woman are looking for girls who like to cook, clean, and nurture. If you fit that description, you’re attractive to that type of man. “If we don’t work on ourselves between relationships, we will tend to attract exactly what we had before because like attracts like (quantum physics tells us that),” Belinda Ginter, certified emotional kinesiologist, says. To change this, “Make a list of all the qualities you are looking for in a life partner and then start modeling those characteristics daily in your own life.”
You think you can’t get any better. It’s something I hear all the time. “All men are cheaters.” “I have to work on myself first.” “No one else would put up with all of my baggage.” “Guys always do this, it happens.” It’s common to make excuses for others to make ourselves feel better for loving someone who’s potentially not right for us or even mistreating us. It’s also common to feel like someone else’s bad behavior is some fault of our own. After experiencing something so many times, no one can blame you for feeling dejected, discouraged, or thinking it’s the best you can get. It’s so important to take accountability when accountability’s due – but thinking that you’re undeserving of something different, or that there’s nothing better out there, does NOT mean you have to set the bar lower. Not loving yourself perfectly does not absolve you from deserving a perfect love. Know what you want and don’t settle for less.
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