Years ago, back when I was single, I was lamenting to some friends about the state of my love life when one of them asked what, exactly, I was looking for. I rattled off a fairly extensive list of all the traits -- physical and otherwise -- that I was attracted to (tall, funny, big nose, glasses, maybe a swimmer's body, dimples, etc., etc.), and she said, "Oh! I know the perfect guy for you!" Long story short, she set me up on a blind date with this guy who didn't wear glasses, wasn't particularly tall, didn't have dimples, wasn't a swimmer, and had an average-sized nose. In short, he wasn't really my type. And you know what? My friend was right. He WAS perfect for me. We've been together ten years this May, married for seven, and have two pretty great kids.
As a relationship advice columnist, one of the best pieces of dating advice I can pass along to those of you who are looking for a serious/longterm/committed relationship, is to date someone who isn't your type. Date several people who aren't your type! Start making a habit of dating against your type. Instead of swiping left, go out for coffee with him (or her). HE may not be the perfect guy for you, but a cool thing happens when you break the pattern of dating the same type of person -- you begin breaking the pattern of having the same type of relationship (and if you're single and wanting a longterm relationship, this is probably a good thing, assuming none of your relationships have worked thus far). Dating against type is the equivalent of stepping outside your comfort zone. And that's exactly where exciting things can happen.
But people continue staying in their comfort zone, afraid of straying from the same type of person they've always dated, and my theory is that the type of person they tell themselves they're attracted to helps to tell a narrative or sell an image they're trying to project to the world. For example, a woman who believes she was an unattractive child and then grew up to be pretty might seek out only the hottest guys to help sell her Ugly Duckling narrative. In her mind, having a hot boyfriend will affirm for her -- and, very importantly, for everyone else - that she is, indeed, attractive now. Someone who grew up socially awkward and not very popular might seek the super cool, bad-boy kind of guy because he affirms for her that she's no longer awkward if she can land a guy like that.
Essentially, these relationships are much less about connecting, and much more about compensating for a long-held insecurity. Dating against type can help shift that focus. (But, of course, doing work on yourself -- going to therapy, fostering friendships, building a career and social network -- are also essential in breaking the pattern of seeking affirmation through dating). If you're someone who dates the same type over and over and has the same kind of relationship over and over (usually with your being "ghosted" or rejected or somehow disappointed), think about why you keep perpetuating the same pattern. Is there an image you hope to project through your potential partners? Is there a narrative about yourself that you're desperate to sell? Or do you simply really, really like tall guys with dimples? These questions are worth exploring, and if they feel uncomfortable at all, that's a good thing. Exciting things happen outside your comfort zone.
But don't take my word for it! Here are some examples readers of my relationship advice column who have dated against type and found happiness in doing so:
"I like short guys, my husband's tall. I like nerds, he's a sweet ole country boy. I was a widow and married more than once, he had never even been engaged. I have four boys, he has no kids. I am eight years older than him. I'm an introvert, he's a social butterfly. He's an animal lover, I never was, but now we have six pets! I'm a homebody, he can't stand sitting still. He's goal-oriented and I'm a free-spirit. Our religious, political, and personal views are opposite. He likes country music, I like punk/pop...but we have both learned from one another, our personalities are similar, and our differences make us stronger. We're a good team." -- T.
"The guy I'm currently dating is the opposite of my 'type' in many ways, the most notable being that I'm an athiest who always actively avoided dating religious guys while he is a practicing Catholic. We met by chance last fall and became friends, then started dating around the end of last month and quickly fell in love. To say it's working out would be an understatement because I'm pretty sure he's the one." -- A.
"I honestly never in a million years would've thought I'd marry the man I did. In high school, he was the really smart guy and I was the popular one. I made fun of him, I teased him, and I probably annoyed the hell out of him, but I also wanted to know more about him. He ended up moving away, then moving back a little while before his father passed away. Because I knew his sister, I went to the funeral. We met up and things kind of just clicked. He melted my heart and I kept wondering how stupid was I to have passed him up during our school years. We've been together for almost five years, are married, and have a beautiful seven-month-old son. They've been the best of my life." -- C.
"My husband wasn't my type at all but he's caring, compassionate, loving and makes me laugh. I can be myself around him and he accepts me for me. We've been together for three years -- yesterday was our two-year wedding anniversary." -- A.
In college I dated a series of lanky stoner poets who were easy to find in my adopted home of the English department at a small, liberal arts college. Many intense philosophical conversations ensued, some regarding whether we were in a relationship with a "small R" or "capital R," along with the obligatory idealizations of socialism. Years later, I met a man from rural Iowa who was barrel-chested, passionate about super bikes, and chewed tobacco, and I married him one year and three months later. We don't have a lot of intense philosophical conversations, but we also don't talk about whether to capitalize the "R" in our relationship status. He is stable, funny, kind in unimaginable ways, treats me better than I deserve, and most importantly I feel like I am home when I am with him regardless of where we go. -- K.
And, there you go. Exciting things happen outside your comfort zone, even/especially outside your dating comfort zone. So step outside of it. Swipe right. Go out with that person who isn't your type and see if maybe you've been wrong about your "type" all along.