Should You Try 'Contra-Dating' This Year? Here's What The Experts Say.

This dating trend could shake up your love life.

Are you stuck in a dating rut you can’t seem to find your way out of? Then perhaps it’s time you give “contra-dating” a try.

According to the dating site Plenty of Fish, which coined the term, contra-dating is defined as “dating outside of your usual ‘type.’”

Consistently seeking partners with the same physical attributes, personality traits or personal or professional interests can restrict your dating pool. You may be ruling out some quality people you’d really vibe with without realizing it.

A 2023 Plenty of Fish survey of British singles found that 59% have engaged in contra-dating. One-third of respondents say they’re changing things up because they’ve been unsuccessful when sticking to their type in the past.

Eva Gallagher, the resident dating expert at Plenty of Fish, said she recommends contra-dating to “singles who are looking to step outside their comfort zone and shake up their dating experience.” Maybe you always gravitate toward the same kind of person because they feel familiar to you, but time and time again you discover you’re not actually a good match.

“We can really get boxed in by what we think we want and need, and we don’t allow room for people to surprise us.”

- Myisha Battle, sex and dating coach

“It’s important to get introspective and dive deeper into what it is you’re looking for and then cast a wider net,” Gallagher said.

“For example, maybe all your exes worked in finance, but their schedules were always conflicting with yours, causing time together to be limited, eventually leading to the end of these relationships. When you pause and reflect on what the common denominator was that drew you to these people, you’ll recognize it was more about the qualities they possessed, such as being regimented and having drive, versus that they worked in the same field.”

Reflecting more deeply on these patterns and clarifying what you’re really looking for in a partner will help you find someone “who better aligns with your needs,” Gallagher said.

"Contra-dating" was named by the site Plenty of Fish as a top dating trend for 2024.
Thomas Barwick via Getty Images
"Contra-dating" was named by the site Plenty of Fish as a top dating trend for 2024.

Sex and dating coach Myisha Battle, author of “This Is Supposed to Be Fun,” told HuffPost she likes the idea of dating against type and recommends this to her clients all the time.

“We can really get boxed in by what we think we want and need, and we don’t allow room for people to surprise us,” Battle said. “In my book, I encourage readers to ditch their lists of potential partner qualities for this very reason. I think this is especially helpful when it comes to dating people outside of a specific race or ethnic preference that people may have.”

It’s quite common for people to narrow their dating criteria over time, “often as a protective mechanism,” said licensed clinical social worker Nicole Saunders, owner of Therapy Charlotte in North Carolina.

“However, the downside is that they may be overlooking individuals who still possess the core qualities they seek in a partner,” she told HuffPost.

That being said, there are some criteria in a potential partner that you may not want to compromise on — and what those specific qualities are will differ person to person. Stay true to a few of your most important non-negotiables, said Saunders, but try to be more flexible elsewhere.

“Non-negotiables might include preferences regarding having children, work-life balance, religion, sex or specific lifestyle elements, like sobriety or fitness,” Saunders said. “Outside of these few non-negotiables, it’s fine to be somewhat flexible with qualities such as physical appearance, income, occupation, prior children, previous marriages and so on.”

How To Meet People Outside Of Your Type

If you’re trying to meet people via dating apps, start by being a more mindful swiper, Battle advised, because “the apps will show you more of what you like, which can be very limiting.”

Notice if there are any patterns in terms of the type of the people you swipe left on versus those you swipe right on. “Are there people that you may benefit from swiping right on in the interest of giving yourself a wider, more diverse pool of people to choose from?” Battle said.

When trying to meet new people in person, Saunders recommended doing something a bit outside of your comfort zone. Maybe there are activities, hobbies or classes you’ve always had an interest in but never pursued. Now’s the time to give them a shot, she said.

“Join a hiking group, sign up for a language class, try a new workout or visit a new church,” Saunders said.

Signing up for a new class or activity is a great way to meet new people.
seksan Mongkhonkhamsao via Getty Images
Signing up for a new class or activity is a great way to meet new people.

Battle also suggested attending events or joining spaces “that bring you a lot of joy” and seeing who you might meet there.

“The people there may not be exactly what you have pictured in your mind as your future partner, but at least you’ll know that you have a common interest, and that’s a great place to start conversation and connection,” Battle said.

Expanding your dating horizons doesn’t mean you’re settling either. You’re just opening yourself up to new people and possibilities you may have previously overlooked or ruled out. So have fun with it, Gallagher said.

“Meeting new people is exciting and can act as a great opportunity for us to learn more about ourselves and our own needs, too,” she said.

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