Date Without Borders: Having A ‘Type’ Is All In Your Head, Not In Your Heart

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My friend and I used to play this game called The Perfect Boy Game.

We would both describe our ideal boyfriend in painstaking detail, assigning him characteristics ranging everywhere from physical attributes (What color were his eyes and hair? How tall was he? Was he chiseled or a little chubby?) to personality traits (Was he emotional or reserved? Was he super-confident at a party and super-vulnerable with you? Was he messy or a neat freak?) and interests (Did he play a sport or an instrument? Did he like popular music? Was he obsessed with movies? Would you care if he smokes recreationally?).

It was our favorite game, a therapeutic exercise during the days when it felt like there were zero prospects for either of us.

Something about meticulously crafting the perfect man made us feel both hopeful and discouraged: hopeful that maybe, just maybe, we'd find someone who matched our criteria, and discouraged that such a "someone" may not actually exist anywhere, ever. It was a twisted kind of masochism, but we loved it.

As I grew up, I found that the specifications I created through countless rounds of our little game were never true about any of the guys I liked in real life. In fact, the two major, long-term boyfriends I've had throughout my life thus far could not be more opposite.

One, a charismatic younger guy, was a clean-cut, blond, Russian musician with a charming ignorance and a strong sense of optimism. The other was an older, endearingly scruffy, black-haired Irish software developer with an eclectic taste in media and a cynical wit.

Other guys I've crushed on have been political science lovers, actors, writers, philosophers, physicists and athletes who are tall, not-so-tall, blond, brown-haired, arrogant, humble, religious, atheist -- if it's a pair of contradictions, I'm positive I could compare two guys I've liked with them.

Even though I'd spend hours with my friend trying to craft my "type," it was liberating to discover I didn't actually have one in real life. In fact, the qualities we look for in our romantic partners actually have zero bearing on who we'll end up with, so my efforts with The Game were definitely unfounded.

2011 study found that specific ideals only mattered when constructing a dating profile online; they become completely discarded when couples meet in real life.

On flirty first dates, chemistry and attraction get in the way of rationally assessing people to see if they're compatible matches for us, so it becomes all too easy to ignore the deal breakers we had accumulated in our minds. When emotions overpower our assessment, we see our partners favorably no matter what.

Of course, you'll realize that you were wrong months later when you and your partner are fighting all the time, and instead of attributing it to compatibility issues, you'll blame it on something like "passion."

But what are you supposed to do if you have an extensive set of ideals? Weed out every single person who doesn't fit your exact preferences? Find that one person who might also love that obscure band you're obsessed with?

Some researchers say yes, but I disagree. That's an unrealistic expectation to put on yourself and an enormous burden to bear, especially if you live in a huge city with millions of people from all walks of life.

When it comes to finding romance, the best way to handle having a type is just to stop having one in the first place. Types are limiting because, let's be honest, some people are kind of messy, some people can't play a sport to save their lives, and some people just really like stupid movies -- and that's OK. None of this means these people don't deserve love.

I mean, would it really suck that badly to date someone who loves "The Ugly Truth" if he or she is truly a great person otherwise? Probably not.

Perhaps you will see the relaxing nature of such silly rom-coms and join your girlfriend in watching them, which will help you get in touch with your emotional side a bit more.

Perhaps, then, your sports-hating girlfriend will take an interest in watching football with you on Sundays, and perhaps she'll even check out that band you love! Look at that!

It all depends on your perspective on differences. If you treat them like nuisances, your relationship won't work because you'll probably be spending all of your time judging your partner for his or her choices.

If, however, you treat the differences like learning experiences, you could have an enriching, mutually beneficial relationship in which you both use each other to learn new things and acquire new tastes.

There are definitely certain legitimate deal breakers, like differing religious preferences or sexist tendencies. I don't want to say those things can't be worked through -- those can cause some serious obstacles in a relationship -- but humans are an ever-growing species, so maybe dating somebody so fundamentally different from you will open up your mind to another viewpoint.

Who knows? Maybe you'll realize your devotion to God wasn't that strong in the first place and you'll find comfort in atheism. Maybe you'll realize that atheism has been the source of all of your emptiness and you do truly want to believe in something bigger.

Maybe your misogynist boyfriend will start to realize that yes, women are capable of -- OK, that's a really bad example. Don't ever date a sexist.

The point is that you should not have an extensive list of deal breakers to arbitrarily construct some ideal person. Your preferences won't be relevant to who you actually end up with anyway, so what's the point in sticking so closely to them?

Adhering to a "type" closes you off to so many wonderful people with whom you could possibly have a forever.

And, since more conclusive research is needed to determine if listening to your head is better than listening to your heart (or vice versa) when it comes to choosing a partner in the long run, don't discriminate. Date your heart out.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It