dating experts explain how to figure out your type

Here’s How To Figure Out Your “Type” When Dating

PSA: It’s more than just a surface-level attraction.

by Amanda Kohr
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When you’re knee-deep in the dating game, it’s not at all uncommon to hear the age-old question, “What’s your type?” Oftentimes the answers to this question feel a touch surface-level; you might say that your type is “tall” or “suave with an accent” or “looks exactly like Phoebe Bridgers.” Regardless of what it might be, the concept of a “type” can often dictate our dating habits, for better or for worse. So, how do you figure out your type and use it to your advantage? Let’s discuss.

“Type is typically referred to as a pattern that’s been repeated in our romantic relationships, or something we’re drawn to or attracted to,” Jenny Meinen, a psychologist and relationships and mental health coach, tells Elite Daily. And while this pattern might include things like appearance, Meinen argues that the more important aspects of a person’s type aren’t anything found on the surface — they’re your values.

“If a client were to come to me to try to figure out if they were compatible with a potential partner, I’d ask them about their values and if the potential partner’s values align,” says Laura Sgro, a licensed clinical social worker. “Our core beliefs about life are the things that really demonstrate compatibility.”

Meinen and Fae agree that sometimes our more surface-level types can provide insight into our value-based types. For instance, if you say your type includes “red hair,” it’s important to consider the deeper meaning behind that red hair. Do you associate red hair with a person being funny or unique? If so, then your deeper values might be that you need someone with a sense of humor who marches to the beat of their own drum. (I say this as a person who once found Ronald Weasley incredibly attractive.)

Understanding Your “Type”

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Get your journals ready: The first step to learning more about your type is to start with your own inner work.

“There are so many different things that make up a person’s type,” says Meinen. “It could be based on what was modeled for us in our childhood. It could be what we think we’re deserving of or based on our past dating experiences.”

So while you may have some idea about your type (especially if your dating pattern feels a bit obvious at this point), it might be an interesting exercise to journal and go a bit deeper. Take some time to really get to know yourself, write down your core values, what those values mean to you, and how you envision them showing up in your life. For some, this might include travel, spending time with family, or achieving certain milestones in your career. Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things, but some take priority over others. Meinen also suggests performing a “relationship inventory” so you can learn more about what types or values you’ve been drawn to in the past.

“Write down your past partners or dating experiences, and note what you liked and didn’t like about each person,” says Meinen. If you find you’re writing down more superficial things (like height or hair color), try to get to the root of what these things mean for you. Maybe you loved your tall ex because you felt protected — but didn’t like that they interrupted you when having conversations. Now you know that you value feeling safe and feeling heard. Not only will this reveal any dating patterns you have, but it will also demonstrate why you were drawn to those qualities.

Another exercise that might be helpful is getting crystal clear on your relationship deal-breakers. Fae notes that you can do this either by journaling, through therapy, or simply talking it out with a friend.

“I have an exercise where I have my clients break things into three columns: perfect, nice to have, and a deal-breaker,” says Fae. “Placing different qualities into these categories can help you better understand your values and learn where you can be flexible.”

And while the deal-breaker category can be an excellent way to set boundaries when dating, it’s also a good tool for pinpointing any surface-level qualities. If you notice something that feels a little superficial in the deal-breaker category, ask yourself why it’s there.

“Ask yourself basic questions about values, like ‘Do I like to travel?’ or ‘Is it important to me to live near family?’ or ‘How much do I want to prioritize my career and/or hobbies?’” says Fae. Not only will answering these questions help you to generate a better idea of your values, but they’ll also help you get crystal clear on what you’re looking for when it comes to dating.

Of course, it’s important to note that your partner doesn’t need to — and shouldn’t — be your everything. Some values, like aligning on whether or not children play a role in your future, are more important than you both loving oysters or punk rock concerts.

If you like to go to the movies and your partner doesn’t, is that something you can do with a friend, or even on your own? (A solo movie date is a fabulous way to romanticize your life!) It’s good to have some overlapping interests — which is where Fae’s column idea can be useful.

How To Find Your “Type” When Dating

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Finding your type may feel a bit tricky — especially since it may feel a teensy bit uncomfortable for some folks to share their values early on in the dating process. But Fae and Meinen agree it’s better to be honest than not, so if you’re feeling called to ask questions, do it! If they’re frightened by your honesty, they’re probably not meant for you anyway.

“You might ask questions about where they’re at with their family, or what are their current needs and wants,” says Meinen. “Asking ‘What are the five things that are most important to you in your life?’ is also a great question.” Reminder: You don’t need to force yourself to ask these questions on a first date. Instead, make it an intention to get to know a person’s values in the early stages of dating, and allow the questions to stem from your conversations.

Fae suggests asking a potential partner where they see themselves in 10 years, as this feels a bit less direct. (And therefore maybe a little less scary.)

“But also, don’t be afraid to be honest,” Fae adds. “You can straight up ask, ‘What makes you feel love?’ and if they’re bothered by your honesty, then maybe they aren’t the right match for you.” It can be tempting to avoid hard questions to seem like “the chill date” — but if this isn’t authentic to you, it will likely only come back to bite you in the end, as it’s impossible (or at the very least, not ideal) to keep up a charade for an entire relationship.

Another important thing: Don’t be afraid to walk away if someone doesn’t feel right.

“Remember that you don’t need anyone,” says Meinen, who often works with her clients to help foster a sense of self-love and resilience. “And if someone tells you who they are, believe them.” If you approach dating from a place of lack, or low self-worth, it’s more likely you'll put pressure on ourselves to find someone ASAP… and start painting red flags green. Meinen adds that “if you go into a date completely confident, you don’t press someone into a specific form.”

In other words, it can be tempting to try to force a potential partner to work, or feel down when a date doesn’t pan out, but when you have a strong sense of self-worth, you start to recognize that you should be dating to figure out what you want — not what the other person may or may not desire. If someone says they don’t want kids, or doesn’t see themselves in a long-term relationship, it’s probably not worth sticking around to change their mind.

“Address any fears you have head-on,” says Fae. “Whether that’s a fear of being alone, or a fear of not being liked, knowing our fears can help us tackle them.”

So much of dating comes down to knowing, loving, and simply being yourself. When you start to understand your own value, you can start to be more focused and intentional about the relationships you want to manifest.


Jenny Meinen, psychologist and relationships and mental health coach

Laura Sgro, licensed clinical social worker