I, like so many other people, have often struggled with the idea of dating people who aren’t my type. It’s not that I’m not open to dating someone I’m not attracted to, it’s really just a matter of how? How do you reject everything you know and give something new a chance? Especially when it seems that we’re not authentically attracted to “something new” because it is oftentimes so different from who we’d usually pursue. Admittedly, attraction can be superficial upon meeting anyone considering all you see are looks. However, shouldn’t you be able to enjoy your person physically in addition to all of the other stuff?
Though regular Kiarra would likely say yes – the expert in me can see how dependence on superficial details provides superficial results. Sometimes a pattern that shows up in your dating history could be traced back to sticking to a “type” and venturing outside of who you typically gravitate towards could lead to growth you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten. You limit yourself in the name of love which is why going against your usual type is something experts have increasingly recommended over the years.
But, dating outside of your “type” or comfort zone is one of those things that everyone suggests without acknowledging that it requires a conscious effort, and thus they rarely give you the low on how. The question then becomes: how do you date someone you’re not attracted to?
Clearly, this is not my forte, so I connected with Damona Hoffman, dating coach with OkCupid and The Dates & Mates Podcast. Hoffman provided some insights on where to start when it comes to dating outside of the box we’ve created for ourselves.
What Does Having a Type Mean?
So first things first, why do people have a type? As Hoffman explains having a type has everything to do with the Familiarity Principle. “In social psychology, there is a philosophy called the ‘familiarity principle,’ which shows that humans develop a preference for something to which we are regularly exposed. Studies have shown that we are attracted to what is familiar to us. When we operate based on physical attraction alone, we are usually falling victim to our social conditioning." Hoffman adds that what we find attractive is programmed based on what is familiar to us.
The key to opening yourself up to dating someone who is not your type is to unpack the programming you have about attraction. In order to start saying no to the familiar and open yourself up to the unfamiliar, Hoffman provides the following solution: "The 5 Whys" technique.
“The method is surprisingly simple. When you have a problem or question to solve, you start by asking, 'Why?' Each answer is followed up with another query: why? Once you answer 'why' five times, you get to the root cause of a belief. If we can get down to how a belief about attraction was formed, we can recognize when we are falling into old programming and take steps to unravel it.”
Hoffman continues, “The ‘why’ is to help us develop clarity in our choices. Many times we end up with preferences by default when we don't take the time to unpack why we believe what we believe or want what we want. Sometimes the final ‘why’ leads us to clarity that there is a preference there that serves our larger relationship goals. Sometimes we find that we are operating based on our conditioning and we can open up new possibilities for ourselves if we open up to saying ‘yes' to different options.”
Dating Someone Who Isn't Your Type
There truly is no growth in any given situation without going into yourself – everything, every journey begins with self. If we can become more aware of the choices around attraction that we make on a conscious level, then we have the ability to say no to them and yes to things that may serve us far more down the line. “Based on the familiarity principle, simply choosing to date and spend time with people who are different from your typical type could lead to developing a preference for a new aesthetic or valuing other qualities,” says Hoffman.
With that in mind, I would argue that if you say 'yes' to enough opportunities that are outside of your checklist, then your type will start to shift and hopefully shift to a more open-minded space. This allows you to date someone you might not ordinarily be attracted to, which will perhaps serve as a catalyst for the relationships you seek.
If you're considering dating outside of your type, Hoffman says that research shows you're not alone. "Overall, daters are becoming more flexible about attraction though. On OkCupid, 96% of Gen Z and millennial daters are open to dating someone that isn't their usual type. Daters are prioritizing beliefs and values over physical attraction.”
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