They say opposites attract, but that may just be for magnets. In reality, when it comes to dating, many people naturally gravitate toward people who look like them or their parents. 

The reason? According to Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., author of the book, “Tell Me What You Want” and research fellow at the Kinsey Institute: “We like people who are similar to us because we find it comforting and validating.” And this proves true beyond just physical characteristics. “[When] people share the same values and beliefs as we do, [it] reinforces our sense of being right and correct,” he adds.

For most of us, this is all subconscious. If you already know you want to date someone who looks like your dad, you would probably be talking to your therapist about it. 

For most of us, this is all subconscious. If you already know you want to date someone who looks like your dad, you would probably be talking to your therapist about it. 

The tendency toward similarity goes far beyond the world of dating and relationships. “People who are similar to you are disproportionately likely to end up on your list of candidates for a job or people you’re going to be friends with,” Lehmiller says. 

When I look back at the people I dated, I can say without a doubt that they all look different than me, from education to race. Though, for some dark unknown reason, they all seem to hate their fathers, that’s where the similarities end. Lehmiller explains that some people unconsciously date their opposites because of the drive for self-expansion — which basically describes me perfectly. “Some people have these sensation-seeking personalities and have a heightened need for excitement and for new experiences.” 

People who crave routine may find there are benefits to dating people with loads of similarities. “They want predictability and stability. Having a partner similar to you provides that,” Lehmiller says. But there are problems dating people just like you. You end up with someone…Just. Like. You. And as Lehmiller tells me, similarity does not predict relationship success. “We have a need for novelty and excitement, especially when it comes to sex. If you have a partner who isn’t taking you outside of your routine, it’s likely you’ll grow bored very quickly and you won’t have that self-expansion need met.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Dominica has dated several people just like her — creative types who also have difficulty coping with stress. “People with similar defense mechanisms make communication a challenge,” she says.“It’s taken me a long time to separate things that feel comfortable [from] things that are actually healthy for me.”

If you have a partner who isn’t taking you outside of your routine, it’s likely you’ll grow bored very quickly.

According to Lehmiller, members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to have more diverse relationships and pair up with people who are not similar to them. And as our options expand, thanks in part to dating apps exposing us to a broader pool of people, studies are showing that hetero couples are stepping outside of their comfort zones, too. Kara, 30, is a white woman dating a Latino man, and while this isn’t her first interracial relationship, she admits they wouldn’t have met had it not been for a dating app. “Our work circles overlap very occasionally, but chances are slim we’d have ended up at the same events,” she says. “My current partner and I have a nice balance of similarities and differences, so things stay interesting.” 

In fact, online dating has led to a rise in interracial relationships. “We are now exposed to far more options for dating and mating than we have before,” Lehmiller says. “A lot of what was driving this similarity effect was who happens to be around us — now we have limitless access to potential partners. People are stepping outside of their previous mating patterns,” 

If too much self-love has creeped into your subconscious and you’re just realizing that you’ve been dating versions of yourself, try shaking things up a bit and dating someone completely different. Who knows? Maybe you won’t end up with your dad’s doppelgänger after all.