If you had a party and invited all of the men you’ve dated, would your apartment look like fraternity row? Would the gathering be mistaken for a tortured artist convention?
It’s no revelation that many women have a “type.” Sometimes that type is marked by superficial qualities — “tall, dark, and handsome” — but more often it’s a common psychological, emotional, even pathological profile. “The men you date can look different, dress differently, have different jobs,” says Marilyn Graman, a psychotherapist based in New York City and author of There is No Prince, and Other Truths Your Mother Never Told You. But they probably have something deeper, and darker, in common. “Maybe they always have something more important to do than spend time with you. Maybe there’s always another woman lurking around. Maybe they’re really self-centered.”
So if you know you’re stuck in a bad-guy cycle, what can you do to break out? After all, it’s not so easy to switch your chemical attraction from one type to another, even if you want to intellectually. These three steps can help put you on the path to finding a new (and better!) kind of love.
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Step 1: Say yes to everyone
How many times have you seen a picture of your friend’s single cousin, or met a guy at a party who you later hear is interested in you and think, “Nope, it’ll never work. He’s not my type?” Well, “start noticing men you’d never be interested in,” says Graman. “If you see someone on the train, think ‘Some woman has loved this man,’ or ‘What would a woman see in him?’ Open your mind. Consider that someone not your type might be interesting.” Monica Carranza, 28, used to go for “jocks who never really loved me,” until a big breakup sent her soul-searching. “I moved from New York to Chicago right after he dumped me and decided to date anyone and everyone who asked me out, even if they weren’t my ‘type.’ A lot of them didn’t work out, but then I met John. He was on the short side, scrawny, and very smart. Not my type at all. I can’t say it was immediate, but I fell madly in love with him and we’ve been together ever since.”
Step 2: Don’t bail too early
So you’ve taken the big first step and have started dating a so-not-your-type type. How do you hang on even though there’s not the usual, immediate spark? “I started dating a guy who was way too nice for me,” says Mary Jensen, 35, of Seattle, WA. “He didn’t play games, he was always free to hang out, but I just didn’t have butterflies. I decided not to over-think it and just have fun. After a few weeks, I started to really like him. He relaxed around me and started to be more himself and now when I see him, I do get those butterflies.” Moral of the story? A “not-my-type” can turn into “just-my-type” given the chance.
Step 3: Put yourself before the guy
According to experts, breaking the pattern is all about building your self-esteem. “The more you care about yourself, the more you’ll be attracted to someone who treats you well,” says Graman. Sophie Chiche, 43, lives in Beverly Hills and is happily married. Her type turnaround came when she was 22. “I was going out with a guy who was just like the others — spontaneous, impetuous, romantic. But he always kept me waiting. I would often sit for an hour before he showed up for dinner. One night I decided, ‘If he’s five minutes late, I’m going to get up a leave.’ It was really hard, but I did it, and he had the nerve to call me an hour later and yell at me! That one little step was so out of character for me, but it helped me eventually start to respect myself.”
The supreme self-respect thing may take some practice. You can help it along, says Brenda Schaeffer, a psychologist and author of Is It Love or Is It Addiction: The Book That Changed the Way We Think About Romance and Intimacy, by reaffirming positive thoughts about men and love. Remind yourself that you deserve a great relationship and that there are men out there who can deliver on that — ones you could be attracted to. Schaeffer says you may actually have to program yourself for a better future. That means admitting you made mistakes in the past, acknowledging what you’ve learned, and allowing yourself to believe you’ll find love again. Only this time, it’ll be with someone who’s more your new type.
Sally Schultheiss used to date tortured, brooding types. Then she met a nice, normal, broke artist type. They are now married and live in Los Angeles.