Are Lookalike Dates Good… Or Bad?

You just met someone who looks eerily like your ex. Should you try to flirt with this person… or flee? Here’s what experts have to say about dating someone who reminds you of a former flame.

By Diane Mapes

ot too long ago, a friend of mine asked a guy out and got a weird response: “I can’t go out with you,” he told her. “You look too much like my ex.” We’ve all had run-ins with dating doppelgangers (i.e., people who look exactly like some long-lost love from our past). Even Usher has sung about doing this himself in his hit single, U Remind Me.

But should we kick these lookalike dates to the curb… or give them a chance? Below, singles and experts hash out the pros and cons of dating someone
They say familiarity breeds contempt, but sometimes, it actually draws us to people.
who’s similar to an ex. Where do you stand?

Here are three reasons to date an ex’s doppelganger:
1. Everything just feels “right” when you’re together. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but sometimes, it actually draws us to people — especially when they happen to be dead ringers for those whom we once loved. “A client of mine started dating a guy she met online, and the first time she went to his house, she saw a picture of a man who looked almost identical to the love of her life,” says dating coach Julie Spira. When the woman asked about the identity of the man shown in the picture, her new beau admitted that it was actually a photo of him — 20 years earlier. As a result, Spira says that her client immediately fell for the man. “There was something warm and fuzzy about the familiarity,” Spira says. “He reminded her so much of the one that got away.”

2. Instantly feeling sizzling-hot mutual chemistry. Jill R., a 46-year-old editor from Pueblo, CO, readily admits she has a “type” when it comes to dates. “When I was in my early 20s, I had this fixation on Kris Kristofferson,” she recalls. “He was my dream guy. When I look back at the men I’ve dated, they all have some element of his characteristic look: beard, curly hair, blue eyes… sort of a ‘pirate on the sea’/Viking look.” Jill admits that her new fiancée even looked just like the singer did back in his youth. “Maybe I should be with a Jewish orthodontist with brown eyes, but you’re attracted to whomever you’re attracted to,” she says. And that’s perfectly fine, according to psychologist and author Wendy Walsh. “The good part about dating a lookalike is that if that’s the thing that physically turns you on, you’re not going to have trouble sexually,” explains Walsh. “At least, not in the short term,” she adds.

3. It can help you get over yourself (and the ex who broke your heart). Renate R., a 41-year-old arts administrator from Seattle, has heard the “you look like my ex” line a couple of times from her dates. Her reaction: Get over it, already! “I guess I can see how you really don’t want to be reminded of someone who hurt you,” she says, “but to sort of assume that all brunette chicks are the same type of she-devil? Whatever.” Spira believes that shutting the door on potential dates simply because they remind you of someone else is definitely limiting your romantic prospects. “That’s what happens with lookalikes, though,” says Spira. “You either embrace them because they’re your type and you have good memories associated with that, or you run away when you really shouldn’t. After all, there could be a fabulous man or woman on the other end of an email or set-up you’ll never get to know.” Peter O., a 49-year-old professional entertainer from New Orleans, says that for him, it’s just a matter of giving each new person a chance. “I’ve gotten into situations where someone will remind me of so-and-so whom I really liked,” Peter says. “But it never gets in the way of dating. Once I spend a day hanging out with someone, I can see clearly that this person is not so-and-so’s double anymore.”

Three clues that indicate when you should run in the opposite direction:
1. Being reminded of your ex is just too uncomfortable. “I’ve turned down dates with men who looked like my first boyfriend, who was extremely violent and physically abusive,” says Judy M., a 40-year-old single from Brooklyn. “He could be a perfectly nice guy, but
A lot of visual triggers will happen if they look that much alike.
if someone had that particular look, he would automatically be dead to me.” This sentiment is hardly unique — especially for those of us with an ex who was especially bad. Spira says she had a client on who received an email from a guy who looked so much like her ex-husband that she initially thought someone was playing a cruel joke on her. “He had the same hair, the same nose, the same smile,” relates Spira. “It spooked her so much that she couldn’t go out with him; the poor guy didn’t stand a chance.” Spira says there’s no shame in turning down a date with a lookalike, especially if the breakup wound is still fresh. “If you have a raw nerve in your heart and something triggers that, you just have to go on to another person,” she says. “You have to find someone else who’s OK for you to date.”

2. The two of you are not a healthy match. Unfortunately, a date isn’t always just a date. Some of us try to work out old emotional issues with new people — especially those who remind us of someone from our past. “We all have early life conflicts, and we spend our adult lives trying to work them out using different people to replace the mom, dad, or siblings we once had problems with,” says Walsh, whose latest book is The 30-Day Love Detox. “And sometimes, the very thing we’re attracted to is the worst possible thing for us… but we’re stuck on it on an unconscious level, like: ‘I’m going to make daddy love me’ or ‘I’m going to make mommy behave.’” Walsh points to a man she once knew who only dated blondes because his mother — whom he hated — had raven-dark hair. “Some of these visual triggers help us go back to that early conflict which we’re trying to solve,” she explains. “But that’s not the right way to do it. You should address it by going through therapy, but everybody on the planet tries to work out childhood conflicts unconsciously with new romantic partners instead.” Yet another pitfall is that seeing someone with similar looks can also be psychologically confusing, says Walsh. “It’s going to be difficult for you to separate the new person from the old person,” she explains. “A lot of visual triggers will happen if they look that much alike.”

3. You’re stuck in a dating rut. Spira says people often get stuck in a dead-end pattern of going for dates with the same general look every time. “Men are very visual and will often go for the same look — a Barbie-doll type, for example, or brunettes with long, straight hair,” she says. “I know one guy whose girlfriends always looked like Pamela Anderson, one right after the other. But these relationships didn’t necessarily work out. Finding your type visually doesn’t necessarily equate to someone being the right type for your heart.” Spira adds that if someone insists on dating people with the same look over and over again but it never turns into a real relationship, then it’s time for a change. “You’re basing everything on a person’s physical attributes,” says Spira. After all, relationships should be based on something more substantial than a person’s hair color or height, shouldn’t they?

Diane Mapes is a Seattle freelance writer and the author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World. Check her out at or follow her on Twitter: @Single_Shot.
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