Whether it be someone who has a good sense of humor, is responsible or has a “dad bod,” everyone has their own “type.” It’s no mystery that people like certain traits and are often attracted to others that have them. But what makes these characteristics something we find appealing? Why do we like emotionally unavailable people? What is it about glasses that’s so attractive?

There are many factors that contribute to our preferred types, but one of the main reasons behind this phenomenon is that we seek out people who are similar to our parents. Growing up, we often associate our parents with comfort and security. This association is reflected in the types of people we choose to have as partners. We look for the same comfort and security that our parents once gave us and, as a result, causes us to have an attraction to people with similar characteristics as our parents, both physically and personality-wise. 

According to a paper by professor A.C. Little at the University of St Andrews, we may also look for partners who have physical traits and personalities similar to our parents because they are traits that our mind associates with relationships and the emotions involved in them. People tend to be attracted to those traits because they want to feel the same emotions that they felt with the main relationship they had as a child — most often their parents. We expect that those emotions we had as children are the same emotions we should feel when it comes to every other relationship. Growing up, if you were often told what to do and ordered around, your “type” might include people who are domineering or bossy. If you always got what you wanted, your “type” may include people that are willing to spoil you.

Looking for a partner with similar traits as your parents can lead you to being attracted to the negative traits that they may also possess. Psychologist Kalanit Ben-Ari explained in an interview with The Tab how we may try to have a partner with the same negative traits as our parents in hope of receiving what we wish we had from them while growing up. For example, if you had reserved parents, you may tend to look for a similarly reserved partner in hopes of them being affectionate toward you. The purpose of this kind of attraction is, as Ben-Ari states, “to heal and grow from the past and to live in a mature loving and conscious partnership.”

Another reason behind having “types” stems from our own personalities. When looking for partners we may also look for people who have personalities that complement our own. Outgoing and assertive people, for example, may be attracted to people who are shy and submissive.

The reason for this is not simply because they complement our personality, but also because of how their defenses complement our own. Our defenses have roots in early childhood; we created them as a way to help us cope with traumatic or painful experiences and to prevent them from ever hurting us again. According to Psychology Today, we look for people that will support these defenses. For example, we may be attracted to people who reassure insecurities that were created by our defenses. This is what causes us to be attracted to “toxic” people.

Oftentimes, our “types” are reflective of our childhood experiences. Whether they were good experiences or not, we look for a partner that we think will give us that same feeling we had as children, even if it means being attracted to people with personalities or physical qualities that our parents have.