Is It Wrong To Date Someone Extremely Similar To the Last Person You Dated?

My question is this: is it wrong to date someone who is extremely similar, on paper, to the last person you dated?

Would most people be uncomfortable to hear that their boyfriend/girlfriend’s last significant other was a clone of themself?

I’m about to date a girl who, on paper, is A LOT like the last girl I dated. I have a great deal in common with this girl, just like I had a lot in common with the last girl, but I’m worried that I’m not liking this new girl for herself. I think this new girl is the recipient of feelings I developed for the last one.

Mike

Dear Mike,

I’ve often said that we are the sum total of our experiences.

And when we look back on our lives, we can see patterns in our choices in partners. Often, we get it wrong. Sometimes, with practice, we can even get it right.

So the more salient question that I’m going to answer for you isn’t whether there’s anything wrong with dating a girl who is a lot like your last girlfriend. (There’s not. Case closed.)

What IS interesting, however, is whether these repeated patterns of girls are GOOD for you. That’s an entirely different story, and one worth exploring.

See, it’s not that your question isn’t relevant. It’s that, truly, if your last girlfriend was a wonderful person with whom you had an amicable breakup, there are no real warning signs that this “type” is wrong for you. Thus, finding a woman with similar characteristics on paper is not only fine, but probably a decent idea.

If your last girlfriend was a wonderful person with whom you had an amicable breakup, there are no real warning signs that this “type” is wrong for you.

As always, I speak from experience, both as a dater and as a dating coach. For years and years, I chased the holy grail of East Coast Jewish intellectuals. I found that as much as I craved their company, they were usually too similar to me. They may have been interesting and successful, but they were also often hard-driving, opinionated, and selfish. Last year, I dated a woman who was the opposite. She was considerably younger. She didn’t have a big career. She was interested in doing everything I wanted to do, just so we could be around each other. With her big smile, generous heart, and accepting ways, she made me want to be a better boyfriend. We only broke up because she wasn’t seasoned enough – I didn’t feel like I was learning from her, although I’m sure she’s going to be an amazing woman in about five years.

Cut to six months after my breakup. I meet another woman with the same exact qualities – except this woman’s turning 38 tomorrow. Ten months later we’re still together. Have I fallen into a trap? No. I just discovered that it’s more important for me to be with a woman who makes me feel good than to be with a woman who fits that mental checklist we all have….

To bring it back to you, Mike: there’s nothing wrong with having tastes and preferences, as long as those tastes and preferences don’t box you in. Generally speaking, I like women who are readers. My girlfriend isn’t a reader. Generally speaking, I prefer women with liberal politics. My girlfriend comes from a right-wing military family. Generally speaking, I like curvy brunettes. My girlfriend is a curvy brunette – but most of my girlfriends have not been.

So don’t worry about your formulas or what it’s supposed to look like. Worry about whether it feels good and whether this woman brings out the best in you.

So don’t worry about your formula or what it’s supposed to look like. Worry about whether it feels good and whether this woman brings out the best in you. If so, you can laugh about your differences, and laugh about the fact that she’s a lot like your ex-girlfriend.

Put another way: If you’re a consistent and sound decision maker, it should be no surprise that your girlfriends possess similar qualities. It would be far more striking if one was a corporate attorney and the other was a punk rocker.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Jules

    Evan,
    Great advice as always. I love that your girlfriend is 38. How old are you if you don’t mind me asking? I am 32 and am always delighted to hear men dating women in their 30s. It gives me hope that they are not just interested in the twenty-somethings (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

  2. 2
    Markus

    Agreed on the great response. I’m pretty outdoorsy and am looking for that but one of the dates I’ve liked the best over the last couple years wasn’t into hiking, biking or skiing. But because of all the other things I liked about her I fell hard. The question becomes, how do you narrow your parameters if at all? You can’t date everyone.

  3. 3
    Selena

    I’m curious as to why Mike and the previous girlfriend broke up. I’ve found a couple times over the years that I dated someone who was alot like a previous boyfriend, and that I seemed to fall into the same kind of *pattern* with them, due to personality–and it wasn’t necessarily a good thing. This was always after the breakup, I didn’t see it at the start.

    If the women are so similar, might the course of the relationship be similar as well? And might not the outcome be the same?

  4. 4
    mrs. vee

    Happy birthday, Evan’s girlfriend! How is Evan at spanking? ;)

  5. 5
    Evan's Girlfriend

    Thanks for the birthday wishes, Mrs. Vee! And for the record, Evan is not opposed to spanking in a playful, it’s-your-birthday, let’s-be-a-little-naughty kind of way.

    As for the blog topic, I have found that, although my long-term relationships have all been different, there are always some common threads and similar personality traits in the men I have chosen to date. I think that is a good thing if they are good traits.

    In Selena’s post, she posits that similar mates might beget the same outcome, ie. an eventual break-up. That CAN be true, but I think the important thing is to realize WHY you broke up. It may have had very little to do with all the good qualities your ex had and more to do with a few areas of incompatibility. Or, in Evan’s case, timing. That goes for me, too. I have to believe that if I had met Evan right out of college, I would not have been ready to (1) date a younger man, or (2) date outside my religion. Timing is everything in that case. Even so, Evan has many of the traits I loved about my previous boyfriends, and I don’t think that means we are doomed — just that I am consistent in my attraction to thoughtful, affectionate, flirtatious, outgoing men.

    Good luck to Mike and the new girl that has all the nice qualities of his ex!

  6. 6
    mrs. vee

    For a really compelling theory on why we keep repeating life’s choices (even the unhealthy ones), see the film “What the Bleep Do We Know”. It’s a campy movie with questionable funding, but it still interestingly suggests that repeat patterns stem from our becoming chemically addicted to our emotions (i.e. the neurotransmitters that produce them). We find ourselves unconsciously maneuvering ourselves into situations that will reproduce those feelings we’ve grown dependent on, whether the emotion is self-pity, suspense, the feeling of being indulged like a child, etc.

    It goes a long way to explain how we end up in the same types of relationship scenarios over and over again.

  7. 7
    Markus

    Evan’s GF,

    I respect and appreciate your family’s service to the country. Know that my own family has served quite a bit and I work as a contractor. All that said, Bush really is the worst ever. What a mess.:(

  8. 8
    Jen from NYC

    No. No. and No. We are creatures of habit and familiarity. I totally agree with Evan in the respect that if you are dating the same “type” of women who are wrong for you, than yes, you are ulitmately not going to be successful. But overall, we like what we like. All of my boyfriends (and crushes) have been tall, dark, hairy, and handsome Jewish guys. No really. And some of them have had similar characteristics and thank gd the one I am with now, the best one I could have ever asked for, has different qualities and traits than the ones that I thought I should have been with. Does that make any sense?

    We all think we have this ideal, and in my oppinion that usually means we tend to like what he we know and feel familiar with. It is only when that familiar feeling is something unhealthy, like girls dating men who are abusive b/c perhaps they had an abusive father or man in their lives, when it becomes a problem. Major problem.

    When it comes to dating the single most imortant factor that trumps anything you can possibly think of is do you know yourself and are you honest with yourself? So many relationships fail because so many people have no ability to be introspective about their own issues and expect that having a boyfriend or girlfriend will make them and their lives better. It just does not work that way. I have come to understand that it takes a lot of work that you have to be willing to do to “find yourself.” Once you get to that place, you will find you will have healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

  9. 9
    Mike

    Whoa, it’s weird to see your own question up on this site. The two girls were enough alike on paper – even living four blocks apart – that I was seeing dating the second girl as a continuation of dating the first. As many things the two girls had in common, I suppose taste in men was not one of them. Things didn’t go anywhere with the second girl. She had a trip planned for the weekend we should have gone out and we didn’t reconnect with me after she got home, despite two emails to her.

    To answer Selena’s question: the first girl broke up with me at the three month mark because she wasn’t that into me. She was going through hell at work, but I think the reasons she didn’t want to continue were that I was too boring and too conversationally slow. We haven’t talked at all since we broke up but we didn’t break up with any hostility.

  10. 10
    Selena

    So Mike, would you say the similarity in the women extended to a similar outcome? That it took the first girl 3 mos. to determine she just wasn’t interested enough, but the second girl figured that out rather quickly?

    Sorry it didn’t work out, but maybe for you (like on occasion, me) this is a pattern of being attracted to someone who just isn’t quite right for you?

  11. 11
    kiara

    I’ve often said in my own break-up, that if my ex finds someone that has all the stuff she needs, she will be just dating me, but with a different face and name.  it seems to be that if something bad did not happen, i.e. cheating, abuse, etc., then if you are dating someone new that is really like the person you just left…you probably shouldn’t have broken up with the person in the first place.  I mean I know there are a billion other people out in the world, but no one dates all of them, and every guy you meet is not going to be a good fit.  If they are, why the hell are you leaving, especially if you are just going to end up dating someone like them.  if the last one treated you great, what are you looking for, someone to treat you super-great?

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