‘Rosie, I think it’s pretty obvious you have a type,’ said my cousin last week when I was telling him all about the new(ish) boyfriend and his type A personality.
I protested. ‘Well,’ he countered, ‘you wouldn’t like him if he wasn’t alpha.’
That got me thinking – and I came to the conclusion that (annoyingly) he was right. Because even though suddenly becoming single in my mid-40s meant I was free to go for the exact opposite of my ex-husband, I had to admit there are certain physical and character traits they both share.
The go-hard-or-go-home attitude, unshakable assertiveness, a firm belief a meal is incomplete without meat, a generous thigh circumference.
When I started signing up to the man shop (aka online dating) after my marriage split, it was the perfect opportunity to change who I went for. I could have filtered my searches to look for a completely different type to my ex-husband.
Maybe I should have done because, let’s face it, ‘alpha’ didn’t exactly work out brilliantly for me the first time around
Physically, I could have swapped front row on the rugby field for front row at the fashion shows. I could have ditched my preference for rugged and chosen rock star instead. Gone for a skinny body, poetic looks and flowing hair. Personality wise, I could have opted for a bleeding heart romantic, a man low on testosterone but high on sensitivity. Someone who would experience queue jumping, parking space snaffling or bill tampering and rather than muscle in to tackle the offender, would say nothing but inwardly think, ‘Karma will get you.’ I could have gone for a mild-mannered middle manager who actually reads furniture assembly instructions.
But the truth is that, although the above might sound appealing, it isn’t to me. Pop psychology alert! Maybe I am drawn to a stereotypically ‘manly man’ because I was missing an ever-present father figure in my own childhood. On the other hand, perhaps you can’t intellectualise these things too much: you just want what you want.
Recently I read an article by a dating expert who said research proved that there is a massive discrepancy in what people say they want in their online profile and what they truly want in real life. Daters claimed their number one requirements were kindness and loyalty. But when it came to choosing a date, what they actually prioritised was good looking and successful.
I’ve learnt through bitter experience that you need to dig deep into yourself to work out your relationship patterns and suss out what you are programmed to like. And then decide if those choices are what’s best for you.
But changing patterns is hard. I have a friend who goes for the unavailable man every single time. Married men, divorcing men, men who work abroad, men in the army. And she is continually disappointed because these guys don’t suddenly commit once their mission has been accomplished. There’s always a new mission.
Another friend, Tara, was so rigidly fixated on her type (tortured creatives) that she wouldn’t even contemplate others. But her relationships never ended well so my friend Sarah staged an intervention – she took over her dating apps and went through liking men Tara would normally swipe past. Tara acquiesced to an arranged date and was unconvinced by Sarah’s choice on date one. Sarah insisted she went on a second date and now Tara and her boyfriend have just moved in together.
I may not have done quite such a dramatic about-turn as Tara but while I haven’t changed my type, I have definitely tweaked it. I am still attracted to a typical alpha, but nowadays I also want him to have self-awareness, emotional intelligence and kindness. Thighs bigger than mine, however, will always be non-negotiable.