The Soho Sex Column: Is focusing on my ‘type’ holding me back?

The Soho Sex Column: Is focussing on my 'type' holding me back or giving me focus? | Soho House

This week, our resident sexpert Olivia Petter discusses the concept of a romantic ‘type’ and whether it does more harm than good when dating

Friday 23 September 2022   By Olivia Petter   Illustration by Darren Shaddick

A friend of mine recently started dating someone new. ‘He’s really hot, seems genuinely nice, and makes his bed every morning, which is so rare these days,’ she told me over lunch. What’s the problem? ‘He’s just not my type,’ she replied, hunching her shoulders like an emoji. So? ‘He owns an estate and goes shooting. Not photos, like animals. I just can’t see myself with someone like that.’ 

By this, she meant that this man was, unlike her ex-boyfriends, from a very wealthy family – and blonde. He had completely different interests to her, a different lifestyle, and friends with names like Barnaby and Atticus. 

‘But you like him?’ I asked her. ‘I really do.’

The concept of types is complex. Predicated in the idea that we’re attracted to a singular set of features, a type reduces us all to avatars in a strange horny video game. Just because someone meets a specific set of criteria doesn’t mean they’re our soulmate. In short: it’s odd. And yet, it’s ubiquitous.

Consider the rigorous lexicon of Love Island. Everyone who enters the villa is almost immediately asked the same question: what’s your type? Many like to think they’re above it all – cue countless smug pre-rehearsed ‘I’m more into personalities’ soliloquies – but they’re in denial. When it comes to dating, we all have preferences. 

They could be based on aesthetics – ‘tall, dark and handsome’ is practically a jingle on Love Island – or traits, like ‘kind, generous and funny’. They could stretch to politics, diets, TV genres, pets, and even fetishes. Who are we to tell you what kind of person you like to shag? 

None of this is a problem. In fact, it’s good to know what you’re looking for. It will help you to separate the meat from the fat, so to speak. The issue comes when clinging on too tightly to your ‘type’ – and refusing to stray from it – means you might be missing out on other people better suited to you. 

This is one of my main gripes with dating apps. They are reliant on users knowing exactly what they want. If someone’s profile meets your specific set of criteria: right swipe. If they don’t: left

But do we ever really know what we’re looking for until we’ve found it? Think of all the couples you know. Ask them how they met, or if they fancied each other at first, and I guarantee you many of them will regale you with variations of ‘I never thought I’d end up with someone like them’. The serendipity of it all will thrill them. And rightly so.

The point is that you should not discount those who come into your life just because they don’t match up with the ‘type’ of person you think you should be with. Yes, have an idea of what you want, but don’t limit yourself to a specific hair colour, body type, background, career, or anything else. 

Ultimately, these are superficial factors. And while it can be comforting to lean on them, giving you some sense of direction in this convoluted dating landscape, doing so too heavily will only hinder your chances of finding love. Take my friend, who, after three months of dating, is now exclusive with the man who makes his bed every morning. 

Keep an open mind, dear reader, and you might just find yourself drawn to someone you didn’t expect. Someone who changes everything. 

The quick-fire round

My boyfriend is not happy that I’m friends with one of my exes, even though the ex is now married
I can understand why this might be frustrating. Try to understand where your boyfriend’s issue stems from. Is he jealous? Threatened? If you harbour absolutely no romantic feelings towards this ex, and your relationship is completely platonic, you just need to do whatever you can to reassure your boyfriend of this fact. Why not suggest a pub lunch with the ex? If he sees the two of you together, it might put him at ease. 

I’m in my early forties, but only attracted to men in their late twenties to mid-thirties – is this wrong?
Not necessarily, no. Age-gap relationships are very common and they are rarely an issue. Just make sure your attraction to younger men doesn’t come from an unhealthy place, e.g. wanting to feel financially or professionally superior to your partner. Generally speaking, though, it’s not wise to limit yourself to a specific age range and refuse to date people your own age – don’t make me bring up DiCaprio again.

Got a question for Olivia? Please email All submissions will remain anonymous. 
Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at The Independent and author of Millennial Love, which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate

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