Harry Styles. Tom Hiddleston. Joe Alwyn. Matty Healy. You have to admit it, Taylor Swift kinda (read: most definitely) has a type... Her penchants for a particular sort of man – in this case, slim-built men with English accents – have been evident throughout her dating history. So it was a little surprising for Swifties – and non-Swifties alike – that the singer’s rumoured new beau is none other than Travis Kelce; an all-American moustachioed NFL player who boasts a broad chest and a Vigilante friendship bracelet to boot.
The pair are yet to officially confirm their romance, but 33-year-old Swift was seen cheering on Kelce from the stands last week. The sportsman, 33, is worlds apart from her last long-term relationship with actor Alwyn, who was intensively private. A huge star in his own right, Kelce was even the subject of his own 2016 reality TV series Catching Kelce – which focused on finding him a girlfriend. So Taylor, why the sudden switch-up?
Is 'having a type' a legit thing?
Well, Swift isn’t an outlier when it comes to favouring a certain sort of love interest; research by dating site eHarmony found over half of all Brits have a set ‘type’ when it comes to meeting The One. And the reason why some of us are partial to certain attributes is deeply rooted in our evolutionary ancestors, explains Limor Gottlieb, a Doctoral Relationship Researcher at the Centre for Culture and Evolution at Brunel University London.
“Evolutionary psychology suggests we are drawn to certain physical attributes because they are drawn to reproductive fitness,” she explains to Cosmopolitan UK. “That is our biological mate preference.“We also tend to choose partners [who we deem to be] of similar mate value. Someone who is a seven doesn’t tend to aim for a ten over fear of rejection.” As weird as it may sound, our type is also based on our relationships with our parents and caregivers when we were children. Your taste in men? Well, it’s partly down to your mum and dad. “As humans, we’re very pattern-orientated,” relationship psychotherapist Jade Thomas explains. “We work on patterns that have worked in the past, so we think we’re just going to continue those cycles and patterns.
“We tend to choose partners based on our earlier experiences. If our parents and caregivers made us feel secure, we may look like similar qualities like that in a partner. If we repeat patterns that work in the past, and we end up forming really positive relationships with people then we keep the same sort of patterns.” It’s all very fine and well if the relationships we had in our early childhood are stable – but problems can arise if they’re more tenuous.
It depends on our attachment style, which develops when we’re young,” Gottlieb explains. “And then we tend to repeat this onto all our future relationships. If we have an insecure attachment style, it means we’re very insecure in relationships and we constantly seek reassurance from others. Someone with an anxious attachment style, who has a need to be close, tends to be attracted to avoidant partners who want freedom and are very distant. It’s such a common pattern.”
Even if we’re aware our type isn’t working for us, we get a sense of comfort in repeating patterns. The modern dating scene has reinforced our reliance in this ‘better the devil you know’ attitude. Apps such as Tinder and Hinge, which tend to be primarily image-focused, mean that we rarely see beyond physical attributes.
“We used to be able to unpack and get to know a personality,” laments Thomas. “Dating apps give the illusion of infinite choice – and so, if we don’t like the look of someone, or they don’t adhere to a particular image of what we want from someone, we can swipe left. It reinforces our idea of a type.”
Of course, when our idea of what we want in a partner becomes so narrow (ie – thin, British accent), it can deny us chances to make genuine connections with other people who could be more ideally suited for us. “Having a type is not necessarily a form of control, but adhering to such a rigid structure can be a means of exerting control over your dating choices,” Gottlieb explains. “If something is familiar, then we miss stepping outside of our comfort zone - that’s the only place we can grow. Dating outside our type can create novelty, and that can create attraction. When we approach dating, we have to be open minded and approach it with an open heart.
“We have to allow ourselves to be curious and be surprised by others. For all of that, we have to drop our expectations. There are so many other values: shared interests, and hobbies, that we can learn from another person, that can make us grow. If we just stick to one type, we tend to get stuck, as we miss opportunities for self-growth.”
“It’s almost quite comforting if we tell ourselves how this potential partner might be working based on past relationships,” agrees Thomas. “We reflect back to previous relationships and we start fortune telling, which is a form of cognitive bias or distortion.
“We need to remember that each person we date within our 'type' is a different person and experience. It’s important to remain open-minded.” However, that doesn’t mean we should force ourselves to date someone we have utterly no attraction to. When it comes to having a type, it’s about striking a balance between knowing what you’re attracted to without being entirely beholden to it. “We have evolved to have preferences in partners,” Gottlieb says. “It’s a mix of social and psychological factors that factor into our decision. We just have to challenge our perceptions and just explore other options to broaden our horizons, and ultimately have more meaningful connections with others.”
As things start to heat up between Swift and Kelce, could this be the start of a beautiful love story, even if he's not her usual style? Or will exploring outside her type lead to bad blood? Whatever the future holds for this pair, we're definitely ready for it.