Mondays With Marlo: Relationship Expert Dr. Gonzaga

09/12/2011 10:40 am ET | Updated Nov 07, 2011

Relationship expert Dr. Gonzaga joined me to answer all of your questions about love, marriage, the laws or attraction, and more!

We had so many questions coming in for Dr. Gonzaga that we just couldn't get to them all! Luckily, Dr. Gonzaga took the time to answer this question from Roxanne, which I think a lot of us have wondered at one time or another:

"I seem to only be attracted to one specific type of guy – is there a science behind that? And is there any way to break the pattern?"

Roxanne, there are a lot of things that go into attraction and partner selection and yes there is a science behind it. Often people find themselves in patterns of one type of partner that never turns out well. We at eHarmony Labs have written about some of the interesting reason like interpersonal transference or rejection sensitivity before but there are other potential reasons for why this happens. For example, sometimes people keep looking in the same place, which leads them to the same type of person, or they are at a time of life when not a lot of people are ready for relationships. But the most interesting one is when people act out a self-fulfilling prophecy

People carry all sorts of expectations into relationships and those expectations can have profound impacts on your relationships. One of the things psychologists have researched is attachment styles, or the beliefs and expectations that people carry about relationships. For example, when someone has an anxious attachment style, they believe that they are not worthy of a relationship and expect it will fail. This causes people to change their behavior in ways that make the relationship less likely to succeed and people are often not even aware that it is happening.

For example, if a partner doesn’t call when they promise to, an anxiously attached individual may be scared that it means their partner no longer cares for them and start demanding inappropriately large displays of affection and commitment. This overreaction may have the opposite effect than was intended and make the partner less happy and more likely to pull away from the relationship, because they don’t feel trusted. But that is what the anxiously attached person expected to happen (the partner pulling away), so their beliefs changed their behavior which made their belief come true.

These expectations can be hard to change because they can be rooted deeply in your psychology, but change is possible. As people gain more experience in relationships, especially those that are trusting and secure, they tend to move towards what is known as a secure attachment style. People with secure attachment styles believe that relationships will turn out well and that others are trustworthy. That belief also turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy that ends up in a satisfying and healthy relationship. People with insecure attachment styles can also get professional help to make the process of change go faster. (There is a third attachment style called avoidant attachment where people believe that other people are not trustworthy, so they avoid intimacy and close relationships).

So Roxanne, there are many reasons you may find yourself with the same type of person again and again. I can’t be sure of what the exact reason is, but if you take the time to figure out why it is happening, you will learn more about yourself and be more likely to find a healthy and happy relationship.

If you want to find out more about this, you can read my blog “But the guys I date are always jerks!” which is also on eHarmony Advice.

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