Are you stuck in a dating rut that you can’t seem to find a way out of? Then maybe it’s time you tried “con dating”.
According to dating site Plenty of Fish, which coined the term, counter-dating is defined as “dating outside of your usual ‘type’.”
Consistently looking for partners with similar physical attributes, personality traits, or personal or professional interests can limit your dating pool. You may be excluding some quality people you like without realizing it.
A 2023 Plenty of Fish survey of UK singles found that 59% had been on a contra date. A third of respondents said that they changed things because they did not manage to maintain their type in the past.
Eva Gallagher, dating expert at Plenty of Fish, says she recommends counter dating to “singles who want to get out of their comfort zone and change up their dating experience.” Maybe you’ve always been attracted to the same type of people because they feel familiar to you, but time and time again you realize that you’re not really a good match.
“We can really get boxed in by what we think we want and need, and we don’t leave room for other people to surprise us.”
– Myisha Battle, sex and dating coach
“It’s important to introspect and dive deeper into what you’re looking for and then cast a wider net,” Gallagher says.
“For example, perhaps all of your exes worked in finance, but their schedules always conflicted with yours, causing limited time together, which ultimately led to the end of the relationship. When you stop for a moment and reflect on what it is that draws you to these people in common, you will realize that it has more to do with the qualities they possess, such as discipline and passion, than that they work in the same field.”
Reflecting more deeply on these patterns and clarifying what you’re really looking for in a partner will help you find someone “who better fits your needs,” Gallagher says.
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“Contra-dating” was named by the site Plenty of Fish as the top dating trend of 2024.
Sex and dating coach Myisha Battle, author of “It’s Supposed to be Fun,” told Talk News that she loves the idea of dating against type and always recommends it to her clients.
“We can really get boxed in by what we think we want and need, and we don’t leave room for people to surprise us,” Battle said. “In my book, I encourage readers to throw away their list of potential partner qualities for this reason. I think this is especially helpful when dating people outside of a particular racial or ethnic preference that person may have.”
It’s common for people to narrow their dating criteria over time, “often as a protective mechanism,” says licensed clinical social worker Nicole Saunders, owner of Therapy Charlotte in North Carolina.
“But the downside is that they may overlook individuals who still have the core qualities they are looking for in a partner,” he told Talk News.
That said, there are some criteria for a potential partner that you may not want to compromise on — and those specific qualities will vary from person to person. Stay true to some of your most important non-negotiables, Saunders says, but try to be more flexible on others.
“Non-negotiables may include preferences regarding having children, work-life balance, religion, gender, or certain lifestyle elements, such as sobriety or fitness,” says Saunders. “Outside of these few non-negotiables, it’s OK to be flexible with qualities like physical appearance, income, employment, previous children, previous marriages, and so on.”
How to Meet People Outside Your Type
If you’re trying to meet people through dating apps, start with more caution, Battle advises, because “the apps will show you more of what you like, which can be very limiting.”
Notice if there is a pattern in terms of the types of people you swipe left on versus the people you swipe right on. “Are there people you could benefit from by swiping right to give yourself a broader and more diverse group of people to choose from?” said the battle.
When trying to meet new people in person, Saunders recommends doing something outside your comfort zone. Maybe there’s an activity, hobby, or class you’ve always been interested in but never took. Now is the time to give them a chance, he said.
“Join a hiking group, sign up for a language class, try a new sport, or visit a new church,” says Saunders.
Mongkhonkhamsao sexan via Getty Images
Signing up for a new class or activity is a great way to meet new people.
Battle also suggests attending events or joining spaces “that bring you a lot of joy” and seeing who you might meet there.
“The people there may not be exactly who you envision your future partner to be, but at least you’ll know you have similar interests, and it’s a great place to start conversations and connections,” says Battle.
Expanding your dating horizons doesn’t mean you’re satisfied either. You simply open yourself up to new people and possibilities that you previously ignored or pushed aside. So have fun, says Gallagher.
“Meeting new people is fun and can be a great opportunity for us to learn more about ourselves and our own needs,” he said.