Smarter than my boyfriend...

Originally Published: February 17, 2006 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: December 5, 2008
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Dear Alice,

I know this might sound a little vain, but I am smarter than my boyfriend and it's starting to get to me! We have been dating for about eight months, and our relationship was great when we lived together in our hometown. However, in August I moved here for grad school, and since then I have been getting more and more annoyed and resentful of the differences between us — I have to walk him through stuff that makes perfect sense to me, he doesn't read the newspaper or care about politics, and frankly I always thought I would marry a man that could be my equal. Is this really important? Should I ignore the nagging feelings and get over myself? He has a lot of other good qualities and I do care for him deeply, but the more I think about my future, and having to be the leader in the relationship, the less sure I am about our compatibility. HELP!

— Grad Student

Dear Grad Student,

It's great that you aren't ignoring those nagging feelings. Doubt and confusion are usually there for a reason, and a little honesty and detective work will almost always help you figure out what's irking you and why. 

A good relationship is as much about differences as it is about similarities, but everyone has a bottom line. It may help you to sit down and write a list of which qualities and characteristics you absolutely must have in a partner, keeping in mind that a completely perfect person would probably be boring or just plain intimidating. No one person can meet all your needs — that's why good friendships can be crucial to the survival of a romantic relationship. If you think hard and be creative you might be surprised about what's really most important to you in a relationship. Once you have a list, you can start thinking about how your boyfriend fits into the picture.

Also, remember that you've just begun a new phase in your life!  Starting grad school or any other major endeavor can create a huge stress on a relationship, as each person's needs, focuses, and experiences change and grow in new directions. If you and your boyfriend are dating long-distance, this can put an added strain on your relationship. In addition, your boyfriend may feel left out of your new adventure, and intelligent or not, may have trouble expressing his feelings about your move to grad school.

Probably one of the most valuable things you can do is talk to your boyfriend honestly, gently, and respectfully about what's on your mind, and what you need and want. Pay attention to the word 'gently': rather than telling your boyfriend you're frustrated that he's not the sharpest knife in the kitchen, you could begin by expressing your concern that he doesn't seem interested in things that are important to you, like school and politics. Who knows, maybe by talking you will find out he is frustrated that you don't understand something important to him.

In the end, the best test of whether you two are compatible might not be your I.Q.s, but how successfully you communicate and support each other through the changes and "bumps in the road" of your lives and relationship. Whether you decide to stick with your boyfriend or move on, you may need to be prepared to do some serious thinking and consideration — either on your own, with your close friends, or with your boyfriend. Although good relationships are a lot of work, it is ultimately up to you to decide what qualities you need to have in both a relationship and a partner.

Good Luck!
Alice

December 4, 2008

21498
Hi!

I'm also in the same situation. My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year now, which has included the first four months of medical school. Even though it frustrated me at first that he...

Hi!

I'm also in the same situation. My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year now, which has included the first four months of medical school. Even though it frustrated me at first that he didn't want to talk about politics or school, after talking with him about it, I realize that much of his reluctance was not a lack of interest, but rather a lack of exposure. Even though he doesn't always read the newspaper or stay up to date on current events, he's more than happy to talk over an issue that I bring up (and even debate it from time to time!). In addition, I realize now that there are many different types of intelligence — he may not have gone to college, but he can fix anything, and for everything I've taught him about medicine or politics, he's taught me something about fixing cars or plumbing... you name it! Find out what your boyfriend's interests are — and ask questions! You'll gain a new respect for his knowledge and he'll gain satisfaction that your exchanges are less one-sided!

Good luck!

September 28, 2007

21343
I am currently dating someone less intellectually capable than myself and have dealt with the same questions. I've dated plenty of intelligent, successful men (an attorney, diplomat, military officer...
I am currently dating someone less intellectually capable than myself and have dealt with the same questions. I've dated plenty of intelligent, successful men (an attorney, diplomat, military officer, etc) but have never had as much fun as I do with my current boyfriend. I am intellectually challenged at work and by a couple of friends I communicate with regularly via email.

The only time I really find myself frustrated is when he cannot understand a situation from someone else's perspective. That drives me wild at times, but I know his simplistic passion for life, commitment to me, and sense of humor trump everything he may not understand (not to mention his love of children). This may not be the case for you of course — many of my friends cannot understand how I date him, but we have a great time together and I don't feel like he is holding me back — simply adding another (much needed) dimension to my life.

March 28, 2007

21224

Dear Alice,

I was in this situation myself, and the issue kept on nagging at me. I had dated him a total of nine months, and I just broke it off two months ago. He was a great person, and...

Dear Alice,

I was in this situation myself, and the issue kept on nagging at me. I had dated him a total of nine months, and I just broke it off two months ago. He was a great person, and he had a lot to offer in other ways. I guess the bottom line is how much does it really bother you? In my case, I made the right decision.

There are many fish out in the sea, and you should never stay with someone out of fear that you will not find someone else. Ultimately, to be happy, you have to follow your heart. Don't rush into a decision either way. I took four months to seriously think this one over. Good Luck!

February 15, 2007

21189

Hey,

I'm in the same situation with my boyfriend... I feel like I've lowered myself slightly to be with him. We don't talk about philosophical or abstract things ever, and sometimes I...

Hey,

I'm in the same situation with my boyfriend... I feel like I've lowered myself slightly to be with him. We don't talk about philosophical or abstract things ever, and sometimes I really want to. I hardly ever use big words when I'm around him for fear of him misunderstanding me. He is the one I'm with, so I should be able to talk to him right? In a perfect world yes, but our world isn't perfect, and that's what makes it so great.

Cherish all the good qualities you have with your boyfriend and save the smart talk for your friends. Sometimes debating about life's questions gets to be annoying, and it drains the lust out of a relationship. So, perhaps it's a good thing that we're smarter than our boyfriends... We can also train them to act accordingly. :)

August 16, 2006

21123

Hi, Alice!

This is a response for Grad student in Smarter than my boyfriend...

I just want to let you...

Hi, Alice!

This is a response for Grad student in Smarter than my boyfriend...

I just want to let you know that I am currently struggling with the EXACT same situation: I'm in grad school and feeling like my boyfriend and I are on a different page intellectually. I have not figured it out yet but I have some thoughts:

  • Academia is not necessarily representative of the "real" world and often feels isolating from the majority of the population who are not immersed in it.
  • If my emotional and physical (i.e., sexual) needs are fulfilled by my boyfriend, then isn’t that THE most important thing? I can certainly get my intellectual needs filled elsewhere.
  • Think about what your boyfriend does offer to you and your life AND don’t forget that it is important that you have things to offer him as well. My previous boyfriends usually led the way and I often found that inhibiting or stifling; it’s nice for a change to feel respected and to feel like “Wow, I actually have a lot to offer to someone” rather than only thinking “What can this person offer to me?”
  • Are we making excuses because of a fear of commitment, a commitment that can potentially be serious and long-term? How do I know if I am acting on intuition or acting on fear?
  • Does indecision plague other areas of our lives?

Like I said, I have not reached any concrete conclusion myself, but I hope this is insightful to you in some way.

— Struggling with smarter than my boyfriend

June 23, 2006

21098

Dear Alice,

I adore Alice's advice, yet here I'd like to put in my two cents: I think Alice was a little soft. Although no problem is as simple as "s/he's not smart enough for me...

Dear Alice,

I adore Alice's advice, yet here I'd like to put in my two cents: I think Alice was a little soft. Although no problem is as simple as "s/he's not smart enough for me," there are clearly differences in intelligence/education/understanding that separate people greatly. Shoot, if there weren't we'd rarely have a disagreement!

I think what you have to keep in mind is who you are and how you feel. Is it destructive for you personally to go through the reiteration? Does it make you feel like he cannot be as great of a companion to you? Do you think that perhaps you yourself have an intelligence complex and your fear of being less intelligent than others is put in the spotlight your boyfriend's weaknesses?

Perhaps some mulling over these questions will help you decide. And then after that you really need to follow your gut and make a choice. There really are a bunch of fish in the sea, a large school of fish, if you will.

Sincerely,

One Who Makes the Others in the Shed Jealous Due to His Sharpness