I'm intimidated by my incredibly intelligent partner

Dear Alice,

I have just entered into my first real relationship with a guy that I really like. The problem is, he's incredibly bright. So much so that it intimidates me a little. He doesn't brag or make me feel unintelligent (and I know I'm not), it's just a part of who he is. He cares a lot about me, but I want to feel that our relationship is more than physical. I've always valued intelligence, and I really enjoy being with this guy, but there is an aspect of him that I'm not able to be a part of. Thanks for your help.

Dear Reader,

Your guy may be incredibly bright, but let it be said that you are, too. Having the courage to look at your relationship in a sophisticated way and seeking to understand it takes a high level of what some people call EQ, or emotional intelligence quotient. This is a person's ability to identify, understand, and manage their emotions, which can be helpful when trying to navigate your feelings about a particular relationship. In terms of why two people get along and make good romantic partners, the reasons for this connection can vary. Some couples share similar backgrounds, interests, beliefs, or goals, others may be intellectually or emotionally compatible, while others have a strong sexual connection. There's no exact science behind whether or not two people will make a good couple, as each person brings their own unique talents and perspectives to the activities and communication that happen within a relationship.

Now, take a moment and think about your relationship with your guy and how you two interact with one another. What do you usually do when you two hang out? What do you guys talk about and who does most of the talking? What happens if you say something? Does he listen and ask questions, or does he interrupt, finish your sentences, or put down your opinions? Are you able to share your viewpoints with him or have you shied away from doing so? How much time do you spend talking or doing something (volunteering, studying, listening to music, seeing a movie) versus how much time is spent being physical or intimate? How comfortable are you with this balance? Answering these questions may allow you to gain an even deeper understanding of your feelings about your relationship with your guy.

Additionally, it might help to spend some time thinking about why your guy makes you feel a bit intimidated. You say he cares about you a lot and doesn't brag about his intelligence or make you feel unintelligent. Could there be, or have there been, other experiences in your life that may be causing you to doubt yourself? So often, insecurities have much more to do with internal feelings and perceptions (either due to childhood patterns, cultural messages, personality, or current situations) rather than how other people act. Talking with your friends and family might help you identify and see examples of your wonderful, unique qualities. After thinking about these issues, it may also be helpful to talk with your guy about how you've been feeling and give him an opportunity to share his views. If you come to the conclusion that you can't be a part of your guy's intellectual side, you'll have to decide if this is okay with you or not. You may decide that you want to be with someone with whom you'll always feel comfortable bantering. On the other hand, you may begin to see this as an opportunity for each of you to teach and learn from one another.

If your guy makes it plain that he likes you a lot — by listening when you're talking, respecting your beliefs, and encouraging you to do things you enjoy, then it may be that he finds you a refreshing complement. In that case, his intellect is something for you to become familiar with and grow to enjoy, if you choose. Sometimes you might feel like being a brainiac yourself, while other times you might feel like just listening. Either way, it's wise to make sure to remember the other things you contribute to your dynamic duo that your guy may value in you: a caring ear, fancy dance moves, a vast knowledge of the hippest music, or the other parts of yourself that make you, and subsequently your relationship, special.

Hope this helps!

Last updated Mar 18, 2022
Originally published Feb 27, 2004

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