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I’m not blind to the fact that in polite society one is often expected to downplay their talents—or really anything that isn’t negative or self-deprecating.
Given this truth, I can tell you that I am terribly uncomfortable writing this article. I tried to write it in third person, but I began to resent this expectation that we must be self-effacing, as it felt hypocritical.
There’s this line in a Sherlock Holmes story that I read as a kid that has stuck with me all these years:
“I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.”
Of course, if Sherlock Holmes was alive today, he’d likely be the victim of many Twitter pile-ons. I’ve seen it happen to the Dalai Lama, so there’s no good reason to think Holmes might’ve been spared.
And speaking of Holmes, it’s not a coincidence that he was never written with a love interest. Except for some unique exceptions, highly intelligent people often struggle mightily with romantic relationships. And even though this is typically blamed on the person in question being “self-involved,” oftentimes that descriptor is an umbrella term to describe much more nuanced behavior.
Let’s dissect that uncharitable and dismissive umbrella with this list of 10 reasons why most intellectual overachievers suck at love:
1. They place a high value on productivity
Pastimes never really figure prominently on the list of priorities for most highly intelligent people. The word itself suggests a frivolous use of “time.” All the brilliant people I know feel most comfortable when they are setting ridiculous goals and pushing toward them every moment they have to themselves. It’s an admirable trait but a death sentence when it comes to cultivating romantic relationships.
2. Their mind is their comfort zone
Most people know that a superb way to alienate a relationship partner is to spend most of their time in their own head. If you find yourself being asked questions such as, “Are you even listening to me?” or “Hello? Are you in there?” this might even be you. Take comfort in the fact that you are an erudite being because there’s at least an even chance that your love affair is not going to make it past the first few months. In fact, you might even wind up in an Elephant Journal article about lonely relationships.
3. They’re intellectually intimidating
There is a tendency for incredibly intelligent people to actually be human. That being said, they are attracted to other things besides intelligence. Even though it has become fashionable for people to self-identify as sapiosexuals, there’s usually the caveat that the guy be at least 5’ 10” or the lady have great curves. Given that, it’s not uncommon for people who are not intellectually compatible to find themselves in a relationship. A short-lived one, but a relationship nonetheless.
4. Most of their recreational activities don’t include others
Relationships tend to thrive when two people spend time socializing at bars, attending sporting events, and kayaking (which, for some odd reason, everyone on dating sites claim they love to do.) On the other hand, reading voraciously, writing poetry and prose, and playing a musical instrument may start out almost as an aphrodisiac but will generally become a point of contention as Facebook statuses are getting ready to change.
5. Their hearts are directly connected to their minds
No relationship is 100 percent perfect, so when things get to the point of seeming untenable—which happens in every relationship sooner or later—most regular people feel too attached or sentimental or even fearful to move on. Highly intelligent people don’t consider those hindrances. If something is a drag and it shows no sign it will ever improve, logic will prevail. Game over.
6. They are just happier in their own company
This happens to me more times than not, but I am coming to an acceptance of it. With most of my waking hours during the week working and about two-thirds of my weekend engaged in full-contact parenting, the need to be alone weighs heavily on me. Even though I love to fantasize about a great relationship, I’m not sure it’s in the cards.
7. They’re not used to settling for anything
Whenever I would bemoan the fact that I just wasn’t finding anyone I really liked online, my friend from work would always remind me that “we” are older now, and it was in my best interest to stop aiming so high when I peruse the dating sites. “These days, we really have to take what we can get.” I suppose for some people anything is better than being alone, but I’m only going to forfeit my time alone for someone who will improve upon that experience—not just change it.
8. Their communication is not user-friendly
Great non-fiction writing tends to be logical and linear—an exercise in constructing one point on top of another until one’s argument is clear and persuasive. Try doing this when your lover is sad or upset and you’ll find yourself trying to dislodge a screwdriver from the sidewall of your front tire. Effective communication in relationships require a person to almost disregard the words being said and focus primarily on the emotions. Not every intellectual person possesses emotional intelligence or, more accurately, the desire to become better at that skill.
9. They analyze the hell out of everything
Most people take things at face value. It’s truly healthier to be that way. Most super brains are drawing inferences about the quality of your formative years after you’ve dropped a pen on the linoleum. It kills the idea of being in the moment and usually damages romances in their early stages.
10. They don’t like being told what they can’t do
I mean no one really likes that. The thing is, with people who are well-versed at maintaining long-term relationships, there is a marked acceptance to the inevitability of compromise and give and take. I’m not entirely sure if the inability to do this well comes from a lack of experience or a lack of desire but it doesn’t make a difference. It makes things really hard.
Before you click the “sapiosexual” box on your Tinder profile, think twice. You might just be asking for a three month train wreck. The sex is usually great, but that just makes it worse when you’re wishing you never even met the person.