dear sharideth: i’m smarter than he is

Dear Sharideth,

I’m smart. Really smart. Like valedictorian-of-high-school-class, graduated-Summa-Cum-Laude-with-a-B.S.-in-Counseling-and-Clinical-Research, professors-knew-who-I-was-before-I-took-their-classes smart.

All that is well and good. The problem comes when this smart, knowledge-loving young woman catches herself falling for a young man who, while common-sensical, sometimes doesn’t know words like viscous or almanac. I don’t doubt his intelligence (he struggled with ADHD all through grade school), but his lack of academic knowledge and his technical school degree throw me off a bit.

I’m just getting to know him, since we only met in October. He seems genuine, sweet and kind, and it’s oddly endearing the way he sings loudly despite knowing he sounds like an injured and dying cat.

I don’t want to be an ass and dismiss him because he doesn’t know as much as I do. But I also don’t want to get caught up in someone I may become bored with because I can’t discuss the books I’ve read, or whatever other snobbish thing you can imagine.

Besides waiting it out to know him better, what advice would you give? Am I being an ass already by being concerned about this?

Guidance welcomed,

Smarty Skirt

dear SS,

first, don’t judge my grammar.  if you’ve been here more than one sentence, you already know it’s atrocious.

let me assure you, you are not being an ass.  the fact that you have been willing to see his quality and are asking the questions makes that pretty clear.

sometimes people’s intelligence shows itself in different ways.  it can be complimentary to a relationship.  Craig is smarter than i am in glaring and obvious ways, while i am smarter than he is in ways that are…less…noticeable.  it works for us.  besides, what you have stored in your brain isn’t always the best indicator of intelligence.

i knew three brothers with genius level IQs.  they had perfect recall for everything they had ever read.  they were unstoppable at bible quizzing.

they were also useless as human beings.  one drove a Yugo, for god’s sake.  absolutely zero common sense between the three of them, but they probably would have killed at Jeopardy.

i have also seen great wisdom in men who never made it past the 5th grade.

so where does that leave you?  i’m getting there.  scout’s honor. 

if the disparity in intelligence is too far apart, or the practical application so different that the common ground is only big enough to hold a bonzai tree, you should probably move on.  there’s no crime in that.  but if you think what he has to offer is a strength to your weakness, maybe give it a little more time.

however, if you feel yourself getting bored, AT ALL, that’s your answer.  he’s not for you.  you’re smart enough to know that the endearing stuff will wear thin and you still need to be able to talk over coffee for the long haul.  if you don’t see that happening, do both of you a favor and let it go.

and now i know i can’t do that Boy Scout finger salute thing before coffee in the morning.  we’ve all grown.

oh so sincerely,


what do you guys think?

have you ever been in a relationship where one of you was measurably smarter than the other?


25 comments on “dear sharideth: i’m smarter than he is

  1. Roger Tharpe says:

    I think your answer is great. There needs to be a sensible compatibility before two separate individuals try and unite as one.

  2. Jenn says:

    I struggled with this issue when doing online dating, one of the many reasons I stopped because education became a way of separating men. Sure on the surface it can be a helpful distinction but it doesn’t necessarily tell you how you will connect – for example I had much more in common with an artist I dated with no university education than a medical engineer, even in light of my working in medicine.

    That being said this is the one area I find single women get blamed for, being educated that is and that it means we cannot respect our partners – which is true some of the time. So I would add – if you can respect him fully even if he does not understand your educated areas of interested go for it.

  3. well, i am new to your blog, but i think you have a very sensible way of looking at things…i have the same issues with men; i am more often than not, smarter than the guy that i am dating…not saying that i am the most intelligent woman out there,however, the last two places i have lived and dated have been rural texas and west virginia,lol…so, yeah, you can imagine the slim pickings…
    the simple fact is, when you date, you have to know where it is going…i can be with a guy who is not so smart if all i want is a good time because as you put it, the fondness will wear off and you are left struggling for a conversation…so, casually dating is ok, long-term, not so much…

  4. Abby says:

    Contrary to my opinion in high school, I don’t find that education gives a complete picture of a person’s intelligence. That said, intelligence types (or whatever you want to call them) and knowledge play a role in compatibility. My self-evaluation question: How much do these factors effect our ability to relate to and communicate with each other? For instance, my highest intelligence is linguistic. Grammar and spelling errors don’t bother me but constantly not understanding my vocabulary does. I am less comfortable conversing with people who have significantly smaller vocabularies because I self-edit what I would like to say.

    • i totally agree abby…i have a rather extensive vocabulary, and when the guy (or any person really) is constantly asking me “what does that mean?”, it gets old, really fast…and worse yet, i have had guys tell me that i am trying to make myself seem better than them by confusing them with big words…lmao

      • Abby says:

        I’ve gotten that criticism about “confusing them with big words” too, and not only from guys. I honestly don’t mean to be confusing; sometimes the longer or more obscure word best expresses what I mean.

        • exactly…it is just the way i speak…to use a word that isn’t true to who i am, well, i think it does a disservice to me and that person because i am no longer being myself with them

  5. ThatGuyKC says:

    Sharideth, I think you gave some wise advice. Intelligence isn’t always measured by academic achievement and relationships are complimentary.

    Case in point: I am dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to cars. My wife grew up with them and loves changing the oil and getting dirty. My wife is also technologically challenged and has difficulty with her phone or computer sometimes. I’m a techie and can usually resolve her woes in moments.

    SS – I would suggest looking for things he can teach you. Maybe not singing though.

  6. JBen says:

    I think there is also the issue of respect. This isn’t going to work at all if she can’t learn to respect the intelligence that he has.

    And I’m not saying she needs to. But if the relationship is going to work, she will.

    I’ve dated girls and been interested in girls who were very smart, but they just didn’t care about the same things that I did. It made conversation with them really uninteresting. And I have a high value for interesting conversation.

    My wife is way smart. I love talking to her. I feel like we can each challenge the other person intellectually. That is one of many reasons I married her.

    So anyway, if she doesn’t respect this guy’s intelligence, he will notice and it will be no good. So she has to decide if she wants to learn how to or if it is time to go.

  7. But I also don’t want to get caught up in someone I may become bored with because I can’t discuss the books I’ve read, or whatever other snobbish thing you can imagine.

    Seriously, if that’s the only problem, then there’s a simple solution. Intelligent girl friends; happy-making, sensible boyfriend. A partner doesn’t have to be the only person in your life, or the only person with whom you have conversations about stuff. If he excites you and makes you happy in other ways, then get your snobby intellectual buzz from someone else (no insult intended, just using the same language as SS, and besides, I like to get my snobby intellectual buzz also). I’m assuming that, since you’ve been dating since October, that there are other things you like to talk about besides books and other imaginable snobbish things?

    Also: there’s nothing wrong with being the teacher in these areas and helping him to develop an interest, if he wants to.

  8. janakaye says:

    I’ve been thinking about this lately; my mom is school-smart, a great reader and learner, and went to nursing school after high school. My dad was the class prankster, dyslexic, bored with school and because he couldn’t pass spelling class (it was a requirement at the time!) for 3 years running, wasn’t allowed to take the higher-math and sciences classes he was really interested in.

    He never would have made it to university, BUT in his current job, he’s one of only 2 people at a high-level engineering job without a degree; he’s a creative inventor and problem-solver, and every company he’s ever worked for holds patents for systems and solutions of his invention.

    They got married when my dad was 23, and my mom 19.

    What would have happened if my mom had finished nursing school or university, and felt too educated compared to this Tech-school-certificate squirrelly guy who still can’t spell to save his life? (his e-mails are an affectionate running gag among his office mates)

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad that I had the chance to earn my BA, travel, read and study extensively, and do so many other things with my ongoing single years. But sometimes I feel that a main demographic of single educated women in general have somehow become culturally distant from a demographic of less-educated-but-hardworking single men, and the distance only seems to grow more significant.

  9. I have nothing to add since everything down my alley has been covered, but I thought this is both relevant and funny:

  10. CupidsElves says:

    This question does seem to come up a lot. I think there’s a tendency to place too much emphasis on having common interests. My husband and I met online, and I don’t think we had a single interest in common. As it turns out, we have a LOT in common, just not on paper. I’m a real bookworm, and I’ve met only one man in my life who’s read as much as I have- he was 30 years older and a card-carrying Communist. 🙂 I have girlfriends I can discuss books with- my husband has guy friends with whom he can talk about cars and transmissions and stuff. What really matters is that we relate on core values and what we want out of life.

    I LOVE intelligent, well-educated men, but that doesn’t have to mean a formal education. My grandfather had an 8th-grade education, but he taught himself the classics and was one of the best-educated people I’ve ever met. In the long run, intellectual curiosity and willingness to learn are far more important than degrees.

  11. asoulwalker says:

    She does sound like an ass. I don’t know if she is one in general… but there is no doubt in my mind that she sounds arrogant and pretentious. If she isn’t, good for her (and even better for him). If she is… well, I’d let him go. He can do nicer. And she can find a book-smart lad (if that is important to her). It is (as has been mentioned) important to note the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Kudos for bringing it up.

  12. Being a guy who didn’t go to college, I’ve had a hundred different thoughts going through my head about this post all day. Many of them have been mentioned in various comments, making it unnecessary for me to bring those up. But given my likelihood to be on the wrong end of this kind of situation, I feel like I have to say something. So…

    Frankly, it sounds like she’s so wrapped up in her own academic intelligence that she’s reluctant to accept someone who might be a complement without being an intellectual mirror image. That bothers me. He isn’t fascinated by the same books or doesn’t know words like viscous or almanac? So freakin’ what? On the list of things that truly matter for a successful marriage, might there be vastly more important attributes that he does possess that could serve to make you happy? Isn’t it possible for him to make you happy without being like you?

    Having said that, I do acknowledge that a substantial gap in intellectual capacity can be a major problem. But don’t overlook a guy just because he might not be the same sort of smart as you. A guy doesn’t need to be academic to be smart, and he doesn’t need to think like you to be a good match for you.

  13. Regan says:

    I’ve thought about this question a lot, but I almost never talk about it because it makes me sound like (and feel like) a pretentious know-it-all. I really connect with what Sharideth said: “If you feel yourself getting bored, AT ALL, there’s your answer.” I think that’s really true. If someone is way outside my intellectual range, I can talk to them just fine, but I will probably get bored pretty soon. But if they’re on an intellectual par, then we can discuss anything without too much confusion or boredom. And, I’ve found, that this doesn’t relate much to their academic achievements. I’ve had very intelligent conversations with guys who never went to college, and I’ve been bored by some people who have college degrees. I think a lot of it has to do with common interests as well. I mean, no, I don’t have to have all my interests in common with a guy, but enough so that I have something to talk to him about.

    But, again, it’s difficult to talk about. Because, when someone says, “Why don’t you date Bob?”, I don’t want to say, “But Bob is so unintelligent and boring!”

    • janakaye says:

      yeah, again true. I’ve been entirely bored by guys on “academic par” with myself, and had great conversations with people who never went to school, so measuring intelligence by academic achievement is overly simple.

      What concerns me is that academic degree often (not always) determines to some extent your social context. I was advised by a terribly annoying dating book to expand my “meet market” (not joking) by going to events outside of my comfort zone…like Nascar.

      Before you laugh or roll your eyes (no offense to those who love Nascar), my dad, the intelligent but dyslexic guy who barely survived high school LOVES Nascar.

      There are people to connect with in some way in many different social situations. I feel like sometimes my context has been narrowed by my academic and career choices, but social context is something that you can change. So I guess the book with it’s horrible terminology might not have been so far off 😀

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