The Issues Faced by GTs in Friendships and Marriage
Giftedness, when unrecognized, can make it very difficult to find peers with whom they can be friends on deep levels.
The biggest issue for the GT in friendships, dating and marriage is often the disparity in abilities, differences in interests and differences in perceptions and sensitivity between them and any real or potential partners in dating and marriage.
Giftedness, when unrecognized, can be an mysterious and often maddening obstacle in forming long-term relationships and marriages for both men and women.
It’s apparent that getting along socially is one of the challenges that many of us face throughout our lives,and forming a long term romantic relationship can be one of them. It’s seemed at times to me that others may hold back social feedback that may help us get over some of the hurdles that we face. I don’t pretend to be very good at working through the hurdles that I’ve noticed myself, so what I’m sharing on these matters is with the hope that I may help my fellow travelers.
Thinking back on my own experiences, I can see two obstacles from my youth that relate specifically to giftedness (and not to what may be more normal adolescent heartaches and struggles). First, there is the obstacle of outside interference — the firestorm of ridicule toward the romantic partner and/or the rumors and insinuations toward the romantic partner that may come as part of social bullying and sabotage of the gifted. Second, there is the obstacle of disparity of abilities and talents; if there is a wide gap the less gifted partner seems to feel a growing discomfort — or at least that’s my experience.
Giftedness can make it more difficult in finding compatible partners in terms of interests and abilities for long-term relationships and marriages for both men and women.
One of the best relationships that I ever had was a fairly brief outwardly platonic but romantically simmering friendship with the only woman I’ve dated that I know now was definitely GT. There was a freely humorous and serious yet madcap intellectual quality to our long conversations. There was a real attraction of the souls as well as a social compatibility and physical attraction. We knew that our lives were headed in two different directions, so that’s why it never lasted past the last few weeks of our final year of graduate school.
For myself, knowing that I am GT during my university years would have influenced me in a number of way, and friendships would have only been one of them. For example, I probably would have taken more time to view the university theater productions, concerts and recitals, and some of the other cultural activities. Though those weren’t ‘normal’ activities for a number of guys, I would have learned to recognize, accept and appreciate my aesthetic and artistic side much more at that age.
Giftedness can be an underlying aggravation of already existing problems when long-term relationships and marriages form for both men and women.
This is something which I’ve heard from fellow GTs who have been in failed marriages and those who are married to spouses who are not GT. The disparity in abilities and talents can make it even more difficult to find common ground and sustain a partnership. Sometimes a nonGT will even pursue a GT with the hope that he or she will be carried intellectually, vocationally, financially or emotionally by the GT partner. In these cases when problems arise, the disparity in abilities and interests often fuels the vehemence and stubbornness in a quarrel by the partner that feels himself or herself to be at a disadvantage.
One Way Friendships
One danger is the one way friendship — where we may believe that we’re closer to another person than we really are, or than the other person thinks we are. It’s OK to ask someone if that other person really is your best friend, or if you’re on the way to being there, etc. A lack of reciprocity is a signal to be cautious. But never think of any relationship as a last chance, do it or die, opportunity. It’s evident that there are enough people, including fellow GTs, who are looking for love and friendship in this world that there is hope after disappointment.
Throughout life, someone in leadership of a group may treat a GT like a teacher would treat a child who ‘has difficulty making friends.’ They will ask someone else to befriend that person, even if that person is an adult who is quite capable of making friends on his or her own. Sometimes this may even occur with some distorted perceptions of that other person passed on, and a request to report what that person may say. (Note that this last request is a solicitation of gossip and a request to violate scripture by betraying the confidence of a friend. I am frequently appalled by how easily some, even in Christian leadership, may solicit another person to commit one of the relational sins of scripture.)
This is a version of romantic sabotage which also happens from time to time. Many single people are amazed many times at the kind of people certain of their relatives and friends may try to ‘fix them up’ with. They may have very little in common; in fact, the prospective other may have deep problems with addictions, goals, employment or other major factors which disqualify this person from being a realistic long range romantic prospect. In some cases, this may not actually be insensitivity on the part of friends and relatives but a subtle kind of putdown. It may even be an attempt to attach someone to them that will drag them down in some way. Pretty much the solution is simply to hold fast to your own standards for dating and marriage.
Marriage as Mismatch and GT Exploitation
An unbalanced relationship in terms of abilities and interests can result when GTs become involved with nonGTs in long term relationships and marriage. Some fellow GTs have mentioned how nonGTs sought them out for relationships, and played on their habitual self deprecation and self effacement. The motive became apparent later on: these others were attempting to ‘ride’ the abilities of their partners to personal prestige and affluence. Eventually, the relationships disintegrated as the GT finally became aware that the reason that the other person had for being in the relationship was not an attraction to them as people. Rather, they were seen as people to be exploited for their abilities. They admitted later that they could have avoided these relationships if they had taken a harder and longer look at both the the character that these people showed over time and at the lack of shared interests, complementary abilities and common moral values.
Bad First Impressions and False Reputation
If getting a first date is a challenge sometimes, consider some type of personal makeover. This may change the image that others have formed of you. It may be simply a superficial change, but that’s where many opinions are formed. Getting positively noticed can be a good thing, though. Not being well groomed is one of the classic attributes of the stereotypical nerd or geek, and it is advantageous for a GT person to show the world otherwise.
It’s very realistic to realize that romantic relationships can also be arenas of intense competition and devious tactics. False friends who try to break up their relationships are a real danger. And the culprit may well be a person who would try to put down a GT person as someone not having social skills who already has a motive. Being able to form a viable romantic relationship, though, definitely challenges the stereotype of GTs some people have, and outside interference from those who are not real romantic rivals is a real possibility. This calls for calmly and honestly contradicting dirty tactics and maintaining boundaries of personal privacy and personal responsibility.
False Romantic Interests
Part of the social sewage sometimes directed against a GT is for someone to instigate others to ‘mess’ with that person for sadistic fun. Sometimes this can even take the place of a false romantic interest: someone who feigns romantic interest as part of a humiliating scheme. For anyone who puts his or her heart into the romantic arena, though, there will always be those who seek to take advantage of others and toy with their affections. Anyone, not just a GT person, needs to learn to make a dignified exit and keep a dignified distance from such people.
Mysterious Breakups and Brush-offs
For a GT person, trying to form a relationship with someone where there is a wide gap intellectually and aesthetically may result in some pretty denigrating refusals and breakups. It’s pretty ego deflating for someone to admit, "I don’t want to date you any more because your abilities threaten me," and the reasons offered for a breakup may seem pretty thin and fabricated. What is happening is that there is such discomfort with pursuing the relationship any further that a breakup is inevitable but the real reasons will remain hidden. Of course this isn’t the only possible reason but it’s a reason which GTs may encounter that others do not.
Learn to make lifelong friends, especially in the university years
The university years may in fact be one of the best times for GTs to make lifelong friends. It can really be a help to know that you’re GT and what that entails. I would have known to avoid certain false friends and to cultivate other relationships if I had been aware of what it meant to be GT at that age.
That aside, it’s OK to have a number of casual acquaintances and friendships. It’s been noted that GT people may put too much into a relationship too soon, and overwhelm a non-GT person with our emotional intensity, or if we see more potential in the relationship than the other person sees. It’s OK to let others get to know us a little at a time over a long period of time, and not to have a lot in common with everyone that we may hang around with at one time or another. Think of making contacts as an exploratory activity.
That being said, you may have the chance to meet people whom you find you want to be close with over a long period of time — including fellow GTs — and the university years are a good time to find these others over common interests. It’s probable that you might find more of a concentration of GT people in your own age group in the university setting than at any other time in your life. So it’s not like you need to wear a sign that says, "I’m GT", but more like a game where you’re pretending you’re a spy in a foreign country and figuring out who you can trust.
Gradually Grow Closer to Others
But as far as friendships go, if I had known that I was GT during my university years, I would have had more of an understanding for the strongly mixed signals and evidently mixed motives of several people who were in my life then. And I would have taken my own advice and sought to get to know more people socially, but I would have been more guarded and careful in those whom I shared my affections, hopes and dreams. It’s kind of like giving more of yourself in smaller installments to a greater number of people and leaving the sharing of more of your whole self to those who have shown themselves trustworthy.
Know Where a Relationship Is Going
If you get past the first date you may need to think about preparing for the ‘where’s this relationship going’ talk, since it may well come up later. This question may come up if either side does something to cross a boundary into what the other person considers a ‘more committed’ relationship.’ Requesting a change of venue to a reasonable time and place for this discussion or requesting some time to think about it are valid requests as well. The basic thing is to be honest with what you’re seeking in a relationship and avoid the appearance of demanding deeper commitment, desperation or giving too much to someone who will not return your affection or commitment.
GTs Often Need to Look Harder to Find Suitable Marriage Partners
To some extent that is what many look for in a marital partner. The GT may then need to do more than the average person to find someone with whom one can share his or her life, and often this person is another GT. It is not ‘elitism’ to seek someone capable of understanding oneself and sharing one’s interests and activities, but even the Genesis ideal of the ‘suitable helper’ and the ‘one flesh’ relationship seem to make this simply sensible. That being said, there are some things to keep in mind. First, the GT adolescent and adult must learn to look beyond the societal convention of basing romantic relationships substantially on looks and attraction. This would involve spending more time in actually getting to know the person with whom one is romantically interested. Second, the GT adolescent and adult must learn to look outside the usual peer groups and social circles in which other are finding their dating partners and long term romantic interests. If, in fact, the GT adolescent and adult is in an environment which is in any way socially abusive, this may in fact be crucial to developing mature patterns of relating to the opposite sex, where outside hostile interference might viciously intrude otherwise.
GTs Can Often Be the Best Friends for Other GTs
As far as seeking out fellow GTs, I’ve found that those that I’ve known in my own age group have been generally more trustworthy and understanding as friends, and we’ve shared more in common than others. It’s not snobbishness, but simply the recognition that there was more raw material there for a stronger friendship than in some other cases. And I’ve come to believe that there was some potential for friendships then with some others whom now I suspect were GT but at the time I didn’t see that potential. Having a trustworthy friend who can give honest and caring feedback and with whom one can share good and great experiences is a treasure that no money can buy.
It’s OK to Have Casual, Friendship Dates with a Number of Others Simply For Fun
There’s nothing wrong with dating someone just to have fun. Many times singles of all ages seek so hard to find THE ONE that they do not have fun and gain experience with the others of the opposite sex who are already all around them.
Relationships Don’t Always Go Through Predetermined Stages
When it comes to timelines and stages, though, in human romantic relationships, there will always be exceptions. Some pretty rotten marriages came from couples who dated for a long time but seemed to have never really worked out their life goals with their spouse or examined his or her character very closely. Some very long and satisfying marriages have also come from very brief dating periods, though. I grew up with the ‘date for at least a year and be engaged for a year’ courtship pattern, and I think that it was pretty workable during the later years of college and for a while beyond. Some adults that I know dated, became engaged and married during a lesser period of time, but they were already pretty secure in who they were and where they were going before they met, and it seemed like they were able to learn about each other pretty deeply over several months. It seems that the maturity that they had already achieved speeded up the process.
GTs Can Be Excellent Marital Partners and Have Excellent Marriages and Families
There are a number of factors in giftedness — intellectual and aesthetic depth, emotional sensitivity, compassion, insight into others, etc. — which can and do make the gifted person a satisfying romantic and life partner.
Follow the Standards of the Bible First
For a GT person who is a believer in Jesus Christ, though, this kind of compatibility needs to be pursued with someone with whom there are Biblical grounds for marriage.