My friend once told me about an event she attended with several other leaders in the field of gifted education. As they were sitting and talking with each other, a theme started to emerge in their discussion regarding the many years they each had spent looking for deep connections that would result in long term romantic relationships. Out of everyone in the group the vast majority were on their second or third marriages. And they all spoke of trying to find something that seemed to be missing in their life that their first marriages did not satisfy.
The reason my friend was telling me about this revelation and their interesting discussion at that event was because she also was on her third marriage and I was questioning whether I should stay in my second.
I've kept our discussion in mind as I ventured forth into the world since that time. And I continually meet intense gifted women and men who have had multiple marriages and unsatisfactory relationships. Perhaps because I am looking for such examples, but also perhaps it is that being an intense gifted person often leads to having a love life that is never satisfying enough- or at least that takes quite a while to perfect.
There are always exceptions. I know several very intelligent people who seem to be (and have been determined formally to be) gifted who are happily content with their first and only marriage. I am constantly in awe of this type of specimen. I imagine that these people fall into another type of gifted adult category that is different than my own, and that of my multi – marriage friends. Perhaps they are less emotionally intense. Or they have strong convictions (religious, familial, or otherwise,) that they can somehow follow better than others do. Or maybe they are more introverted or possess other characteristics that help them settle down with one person at home and truly be content.
I'm actually not sure what the difference is, and I'm not sure if I envy them or pity them. (And of course that depends on my mood!) And who is to say how happy they are, or how long it will be before they too are on to another relationship. You never know how truly happy someone is. And sometimes you don't even know how unhappy you are until you see or feel something else that you believe will make you happier.
So what is it that makes gifted women continue to search the world for something that they claim is missing in their hearts? And how long does it take after meeting someone who they once thought was "their missing piece" before they realize they are still missing something?
And more importantly, is it possible to actually find the real missing piece at some point and live "happily ever after?" Is there only one piece missing- or do we put many missing pieces together with many different people over time?
I have spent a lot of time researching relationship issues and thinking about gifted adult relationships. And yet I am still left pondering the same questions I started with. All relationships are complicated. And gifted people tend to gravitate towards complex issues and high-level thinking patterns. Just as it is often stated regarding gifted children, gifted adults create their own complexities in life to keep their brains busy- be it learning new information, traveling, meeting new people, and/or trying new things. The search for someone who can keep up with an intense gifted person and continue to challenge and stimulate their minds is a difficult one. And with the statistics showing that gifted people are only the top 2 to 5% of the population, and that people usually gravitate to others within 10% of their own IQs, it's no wonder that a gifted adult may struggle to find a good match.
It would be very interesting to study divorces and the correlation with intelligence. However there are more variables that go with divorce than intellect. Things such as socio-economic status, extended family and friends relationships and support, children's issues, religious issues, and other issues most definitely play a role in any relationship. But after isolating those issues, the question could be discussed and analyzed regarding whether there are more multiple marriages and divorces within the population of individuals with high intellect and gifted characteristics and traits, or not.
There is a lack of research about the "missing pieces" that gifted women (and probably men) are looking for that they are not finding in their first relationships. A survey of gifted individuals who divorced their first spouses could help us isolate the most popular issues in such doomed relationships.
One possible hypothesis regarding the "missing pieces" is that first marriages are often based on superficial relationship indicators like attractive looks and those who are socializing in similar age groups at that particular time (such as in friendship circles during high school and college study years), as well as limits such as geographical location. Many first, young-adult courtships begin from working relationships between people in the same jobs (which may or may not be the jobs that they "want to be when they grow up," and often are jobs of convenience when people are just starting out.)
As gifted people grow up and develop they go through many stages of intellectual and social-emotional growth that out paces other individuals who may not be gifted or who have different types of intensities and focus/interest areas. This is due to the different way gifted brains process information (brains of those with high intellect had characteristics that differed from other brains, including a cortex that thickened and thinned at different times and during different ages than others. How the Gifted Brain Learns, D.A. Sousa, http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/32712_Sousa_%2528Gifted_Brain%2529__Ch1.pdf) and the asynchrony that often presents along with high intellect (gifted children experience inner experiences that cause them to present as many different levels or ages depending on the situations. Many Ages at Once, L. Rivera, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-synthesis/201201/many-ages-once).
Some personality types and gifted intensities may work better with other people's gifted characteristics and intensities. A Myers Briggs personality test may not adequately measure a gifted person's compatibility with another person because it does not take into consideration the overexcitabilities and the intense reactions and quick growth (both emotionally and academically) of a gifted individual.
Another personality issue that may come up in gifted adult relationships is the issue of novelty. It is quite possible that beginning relationships settle into the monotony of real life quicker then gifted young adults are ready for. So the combination of immaturity, the regular stresses of any new marriage (including financial and communication hurdles that occur when living with anyone for the first time,) combined with the gifted person/s' need for interesting and new experiences may create extraordinary stress on individuals who may not have the coping skills for it.
And then there is the issue of risk-taking. Some gifted people with emotional intensities also tend to search for situations that create the adrenaline rush and challenge that gives them new things to think about and explore. Risk-taking is a way of creating complexities and pushing the limits of socially acceptable behavior and can be done in both positive and negative ways. Those gifted individuals who continue to pursue academic and career goals against the odds are seeking rewards that are socially acceptable and encouraged; while those who are doing illegal activities like taking drugs or stealing would be considered as acting outside of socially acceptable norms. In any relationship there is an element of risk- it's not guaranteed that your relationship will last forever or that each of you will take the same care of the children if you even have any, or that you will make it through the multitude of dangers in life and survive the next ten years. But when the individuals have a mismatch of how risk-tolerant they are it can create many problems with mistrust and fear and even financial dilemmas. First marriages are built during the formative years- the years while both parties are still figuring out their own risk levels and testing relationship boundaries.
Some spouses may continue to take more risks than the others do, and disagreements regarding morality, loyalties, and acceptable behaviors create strife. A strong marriage or partnership may be able sustain continued disagreements or violations of trust, but sometimes the ability to balance the disagreements and disappointments that come from crossed boundaries and broken trust with the long term love and commitment to the relationship come after a person has already experienced failure. Therefore, relationships that we start later in life may have more accepting and forgiving characteristics if the spouses have lived through past relationships where they gave up too early on someone who did something they considered unacceptable such as had an affair, lost control of finances, had addiction issues, etc. Often people enter partnerships believing that these types of behaviors should not be tolerated and we create hard lines and walk away from imperfections more easily. But when they are older and have experienced more of life's hard knocks, they may be more accepting of others' disgraces and more willing to be a friend and partner than just a spouse.
Committed relationships are a lot of work. The day to day life with a highly intelligent, intense, and active gifted person is even harder than most outside of the relationship may ever imagine. Gifted characteristics create anxieties and emotional highs and lows that rival many mental disorders at times (there are entire books on these issues alone, and a national initiative to combat mental/medical misdiagnosis in gifted people is ongoing.) The social skill gaps and a gifted person's ability to focus on something regardless of what else is going on around them are just a few problems that may flare up. And then if more than one spouse is gifted, multiply the affects of each of their intensities exponentially. (And if gifted children are involved too, the statistical probability of moments of stress goes through the roof.)
There is also an issue of gifted people who find love with those who are not gifted. Misunderstandings are likely, due to the different ways each has experienced the world throughout their lives, and there may be clashes stemming from energy level mismatches depending on the gifted person's intensities. On the other hand, having one partner who is more centered and flexible may be a good balance if the other spouse is bouncing off the walls with desire to change the world or having intense moments that affect the pace or the emotional levels in the home. And then there is always the issue of whose definition of gifted they are using- some gifted adults don't even know they are gifted because they were never tested, or because they were a classic underperforming gifted student and the identification process was based on stereotypical high performer characteristics. Make no assumptions- the gifted vs. not gifted issue is one that is hard to determine as testing and identification methods are not error proof. But at the end of the day, the partners will figure out pretty quickly if they have a personality compatibility issue- regardless of whether they are both gifted or not.
Most gifted people have problems with communicating their needs and problems with people they live with at one time or another (there are multiple books on how to raise gifted children or deal with gifted traits.) Just like anyone living together for the first time- it takes a while to really figure out a routine and to be comfortable with someone else in your home. And when gifted characteristics are added to the mix it can be even harder.
Being gifted includes a constant patchwork of thoughts, actions and events that come together in new ways like kaleidoscope pictures. Every day something new is added- a lesson learned, a new item for a wish list or hope chest, a failure to grow from, a success to build confidence... The experiences that build people also sometimes build them away from those who are growing beside them. Gifted people grow at different rates and often gifted people cannot stop from searching for new experiences that challenge them and make them think hard about interesting things. If a gifted partner grows at a different rate or in a different direction, it is most likely going to create stress. And if the growth is big enough or in the opposite direction enough from what the other partner is doing then it becomes less and less likely that they will find the way back to common ground. No matter how much someone cares about someone else, if at some point they no longer have those common interests and are reaching for different types of goals they will suffer and possibly will not be able to hold on to their relationships. Someone more in touch with their interests and their needs may come along, or perhaps they will just need the space and yearn for a life without needing to constantly justify their interests.
Gifted people need several things in order to continue on a path with a partner. (This list includes some, but not all of the situations and characteristics that are important in a gifted relationship and not all apply to everyone.):
-support for a constant quest for new information (allowing for informal and possibly even formal education experiences,)
-novel situations and explorations (travel, surprises, new ways of showing their partner is aware of their interests and desires,)
-patience (for intensities, asynchronies, anxieties, passions, etc.)
-humor (quick wit, the ability to laugh at otherwise stressful situations, entertaining stories, etc.)
-independence (a lack of codependency that hinders intellectual growth and exploration, other interests that add to novelty and learning, etc.)
-flexibility (allowing for change to happen over time as they both grow)
-intellect (a match of common intelligence- research says relationship matches within 10 IQ points is ideal.)
-common interests (these will evolve and change over time as new interests likely will appear and old interests will diminish in appeal, but both partners should enjoy many of the things they do together and have common topics for discussions to help them see each other's as partners.)
Life as a gifted person can be intense and full of ups and downs related to social and emotional responses that are deep and moving experiences. Research shows the gIfted adults who are in satisfying relationships experience better health and have more confidence than those who do not have close friends or partners. Yet gifted people are definitely contributing to divorce statistics and may have multiple longer term relationships during their lives.
Further study on this subject is recommended so as to explore whether there are ways to promote better relationship matches between gifted adults or therapy that can be used to encourage gifted adults to mend the relationships they would otherwise separate from. In the meanwhile, gifted adults should be aware of the possibility of encountering difficulties and focus on increasing their connections before their relationships get so difficult they want to leave. And those who do leave and struggle to find that "missing piece" can take solace in knowing they are not alone.