Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gifted adults and relationships: Ten sources of conflict

Why do gifted people struggle in relationships? After all, they can reason their way out of just about anything, have whip-sharp minds, and can look at a problem from almost any angle. What gives?

Gifted adults often endured a childhood marked by social challenges. Some exhibited asynchronous or delayed social development, while others felt "different" or just never found their niche. Worse still, some may have been bullied or teased, and missed out on many of the typical rites of passage children and teens experience.

In addition, gifted social/emotional traits and intellectual strengths don't just disappear during adulthood. Gifted adults still think outside of the box, grasp information at a faster pace, and hunger for intellectual stimulation. They also may have retained some of the social quirks and defenses that developed during childhood and adolescence. All of this can lead to patterns that create problems in adult relationships.

Here are some behaviors and feelings that may put a strain on relationships: 

1. Boredom

Gifted people have little tolerance for boredom in a relationship. This does not mean they will become bored with their partner, but it may be harder for them to find someone who is both an appealing romantic interest and intellectually stimulating. Some gifted adults have a limited number of friends as a result, or have had fewer romantic relationships because of their selectivity. They just cannot tolerate the prospect of being bored.

2. Impatience

Their capacity for quickly grasping information can lead to impatience and frustration with a partner or spouse who is not as capable. Angry, critical or sarcastic comments, a tendency to take charge, or even a pattern of overlooking a partner's contributions can take a toll on any relationship. Sometimes gifted people might even seem arrogant when they become frustrated with others' more pedestrian pace.

3. Pressure to succeed 

The drive to achieve can make life more complicated. It can fuel an extreme, unrelenting focus on the task at hand, or harsh self-criticism when high and sometimes perfectionistic standards are not met. Individuals living under this pressure may neglect their families and friends, value work over social/family relationships, and may be subject to mood swings and irritability.

4. Always needing to be right

Since gifted people usually excel at what they do, some may assume that they always know the correct answer, at least in those areas where they have expertise. A pattern may develop where they must be right in any debate. With their exceptional verbal skills, they can defend their point and relentlessly pursue an argument until they win, or until their opponent (i.e., their partner or spouse) gives up out of frustration.

5. Sense of isolation

Just as in childhood, some gifted adults feel relatively isolated. They view themselves as outliers with few true peers. Sometimes depressed, and often feeling misunderstood, they assume that they have little in common with the general population, and spend a substantial amount of time alone. If they are in a marriage or relationship, they may avoid communicating their feelings because they assume they would not be understood.

6. Feeling awkward and insecure

Some gifted adults retain a self-concept from childhood, and feel like they are in middle school all over again. Their discomfort in social situations can lead to isolation and an avoidance of activities they might actually enjoy. Some may try to mask their fears or offer excuses (I have to work tonight again), but ultimately, their insecurities may limit their ability to find, form and sustain friendships and relationships.

7. A need for alone time

Many gifted individuals are introverted and gain sustenance from time alone. Time to think may be restorative and fuel their creativity and inspiration. But partners may feel left out when their gifted partner retreats, and friends may become frustrated when social invitations are declined.

8. Indulgence in unusual or multiple interests

Since they grasp information with such complexity and depth, and frequently boast multipotentialities, many gifted individuals plunge into varied and sometimes offbeat interests with a startling passion and intensity. When they come up for air, they may notice a frustrated and angry partner, who feels sidelined and ignored.

9. Oversensitivities

Many gifted adults also retain the heightened sensitivities and overexcitabilities that emerged in childhood. Spouses or partners who are less sensitive or reactive may become annoyed when their gifted partner is overwhelmed by too much sensory stimulation, becomes highly emotional, or needs to withdraw to regroup.

10. Existential depression

Gifted individuals may endure periods of existential depression as they grapple with what is meaningful and try to make sense of the world. They may experience feelings of alienation, disillusionment and emptiness, resulting in a sense of despair. As James Webb notes: "The gifted become depressed particularly because their high intellect allows them to contemplate the cosmos and their very small place within it."  Existential depression takes it toll on partners of gifted adults as well, as they may feel helpless in their attempts to offer support. (Note: please seek counseling from a licensed mental health professional when depression arises.)

Clearly, anyone can exhibit the above-mentioned behaviors. Gifted adults are not the only ones who can be impatient, bored, or question the meaning of life. But giftedness may predispose them to these patterns and increase the likelihood that they will unfold in adult relationships.

When both partners are gifted 

While these behaviors can present challenges in any relationship, the situation becomes even more complex when both partners are gifted. And this type of union is likely to occur, since most people are drawn to friends and romantic partners whose IQ falls within a similar range. So both parties bring their emotional reactivity, sensitivity, impatience, and any one of the above possible traits into the relationship. This may call for even greater self-awareness, communications skills, and empathy for each other's needs.

In a future post, I will discuss approaches to addressing relationship conflicts. But until then, several books listed below are recommended:

Bernstein, J. & Magee, S. (2003). Why can't you read my mind? Boston: Da Capo Press.
Gottman, J. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown Publishers.
Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

This blog is part of the Hoagies Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on Relationships. To read more blogs in the hop, click on the following link:
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_gifted_relationships.htm.

                                               

52 comments:

  1. Another clear, concise, informative post, Gail. Interesting that you suggest that 2 gifted folks in a partnership isn't necessarily ideal. I think people assume that it would be. Another great resource about intimate relationships is: Love Cycles by Linda Carroll. Just recently published.

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    1. Paula, Thanks for your comments and also more advice about another book. I apologize if I implied that the partnership of two gifted people was not the best match. It seems like the only match that often works, since most gifted adults need the intellectual stimulation. I think it brings with it the challenge, though, where two people may have heightened sensitivities, impatience, introversion, etc., and therefore, need to hone their communications skills even more. Thanks for pointing that out.

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  2. Gail,

    You certainly described quite a few gifted adults in my family, and sadly, the one thing they all have in common was being bullied as children.

    Thank you, Gail. Your posts are always so validating and helpful! I'm sending this one on to my husband to read.

    Celi

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    1. Thanks, Celi. It is a sad commentary that so many gifted children are bullied. I'm sorry your family experienced this.

      Gail

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  3. Reading this makes me feel so grateful to have a spouse who is bright, engaging, witty and compassionate. And it makes me even more grateful to have parents who have navigated their marriage with such grace - I've learned a lot from my parents in this regard:

    - always make room for each other's passions
    - provide opportunities for both partners to shine and pursue their interests
    - be genuinely engaged in the other spouse's pursuits
    - know when to back away from playing devil's advocate, just for the fun of it

    Relationships are hard and made even harder when one or both partners is an outlier for some reason.

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    1. Maggie,

      What excellent advice! It sounds like you learned a lot from your parents, and are continuing to contribute to your relationships. Thanks so much for your comments.

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  4. Like Celi, I'll be forwarding this one onto my husband. Thanks Gail, for shedding light on the difficulties associated with giftedness. Once you can wrap your mind around the concept of gifted, it can be a huge advantage to dealing with the many and varied complexities. My hope is that more people will discover their true gifts and through blogs like yours will develop the clarity to take back their lives. Thanks for your insights.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. I agree that understanding giftedness in all of its dimensions is so complicated - and certainly makes relationships interesting! I appreciate your comments.

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  5. Great post Gail. Your reframing of adult relationships through the gifted lens is very insightful. I have seen the "always needing to be right" taking its toll in adult relationships as well as many of the other points you've covered. Excellent overview.

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    1. Thanks so much. The defenses we all use can be heightened among gifted people and certainly create their own set of problems.

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  6. This is more cutting down tall poppies and I am livid that you offer no encouragement or support, or mention at all how rewarding relationships are. You just focus on the negatives and what a burden we are, and not our joys and value. We're so difficult and awkward and oh my. Well guess what, loads of NG people have just as many problems but somehow they manage to make it with their relationships. The problem is that your garden variety NG is going to have a more difficult time appreciating and valuing a gifted person, so I would suggest that gifteds stick together, because being understood is most of the issue.

    I am very disturbed by this trend to cut down the tall poppies and never mention anything insofar as why we make the sacrifices that we do. Not to mention that you cover your own ass by suggesting therapy for those suffering existential depression by suggesting a therapist. It is well noted that a garden variety therapist with no knowledge or mastery of gifted issues and differences will harm more than they help a gifted. It is well known that there are so few therapists who are able to give appropriate guidance to a gifted person. Many of us are on our own. Our existential depression is not clinical depression. It should not be treated the same way. Often our existential depressions are our way of feeling as if we have some control in a world that is constantly telling us how weird we are, how different, all the judgments, the lack of support, etc. We do our best and it is connection with others like us, who understand us (which I don't feel you really do), that alleviates a lot of this pain. Peer support is one of the best options for many gifteds.

    From what you say here, there's no reason for me to even try to have a relationship with someone else because of my gifted issues so I may as well not even bother trying. The funny thing is, relationships are what makes life bearable for me, humankind cannot live on bread alone, no human is an island. You seem to promote more isolation which hardly solves any problem, especially when it is the crux of the issue for so many gifteds. How dare you. So in essence, what I read here tells me not to bother, just give up, it's more trouble than it's worth, and to me, well that means I don't really have a lot to live for then. So I don't take your advice and I think you should think about what you share before you spread your opinions. I don't see a single thing about how rewarding a relationship with a gifted often is. I see nothing positive- just more cutting down tall poppies, within an enviroment that is supposed to support and empower us. That is like a betrayal. No thanks.

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    1. Anonymous, Wow. I guess this post struck a nerve for you. I am not trying to imply that there is something wrong with gifted people - just that gifted adults may bring particular defenses, behaviors, interpersonal styles, and emotional reactivity into their relationships. We ALL bring who we are into any relationship. It is our job as adults to sort out what prevents us from forming meaningful and fulfilling relationships with others. And yes, even gifted people need to take a sober look at what might interfere.

      I can understand that you felt criticized because this particular post did not specifically focus on gifted individuals' many positive qualities, and I am sorry if that offended you. But I am in no way trying to criticize gifted people. If you have read my other blog posts, you will hopefully recognize my commitment to advocacy and understanding of gifted individuals' needs.

      However, this does not mean whitewashing real problems that may make it more difficult to interact. I have witnessed the above mentioned patterns among gifted individuals I have known personally, but more importantly, among individuals in my 30-year practice as a psychologist. And these behaviors and patterns do interfere with relationships. With some guidance, most people can recognize how they are making interactions more complicated and are able to be more accepting of themselves and others, and are able to form improved relationships. I am not, as you suggest, promoting isolation. In fact, I am suggesting greater awareness so that relationships will improve.

      I appreciate your time and effort in voicing your concerns, Anonymous, but I do disagree with your premise - that pointing out "problems" or imperfections is cutting down gifted people. My goal is to spread awareness and advocate for gifted people, and that means sometimes addressing behaviors that may be difficult to face. If that makes you uncomfortable, then I urge you to no longer read this blog.

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    2. Stating challenges in context of helping others understand is hardly insulting or demeaning in any sense. The audience for this post is partners of 'gifted' persons, not those who are themselves gifted.

      Having been nearly completely immersed in an environment of over achieving social outcasts for the last two decades, I am anecdotally aware of the lack of understanding by partners as well as the contributing behaviors of gifted people. The ten items listed by Gail are exactly right (with appropriate caveats), and important for partners and friends to understand. These things describe very closely what I experienced and continue to experience.

      Fortunately for me, my wife has grown to understand these characteristics and used this insight to help *me* better cope and see my own foibles and quirks. She's done this because my son is also gifted, so she has her hands full. This list is an important tool for those who have yet to give words to their experiences.

      If there's anything insulting, it's feeling that it's ok to refer to others as "garden variety" or NG. Our partners and friends face significant challenges at times when we get into our own heads or forget that we see things differently. Painting others in some diminutive shade does nothing to help the situation, and indeed causes more barriers. I not so humbly suggest also that people who rail against "normals" or drive these distinguishing group titles are generally not of the gifted variety - just egotistical pseudo-intellectuals.

      Face it - *we* are a pain in the ass for most people. We are quick to cut through BS and we get frustrated with having to slow down for others. And the world at large is under no obligation to conform to gifted people. Indeed, we should be the ones to understand how best to communicate and get along with others. It is the height of arrogance to suggest others should train to deal with us, when logically, if we are indeed able to think more quickly and see more deeply, it is incumbent on our group, on us as individuals, to realize it is only through our own efforts that we will get along and prosper in the world.

      I deeply appreciate any advocate who takes the time to stop and ask why we behave the way we do, and to offer insights that will help us thrive. Again, the audience for this post is our partners and friends, not us. I'm grateful that the message is quite different than "just put up with them or leave them" like I see from so many other sources.

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    3. Scott, I really appreciate your articulate comments and clear insight into the matter. You express it much more clearly than I could. I completely agree with your assertion that it is up to gifted people to take responsibility for themselves: "it is only through our own efforts that we will get along and prosper in the world."

      Thank you again for your helpful feedback.

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  7. Thank you, Gail. I found this post interesting and think people need to be aware of these potential sources of conflict; so that they can monitor their own behaviour and have more compassion in their dealings with others.

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    1. Thanks so much. I agree - we all need to be aware of how we interact with those we care about. I appreciate your comments.

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  8. Thank you. I am in a relationship with a gifted partner, and this was so on point I am not sure which issues are mine or his. It is hard to think all the time.
    I also teach gifted children, and I find at times that my brain is just full of countless analyzing from work and home. I have started to shut down for this reason. I want to be happy, but the constant drive to prove ourselves is overwhelming.
    Although I struggle with every above mentioned point, and I really needed this concise yet eye opening post. I do see one glaring reason why Anonymous above brings something very important to the table-therapy.
    When gifted couples, or individuals, seek therapy we are often faced with therapist that are not gifted and do not understand the dynamic giftedness. I am a proponent of therapy, but as a youth I manipulate my therapist into thinking I was ok when I was sucidial. As an adult looking for marriage counseling, I was only given advice via the book 5 Love Languages. As all three therapist described the book and its virtues I initially felt a relief and thought I had a better understanding of my husband. However I quickly realized how shallow and obvious the lessons are.
    For God sakes, if I choose to honor my husband's love language of acts of kindness as my own that doesn't change the fact that I want him to sit on the couch and put his arm around me. Furthermore if I clean the kitchen, we can't magically settle on who was ruder via text in the last 4 days and initiate the battle for being right that were deadlocked in. It's a bandaid. Therapist are not the answer for gifted people the majority of the time.
    Once gifted people learn to stop feeling let down by society and start learning how to cope with it long enough to recive degrees in these fields we'll have real therapist with real answers. Until that happens, interview your therapist well before you go. There is nothing worse than sitting on a couch listening to Dr. Phil drivel.

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    1. Anonymous, Thank you for your useful comments. I am sorry you had such bad experiences with therapists. It is distressing to put your trust in a therapist and leave feeling disappointed. Like in any field, we may not find the best attorney, mechanic, dentist, electrician, etc. we hope for.

      That being said, though, if someone is clinically depressed, it is important to attend to these symptoms, even if the depression is fueled by existential issues. Therapy can help, but obviously, finding the right therapist is important. Things to look for include years of experience, specialization in a particular area, and treatment approach. And the connection you have with the therapist is also critical. Less experienced therapists or those with less training (often those whom you may find who accept managed care payments) may be those who are harder to connect with, although there are still many wonderful therapists who are new to the field, accept managed care and can be very helpful.

      And given the rigorous requirements to gain acceptance to a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology or medical school for those who eventually obtain a Psychiatry degree, one might assume that most Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists are probably gifted. That, of course, does not mean that they understand giftedness or have any training in it. But they may be eager to learn more if you bring up the topic. So please don't discount therapy completely just because of some unfortunate experiences.

      I wish you well in your relationships.

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  9. I think you are spot on for challenges, but I think there is a lot to be said about gifted partnerships where partners are on the same wavelength. Many people think that my husband would be incredibly difficult to live with, while I think that 80% of time he is just the most fascinating person to be around. As to the rest 20%... well, that's when I rely on my intrapersonal gifts :D

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. I agree completely - most gifted people need to be with other gifted people to be their partners. They crave the same intellectual complexity. We all bring challenges to our relationships. Gifted people just may bring slightly different challenges to theirs. So glad you found the right person for you!

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  10. Gail. I just nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. See the link to find out more! https://rainforestmind.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/blogs-gifted-children/

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    1. Thanks so much, Paula. I will look into this!

      Gail

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  11. Thank you for this article. It really resonated with me. All 10 points have hit on how I am feeling this week, professionally and personally. It's good to read something like this, and to re-familiarize myself with my tendencies and my social-emotional profile. It also helps to stay conscientious of how I might present to other people.

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    1. Anonymous, So glad this fit for you. I agree that it's always good to stay attuned to how we affect others. Thanks for your feedback.

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    2. Thank you for posting this. It is encouraging to know that things I have struggled with are part of being gifted, not just that something is wrong with me -which I have felt like my whole life. I am learning so much about myself as a gifted adult as I learn about my gifted 9 year old daughter. However, I find that relationship to be my most challenging. Do you have any resources on being a gifted adult and parenting, especially parenting a gifted child?

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    3. Ann, You raise an important point - so many parents learn about their own giftedness through their experience raising their children. There are some great resources about gifted parenting on www.hoagiesgifted.org and www.giftedparentingsupport.blogspot.com.

      You could also review some of my previous blog posts to see if they might be helpful for you. A few that describe a parent's experience include:: http://giftedchallenges.blogspot.com/2015/01/guilty-thoughts-what-parents-of-gifted.html, http://giftedchallenges.blogspot.com/2014/03/why-arent-you-advocating-for-your.html, http://giftedchallenges.blogspot.com/2013/06/what-to-say-to-your-gifted-childabout.html, http://giftedchallenges.blogspot.com/2013/03/your-child-is-gifted-parents-reaction.html.

      Good luck with your daughter, and thank you for your comments.

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    4. Thank you so much. I will check those out!

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  12. I just want to say thanks for that article. I think this is the most understood I've ever felt in my whole life. Now if only I could find a girl who knew that information and accepted it instead of bailing on the relationships. In any case, thanks for these few minutes of understanding.

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  13. My boyfriend just recently showed me this article because it explains who he is and he wanted me to understand him. Ever since the beginning of our relationship I have noticed how gifted he is, his philosophical thinking and questions he would ask me always intrigued me because I had no Idea how to answer them. Anyway, he means a lot to me and this isnt scaring me away at all. In fact I am seeking for any advice for me to help him cope with being in a relationship and continue to be happy.

    Thanks!

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  14. Thanks for sharing this post Gail. All the points you discussed are spot on!!

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  15. Gail,
    Thank you for this post. The above-mentioned characteristics are so me! This post explains why I think the way I do and why it's so hard to communicate with other people, including my spouse. Finally! I've always thought the way I think and communicate are burdens to overcome in order to fit in - I'm always the one who has to wait for others to catch up even though I've already finished the conversation and moved on in my head. Having an explanation helps put things in perspective. Also, as the mother of a child who thinks and communicates just like I do, having an explanation will help me help her as well. It's my hope she doesn't grow up feeling like an outsider and can learn to harness her giftedness and use it positively instead of thinking it is a burden. Thank you.

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    1. Anonymous, So glad this helped put your experience in perspective. It is great that you have such a clear understanding of your daughter's similar traits. Thank you for your feedback.

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  16. This was an interesting and perspicacious article. I thought it was too bad, though, that the discussion on perfectionism didn't give much context about why people might be perfectionists.

    Many of us who grew up gifted found ourselves in an atmosphere where we were only valued for our abilities, rather than our inherent worth as human beings. Often, others' perception of our intelligence or skill meant that we were simply not allowed to have difficulties, even though all children have difficulties and make mistakes and being gifted in some areas is no guarantee of proficiency in others. As a result, when such children struggle with something, they may be called lazy or disobedient.

    In my life, this reached the level of emotional abuse. The only way I had to ward off my dad's criticism, ridicule, and rage, was never to make any mistakes. In adulthood, this had the effect of paralyzing me -- it was so terrifying to attempt anything I might screw up, and it was so devastating to do things wrong, that I would procrastinate endlessly.

    Far from being convinced of my own brilliance, I was *painfully* aware of my flaws, holding myself to a standard I demanded of no one else. I became modest and self-deprecating to a fault, and I came to feel great shame over any displays of my talents or interests, convinced that they made me look like an arrogant, pedantic ass and, conversely, that they would inevitably build up people's expectations beyond what I could achieve. It was to the point that I would fantasize about being "thick" just so I wouldn't have this pressure. (The only saving grace was, not being female, I didn't suffer the added social pressure of the misogynist expectation that women will suppress their intelligence to avoid threatening men's egos.)

    All this to say that I didn't see this dynamic reflected in the account above of the gifted person in a relationship. For many of us, the main interaction between our giftedness and our capacity to be in a relationship has to do with the wounds we are recovering from.

    Beyond this observation, thank you again for sharing your insight.

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    1. Anonymous, Thank you for your openness and insight into the struggles you have endured. Clearly, many gifted people are perfectionists and feel compelled to live up to unrealistic standards imposed by others and by themselves.

      Your point:"the main interaction between our giftedness and our capacity to be in a relationship has to do with the wounds we are recovering from" is a good example of the barriers that affect everyone in relationships, regardless of whether they are gifted. And many people who are not gifted also suffer from harsh self-criticism and perfectionism. Ideally, the goal is to develop an appreciation and acceptance of oneself and one's limitations.

      Thank you again for sharing your perspective and experience. I wish you well.

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  17. I relate to so much of this. I was identified as gifted in third grade which was also when I began to lose my hearing. A target for bullies if there ever was one. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Unknown, Sorry that you suffered from so much bullying. It is refreshing to see the anti-bullying campaigns going on in many schools now, although they have a long way to go. Thanks for your comments.

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  18. I don't have a problem with your list, but it is unfortunate that you fail to mention the research that shows gifted individuals are more likely to form stable marriage relationships and to be still married to the same individual 10 years later. While we gifted folks do have our challenges, we are also well equipped to find solutions to those challenges and to keep trying until we find something that works.

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    1. Anonymous, Thank you for your comments. I am aware of the Perrone-McGovern, et al study, but not aware of the study you're citing re: gifted people having more stable marital relationships, and remaining married longer. I would be VERY interested in knowing the resource and reading what you have found. Please share. Thanks!

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  19. Thanks for your post. I understand where the drastic reaction (about highlighting the negative side) from Anonymous comes from, although I did not read it that way. I agree that the only way to survive is being in touch with other people.
    The best way into existential depression is to isolate oneself. In the end everything is meaningless and futile, so the only thing that matters is being in touch with others (without directly going for the often mis-used term "Love"). The difficulty is to find people to relate to. It works up to a certain extend; finding the right partner is difficult.
    For those interested: take a look at Dabrowski (Theory of Positive Desintegration). The websites about it provide some information, but the books are a delight to read. Partly old fashioned, but they saved my life: I am not crazy, the rest of the world is. They just do not know it. Taking yourself as the centre of the universe is the starting point, after that do not blame anybody for not knowing that they do not know to be crazy. It turns the world upside down.
    Gail, you may want to look at 'Through the keyhole at gifted men and women', Joanne D. Denko, 1977 American Mensa Society, although it holds no direct answer to your question above.

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  20. Thank you so much for this post Gail. I spent my 20's to 40's travelling the world, never settling, always feeling like an outsider looking in on what a 'normal life' should be. My mother, who was an extremely unfulfilled gifted person, once called me a "queer cove" which was quite distressing to me at the time. I so wanted to fit in and her cruel comment had quite an impact. Thankfully I have begun to accept who I am and am 'well in my skin' (as the French describe). My perfectionist standards at work, fear of failure and not understanding why I was so complex led to many years of panic attacks and self loathing. I so longed to be simple and straight forward, married with 2.5 children, etc, etc. Now I have met a very bright man who is unusually stable - he appears to accept my eccentricities, gives me space and allows me to be the person that I feel I really have to be. However although I am now in my 50's & much happier I still want to be alone (in my space) & the threat of boredom is unfortunately still there in the back of my mind. Life to me is a very complex matter - I notice everything & feel very deeply. It can make for a very tough but actually quite rewarding life once you have some understanding of yourself...note also that you can learn an enormous amount from 'not so gifted' people as I have done (with gratitude...)

    Thank you H

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  21. Hi and thank you Gail for this article. I have been searching around for some information and support with my relationship with my 22 year old daughter. There are many blogs about young children, but fewer about relationships with highly gifted, adult children. Ours is still living with us out of necessity while she completes her medical degree, and I find myself hurt and desperate much of the time as her attitude towards me (and her older sister and father) becomes more and more reactionary. I know she has frustrations about her course, and possibly many other things, but her behaviour borders on arrogant and she shows poor emotional judgement. She is very adverse to telling me anything personal, even though I would be more than happy to listen and try to support her. I just seem to be a source of frustration for her – just too stupid I suppose.

    Today we all met with our other daughter (25 years old) for lunch (she lives on the other side of the city and we only see her once a week if we're lucky as she works full time.) We were having a lovely time when our eldest daughter brought up that she'd read something interesting about a new field of medical research. I immediately felt tense as I knew that any of us bringing up a medical topic was fraught with danger. And sure enough, the daughter doing the medical degree made it pretty clear what she thought of the research before the other had time to even finish her sentence. None of us has training in the sciences, and its made pretty clear to us that we are wasting our time having an opinion on the subject. My husband and I try to calm the atmosphere as our older daughter defends her right to read what she likes and it all ends with the 22 year old in high emotion and leaving the table to sit in the car. After we get home she continues in hysteria, saying that she is the odd one out and that no one wants to hear what she has to say. We say that thats not true, but that she needs to temper her responses in a social situation and not make her sister feel denigrated just because she doesn't have a medical degree. We try to explain that we all have our areas of expertise, and in a social situation we need to take care that we don't use that to make others feel bad, or ignorant. She is so emotionally reactive and feels that she is the victim. She has intellectual intelligence by the bucket loads – I never could win an argument with her. But her emotional intelligence can be very poor. I am at a point that I really don't know what to do next. Thankfully, she decided to see a psychologist herself. She asked us if we would support her financially to do this, and we did. I am hoping that they will be able to help her in her frustrations.

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  22. This is a good amount of information and I am glad I found your blog about relationships. Thanks.

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  23. Hi Gail, as someone who could be considered gifted, and was bullied and physically so by peers until quite recently, thanks for explaining so much. Until now I was indeed misdiagnosed with anger issues instead of depression, and it's quite comforting to know that it isn't like there's something wrong, you know, inside, and that it's not wrong that I have few friends than most people my age. Cheers.

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  24. Hmm, now I know what I am going to be facing since I recently discovered that I am "gifted." I can also say that I have experienced every point here but depression.

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  25. I think the challenge with this article is in the interpretation and application. There's a lot of beneficial information in this article but nobody likes feeling trivialize or stereotyped either. Case in point I am a gifted adult and I found your article because my partner used it to self validate his presuppositions about me in the context of (mis)communication issues. While some aspects of the characterization of gifted adults here resonate with me others do not. And thus not everything in this article characterizes me. Thank you.

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    1. Anonymous, Of course, not everything listed fits for everyone. Hopefully your partner will use this information to enhance his understanding of you rather than to use it in a divisive manner. Thank you for your feedback.

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  26. Well, this describes me exactly. Thanks so much for making me feel understood.

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  27. It is tremendously difficult to be gifted and survive in this world. The society rewards the talented and smart people but those who truly gifted and wired differently face tremendous challenges. True giftedness is marked with extraordinary sensitivity and tremendous intensity and just to survive means a huge act of compromise and courage. Achievement can only begin when he has understood and processed the traits that come with giftedness and some can be debilitating such as existential depression. Unable to find meaningful relationships to share the deepest thoughts and cannot relate to anybody at that level. Loneliness, boredom and banality of life all take a toll on the sensitivity of the gifted mind. The hardest and the deepest cut however comes from the family who expect you to be like other individuals in the family and treat you as abnormal and insensitive.

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    1. Anonymous, It sounds like you are really struggling. I hope you can find some support and others who understand you.

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    2. I have managed to survive but I have been through a lot of bad experiences in life and then slowly realized that I am suffering because I am different. Now with a lot of self understanding it become bearable. Talents, smarts and intellectual precociousness is just a very narrow view of the gifted and it may vary in its depth.

      If someone is profoundly gifted one may go thorough process of rebirth which is accompanied by existential depression. This is not something a lot of psychologists and therapists can understand or suggest solutions. They can do well with the common sense issues of life where the gifted can lack...but I doubt if they can understand and communicate at that depth though they may do better than the regular crowd. If we try to discuss with friends without this trait it can end in frustration. This is something we do not bring up in normal relationships and friendships so that we can survive and cope in the normal world.

      To express the gifts one is born with is the most compelling need that is overpowering driving force in life. After having dealt with all this I have found the spiritual support which can help navigate through this and express my gift. This has unfortunately taken a quite a long time...but I arrived. I have realized that therapy would have helped me with issues other than my gift or issues indirectly created by being different. Therapy is always good if we can afford it but again we may face the same frustration with the therapist unless he or she is gifted to some extent and can empathize not just because it is her job but because the therapist really understands us.

      The best way to validate our feelings and life is to find someone like us...but it does happen very rarely...but when that happens it is a great feeling. You feel that you are normal and something is wrong with the world. Even one occurrence like that can be greatly therapeutic because it honors who you are and validates your existence. It really proves that you are gifted and to share the views at such a deep and profound level...it proves that you are right. As they say one is alone at the top...but to prove that one has to meet another one who expresses the exact same feeling.

      The gifted see and perceive the world in a different way. The way they see has a depth and originality to it which ordinary individuals show little interest. They have a unique take on every aspect of life. They are not comfortable with any posturing or have they ability to see things as they are. This kind of wiring is quite different from intellectual stuff....it is brutal simplicity and sensitivity and ability to delve deeply into any aspect of life that marks these traits.

      I found some validation in life when I found a similar guy with same characteristics and we exchanged nearly 1000 emails in six months and we agreed on hundreds of subjects. He eventually moved away to more spiritual pursuits and the connection meant dropping out of material life so I had to let it go. But he understood me as nobody else did.

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  28. Wow, that is really thorough; it also looks like I'm going to have a really interesting and challenging future. I did experience just about everything here along with bullying from peers and the neglect from a few teachers.

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