Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gifted adults: Key questions that can help improve your relationships

What can gifted adults do to improve their relationships?

In a recent post, ten sources of relationship conflict that gifted adults often experience were outlined. These behaviors, feelings and patterns can complicate matters for gifted people seeking romantic partners, or when trying to express their needs in relationships. Their tendency toward intensity, impatience, boredom, introversion, or emotional reactivity, for example, can also create barriers and make life difficult for their partners.

Gifted adults frequently end up in relationships with other equally gifted individuals. They are drawn to those with a similar IQ. Often the bottom line in finding a potential romantic partner is whether the individual is someone they can appreciate and respect, whose intellectual quickness, complexity, and depth of introspection matches their own. However, this merger of gifted traits can complicate self-expression, conflict resolution, or even routine discussions.

There is no easy answer or quick fix for relationship conflicts, despite rampant advice in the media and online. Every couple has their struggles, gifted or not. But self-awareness is critical and is the most important step toward improving any relationship. These are a few key questions gifted partners can ask themselves:

1. What needs, fears, and values underlie my interactions?

What are my true needs in any relationship? What do I value most, and what is most important to me? What are my greatest fears?

Am I responding to my partner based on what they are really saying? Or am I reacting based on my needs and fears? Am I making interpretations based on any of the following:

  • preconceived assumptions associated with my upbringing
  • social/cultural values
  • peer/family expectations and pressure
  • unresolved conflicts from failed relationships in the past
  • fears of loss, rejection, criticism
  • a desire to have my partner make up for loss, insecurity, or hurtful experiences from childhood

2. What role do I play in any conflicts?

What is my role in creating or perpetuating conflict in my relationship?

Do I have any expectations that my partner make up for negative childhood or relationship experiences? Am I assuming that my partner can alleviate all of my fears and insecurities?

Are gifted traits, such as impatience, oversensitivities, intense reactivity, boredom with routine tasks, or existential depression affecting how I relate to my partner?

How are my communications skills?

  • Am I communicating directly, honestly, and respectfully? 
  • Am I avoiding using derogatory, harsh, or disrespectful statements? 
  • Am I being clear, or are my interactions tinged with subtle (or not so subtle) motives? 
  • Am I expressing myself before I reach the height of anger? 
  • Am I using "I" statements to convey my personal experience, rather than pointing out all of my partner's faults? 
  • Am I willing to apologize when I am wrong?

3. How can I understand my partner's needs more?

What do I know about my partner's view of the world, relationships, communication, and needs? How does my partner's family, upbringing, and personal values color their expectations about communication and expression of needs?

Is my partner able to communicate openly, or do they need time to open up? What are the best times, situations, and approaches for reaching my partner?

4. What can I do to improve my relationship?

What can I bring to the relationship that would improve it? Would it benefit from more openness, self-awareness, time together, time apart, shared interests, romantic or sexual intimacy, humor, or unconditional support?

How can I show my partner that I respect, appreciate, and enjoy being with them, despite the daily and routine frustrations that occur in any relationship?

Is there unresolved anger from a past experience that we need to address and forgive?

When you hit a roadblock

Most relationships run into problems at some point; the challenge involves addressing conflicts early and finding a solution before an entrenched pattern develops. Every couple is different and need to discover what will best resolve the impasse. That's why most "quick fixes" just don't work. But asking yourselves the above-mentioned questions, either individually or as a couple, is an important step toward uncovering the problem and finding a solution. If you cannot work this through together, couples therapy is sometimes a useful option, where a licensed mental health professional can provide objective feedback that will improve your communications. And learning more about patterns couples face can be found in several books listed below:

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.

What have you found that works in your relationships?


  1. I've used the Gottman and Johnson resources with clients and found them to be very helpful. Also, a new book by Linda Carroll, called Love Cycles, is also useful. Thanks for presenting a lot of information in a short amount of space!

    1. Paula, Thanks again for your comments and the great suggestion. I will definitely look into the book you recommend.