Here's a letter and response from the "Dear Prudence" column and I just had to add my two cents at the bottom. Read on:Posted Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008, at 6:57 AM ET
My boyfriend and I are both in our early 20s and have been dating for three years. We have a really strong relationship in almost every way, and I can't imagine being with anyone else. But here's the rub: My boyfriend is a genius. In so many ways, I love this about him. He challenges me to think about things, I am constantly learning, and he is always honest and rational. Unfortunately, these last two qualities have caused a bit of strain. I consider myself a very intelligent person also—nowhere near his level, but I've always felt confident academically. This sometimes takes a hit when I am around him. I rarely win arguments because I simply can't keep up with him. In matters of politics or world issues, this can be frustrating, but it doesn't really raise my ire. However, sometimes his argumentative style and calculating rationale are applied to our relationship. In many situations, I feel as though I am the one who has to compromise because he always wins the argument. I know my positions are reasonable, but I just can't articulate them as well as he does. I have talked to my boyfriend about this, but I think he has a hard time seeing my point of view—that though my feelings may not always be logical or rational, they are still valid. Am I being unreasonable for wanting a little bit of slack, or should I just accept that I'm dating Dr. Manhattan and let it go?
—In Love With a Super Computer
Dear In Love,
Did you conclude on your own that your boyfriend is a genius, or is this one of the things he had to articulate to poor, dumb you? I don't know what his IQ is, but his emotional intelligence comes in somewhere around "dolt." I'll take your word that you're dating a virtual Einstein, but take mine that he's an arrogant twit who's got you confusing bullying for brilliance. It's also possible he has some kind of disorder that leaves him unable to process the feelings of others. If so, he should be seeking help, or else he is destined to go through life alienating co-workers, friends, and loved ones like you. Actually, you might want to examine why you have spent three years being told by Mr. Spock that what you say has no validity because it lacks rationality. Mr. Spock and Dr. Manhattan are effective characters because while they seem human, their lack of emotion and empathy means they aren't quite. So give your mastermind a copy of Emotional Intelligence and tell him it's about a subject in which he's deficient, but it's important for the two of you that he learn.
Dear In Love,
While everybody has their strengths, they also have their weaknesses. A boyfriend who does not validate your views and feelings is nothing more than an insecure and covertly mentally abusive individual. A love partner should not make you feel inferior even when their strength in one particular area is better than yours.
It is not possible that his side of EVERY disagreement is the right one. That is not realistically nor statistically possible. When a person is made to feel "wrong" all the time, they eventually stop bothering, begin to self doubt and their self esteem lessens.
A loving person does not flaunt their strengths and invalidate their partners. A loving person accepts the differences in the one they love, supports their partner's strengths and both encourages and supports them in improving their weak spots (in a loving, non-condescending way).
Here are some things to consider:
Does he constantly surround himself only with people who "blow smoke up his ass"?
Does he insult, put down, or point out the flaws of those who are not "blowing smoke" or (worse) are challenging his views?
Do your family and friends dislike him or merely tolerate him because you love him?
Does he always make excuses or declines activities and celebrations when it involves your friends and family?
Does he fail to acknowledge or praise you on anything you do?
Does he rarely compliment you?
Does he not encourage you to pursue your own goals and dreams if it does not involve him?
Does he belittle your goals or imply that they are not important?
Does he lie to others to make himself look better?
Does he try to convince you that your friends or family are not worth being around?
Does he seek attention (covertly or overtly) from other women?
If you want to talk about something he's done wrong, does he turn it around to somehow be your fault?
Do you find yourself having to continuously point out his good points to friends and family to explain why you are with him?
Is your self esteem even slightly lower than when you started dating him?
Would you be unhappy if, ten years from now, he still is not validating your feelings and continues to treat you the exact same way?
As a therapist and someone who has dated a guy with these traits, I think it is valid for me to say: If you answered yes to even one of these questions, run! Any of these on top of what you have already described is an unhealthy relationship with an insecure individual that will likely end up hurting your own self esteem.
You are worthy of being treated with respect and love. You are worthy being in a relationship that enhances who you are and your views and feelings are, not only validated, but encouraged.