When it comes to love, sometimes what we say we want and what we actually wind up wanting can be two totally different things.
Human beings, aren’t we such stinking enigmas?
Take, for example, the complex topic of what men honestly think about dating an intelligent woman.
If you ask a guy how he feels about dating a smart woman, he’ll probably say something along the lines of, “Sure, I don’t care,” or even, “Yes! Intelligence is extremely attractive!”
But in truth, studies have shown that while men might talk a big game about loving women with gigantic brains in theory, smart women actually make most of them feel insecure.
When faced with the real possibility of dating a woman who is a smarter, higher achiever, most men quiclkly lose interest in actually pursuing her.
Is this ridiculous? Oh, absolutely. Do I blame the patriarchy? Oh, even more absolutely.
But do I think that’s the only thing to blame for this disparity between what men say they want and what they actually want when it comes to their love lives? No way!
I believe that at least part of the reason many men won’t actually make a move toward forming relationships with highly intelligent women is that they are biosocially conditioned to feel they have a responsibility to provide for their partners.
And obviously, because that’s not exactly a feminist ideal, men aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to share their feelings about the subject.
But I knew there was one place on the internet where men would feel free to talk openly about what they think about dating smart women: the AskMen subreddit!
The men there had no problem opening up about how they feel when they aren’t the smartest person in their relationship. And while some of them walked the politically acceptable line, others weren’t scared to tell it how they see it.
Here’s what 21 men say they think about dating an intelligent woman.
1. Smart women can be lots of fun.
“I dated a biologist last year. Literally the smartest girl I’ve ever dated. She’s currently working on a cure for pneumonia on HIV patients. She was fun. I don’t think her intelligence made her socially awkward or anything.”
2. It’s about a balance.
“Dating someone smarter than me sounds 1,000 times better than dating someone dumber than me. Dating someone who is roughly as smart as I am, I think, would be ideal.”
3. Smart women are impressive.
“I liked it a lot. Given that I am in medical school, I find people who go into academics purely for the sake of knowledge and learning impressive. Also, we know PhDs don’t make that much, so I guess in my mind it makes it more of a ‘devotional’ quest? My ex was doing her PhD, also I asked he for science and math help through all of college, and I adored how fast and concise she could explain things to me.”
4. Intelligence is attractive.
“I think it’s pretty sexy, and I have a thing for academics. A girl that can knockout the Friday NYT crossword? Rawr.”
5. Smart women are great … as long as they don’t outshine a man in all other areas as well.
“Smarter? No problem. Smarter, more educated, and more financially well off? It’s a problem. I have to feel like I’m bringing something to the table besides good looks.”
6. It depends on what kind of smart.
“If you can think critically and are engaged in your experience of the world and know how to properly reflect on that, then that’s a baseline level of intellect that I can get with. If you’re just a walking encyclopedia of random Wikipedia facts and you think you’re smarter than me for it, then I’ll pass.”
7. How smart you are or aren’t is less important than sharing similar interests.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who is noticeably smarter or dumber than I am. A lot of people have different interests though. Some people are interested in intellectual things and some people aren’t, but that’s not the same thing as being intelligent.”
8. Smart women are great … as long as they don’t use their intelligence against him.
“Wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, just don’t lord it over me.”
9. It’s awesome when your strengths and weaknesses compliment one another.
“Nothing wrong with that. I recognized there are gaps in my personality/intelligence so not a big deal if my partner can fill those gaps in. She’s not a jerk about either, so we’re good.”
10. Whether or not it works is all about balance.
“My girlfriend is way smarter in only an academic sense. And that’s totally cool with me. She’s horrible at math and she’s impressed with most things I do so it’s a decent balance.”
11. Smart women are great … as long as they don’t get too challenging.
“Depends if they are confrontational about it or not.”
12. Smart is good, but not arrogant.
“I haven’t had any experience with a girl who’s noticeably smarter than me, but I have experienced the dumb ones and I’m pretty sure I’d take the smarter girls any day of the week. Nothing is worse than having a conversation with your girl and she says something you know for a fact is false but you don’t want to hurt her feeling so you just kind of agree. Depending on the situation I would still call her out as being blatantly wrong though.”
13. Smart women can be kind of intimidating (but that’s OK).
“Maybe a tad intimidated, but in a good way.”
14. Being smart is different than being wise.
“My wife is definitely smarter than me. She’s a teacher and has a Master’s degree. I think I’m wiser than she is, though. I’ve had a lot more varied life experiences and have had more to struggle against than she did. She’s got the school smarts and I have the street smarts. It works well for us.”
15. Big brains are required, actually.
“I’m an intellectual, so high intelligence in my partner is a must if we’re talking serious relationships. I’m not threatened by a woman being ‘smarter’ than I am. In fact, I prefer it, because I always want to be in a position where I can learn something from the people closest to me. But for FWB relationships, intelligence or lack thereof is a complete non-factor. I care mostly about physical assets in that case.”
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16. Date a smart woman? Yes, please!
“Sign me up. Intelligence is sexy as hell.”
17. Smart woman are exciting.
“I used to have lunch with a colleague, and one day I randomly read out the quiz section from the daily newspaper and she nonchalantly answered everything. Had the whole face resting on one hand, other hand playing with her food. Thought it was so sexy. I asked her out the next day but she wasn’t interested. Some of these questions were crazy hard that covered chemistry, history, astrology, movies, social culture and animals.”
18. Smart women are great … as long as they aren’t arrogant about it.
“I think people who are arrogant or look down on other people are a problem. Otherwise, there’s no upper limit for brains in a partner. Also, as I get older I realize that there are different types of intelligence. I am smarter than my wife in some ways/areas. She is smarter than me in some ways/areas.”
19. Smart women are just too difficult to bother with.
“I’ve dated intelligent women. Just makes for a significant other that is uncompromising and tedious.”
20. Smart women are too competitive.
“I haven’t dated anyone that I felt was like astronomically more intelligent, but honestly, with the girls I’d consider at least equal or possibly smarter it was always this tiresome competition to show that they’re as smart or smarter than I am.”
21. Smart women are great … as long as they are way less competent in other ways.
“Currently dating a molecular biologist and while she is extremely smart in academic areas, she is completely lost in other fields which I have an interest in. She barely knows how to use a hammer or have got barely any history knowledge. So yeah, I am not intimidated at all.”
Rebecca Jane Stokes is a freelance writer and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek.