Does Intellectual Compatibility Matter in Relationships?

Self-identified sapiosexuals, this one’s for you.

You’re either that person who knows and actually knows how to use words with 5+ syllables in them or you’re the one who Googles “sapiosexual” the first time you hear it (as I did).

No shame, regardless of who you are, and I’m not saying it to make myself feel better about not knowing what sapiosexual means. But knowing which person you’re more like in your relationships, especially your romantic ones, can help you better understand your and your S.O.’s dynamic. It’s time we had the intellectual compatibility talk.

What Is Intellectual Compatibility?

Let’s get something straight. I’m not talking about your raw intellect or intelligence. Intellect is not your IQ. Intellect is not determined by the college you did or didn’t attend. Trust me. I attended Yale and, while I have met plenty of intelligent people there, not all of them were intellectuals. I also, not for a minute, think that either intellectual people or intelligent people struggle to find love any more than any other person or that people have to be on the same intellectual level to even think of finding love together.

The key word is compatibility — a shared experience. If you and your partner are both interested in the same conversations, that’s just one way to know you’re intellectually compatible.

I don’t think people have to be on the same intellectual level to find love together

Another way to know if you’re intellectually compatible — when you play Scrabble together, do you both appreciate the random or obscure words you each play? When you go wine tasting, you both want to know the same factoids about the notes of your shared glass? Or maybe you just feel comfortable referencing your favorite King Princess lyrics and Vines because their favorites are your favorites too. For some, this kind of compatibility is the foundation for a lot of fun times. But is it necessary?

Do Healthy Relationships Need Intellectual Compatibility?

Have you ever had a friend who you got along with super well, but, for the life of you, couldn’t possibly share the same job or lifestyle? Think of intellectual compatibility in a similar way. You and your friend can be perfectly matched and have a healthy relationship because you know what parts of your lives to share and which parts are kept independent of each other.

Your friendships aren’t goodwill recipients, so neither should your romantic relationships

Love, at the end of the day, is a collaboration. In the words of this advice-giver, “You can’t try to make a relationship work out of some charitable impulse. Love isn’t a form of social work.” Your friendships aren’t goodwill recipients, so neither should your romantic relationships. If your intellectual compatibility isn’t a factor in determining the health of your relationship, don’t sweat it! But if you’re still reading this far, well, let’s keep talking.

Does Intellect Make You a Good Partner?

Intellectual interests or inclinations can change over your lifetime and the lifetime of your relationships with others. To cut to the answer really quick, intellect isn’t the make or break factor for whether or not you’re a good lover. For a relationship to sink, it won’t come down to intellect.

While intellectual compatibility (or your lack thereof) may cause distress, it’s how you communicate this distress that can make or break the relationship.

Intellect isn’t the make or break factor for whether or not you’re a good lover

At the end of the day, what matters is your attachment and conflict style. How do you handle your arguments or disagreements? What’s it like when you and bae learn something new together? How patient are you with each other? If you’re realizing that your relationship seems to keep falling apart over intellectual conflicts, that’s one thing. But if you’re realizing that it’s more about how you talk things through, that may be a more important issue.

When You and Your Partner Aren’t Intellectually Compatible

So maybe you’re now thinking to yourself that some relationships, either current or past, were not intellectually compatible to who you are or were. It’s okay (and healthy) to do this sort of reflection. Ask yourself, and be honest, if it matters to share complete intellectual compatibility with your S.O. or if you can get your intellectual stimulation from a sibling or close friend. No need to put undue pressure on a partner to meet every last need. But if it does matter, be true to your needs there too.

Communicate your needs rather than holding them back or being resentful. Collaborate, and if having a Big Talk About Compatibility with your partner is too intimidating right now, try out a game. So next time you want to try and work things out with your writer girlfriend or blogger boyfriend (or woo a wordy crush), maybe try out Love Letters on XO so that you can get to that next level together.

If you want to find the one, you gotta take the pressure off of that individual person and instead think about satisfying your whole self with a community of people. So don’t think too hard about intellectual compatibility — at least, not any more than you would emotional or physical compatibility.

Original publish date: October 30, 2020