I write a lot about parenting my gifted child. I even write about being gifted occasionally. I almost never talk about what’s it’s like to live with a highly gifted spouse. It’s not for the faint of heart, for sure!
Mr. Genius is exactly that – an IQ in the high 140s. The Engineer is a lot like him – questioning, intellectual, scarily smart, and a wee bit quirky. His strengths lie in math, logic, spatial sense, and all things computer. He’s currently developing a mobile app for his company’s software. Despite his MBA, he can tinker with the software as well as the company’s developers – and sometimes better than they can!
I don’t have quite as high of an IQ, but I’m above average. My strengths lie in language, art, and expressionistic forms. I’m a creative who struggles with math and logic but still managed to test out of college algebra (yay! I was so relieved.) I am verbal. Highly verbal. I prefer text to speaking, and confrontation turns my stomach. I can cry over the death of a minor character in a movie, or feel extremely uncomfortable during humiliating scenes. I am emotional.
Here are 5 things that I wish someone had told me before I married gifted. Making a life together is difficult enough without adding extra quirks and roadblocks!
1. Communication is tough.
I get it. Marriage is difficult anyway. Men and women speak different languages, that’s fairly normal right? The whole gender difference thing makes communicating difficult at times. Add in gifted and quirky, and things get a tad murky. Add in two gifted spouses with wildly different types of gifts, and things get downright crazy!
Communicating effectively is one of our difficult points as a married, gifted couple. I want to talk, he doesn’t. I say one thing, he hears a different one. He says what he meant to say, I assume he meant something by his choice of nuanced words (and he didn’t.) He can read body language so well that it freaks people out at times. I’m the complete opposite: I have trouble remembering faces and names, and I struggle with the obvious-to-others social cues.
Communication is something that we’ve worked on a lot, and it’s gotten better as we age and grow together. I have to admit, there were times as a newlywed that I thought I was going insane because I didn’t understand the way his brain worked. He’s gotten pretty frustrated with me because I just won’t shut up.
2. The problem of patience.
We both have issues with patience. I get frustrated when he doesn’t understand that I’m venting and not complaining. He gets annoyed when I don’t grasp a concept quickly (instantly.) Neither of us suffer fools gladly: driving is a peculiar form of torture for us.
Having kids has helped me develop this underused muscle. It forced me to moderate my responses, change my behavior, and understand that not everyone can do what I do easily. I’m teaching my children that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and that we can help balance each other out as a group or a society.
It’s hard for the Engineer, who declared that one of his siblings was “stupid” because they didn’t understand what he was explaining. It was a good teaching moment: pointing out the age difference, the different strengths, and hammering home that he wasn’t superior just because he was smarter at that moment.
Gifted kids are going to spend a lot of their time around neurotypical people, and you want them to be able to deal with it without alienating their peers or superiors. Mr. Genius and I have this discussion quite often: truth versus tact. He’s all for truth, plain and simple. I’m in favor of tact: not all the truth in one brutal blow. If you want your kids to be able to function well around people then you might have to actively teach them how to be tactful. For gifted kids, this might be something they need to learn intellectually rather than instinctively.
3. Different learning styles.
This was so obvious in our last discussion about health insurance. We had to pick between 3 different plans (and compare to 2 more.) Mr. Genius lobbed numbers around and compared benefits, while I started losing track of what went to which. I finally told him to print out his Excel spreadsheets (of course he had those for comparison!) for me to look at and I would get back to him on what I thought. I couldn’t handle the mental math and classifying that he effortlessly juggled. I needed to see an image – a visual comparison.
I guess this falls under the “know thyself” category. Know what works for you, and articulate it. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say “I’m not getting it in this format, I need to see it a different way.” And never feel stupid if you can’t keep up – your brain is different from theirs, but that doesn’t make you lesser. I can’t count how many times I’ve lasered in on the simple solution to a problem when Mr. Genius has a convoluted, ingenious, insanely complicated solution. Common sense is a gift as well!
4. You are not stupid.
It doesn’t matter if you’re married to a rocket scientist and you’re a clerk at a retail store. You’re not lesser because your IQ isn’t the same. You balance your spouse in ways they may not even realize. You can do things that may be incredibly hard for them and think nothing of it. I’m something of a social introvert: I can enjoy social gatherings until it’s overwhelming. My husband is the exact opposite: he can’t stand hobnobbing and socializing unless he’s with close friends.
It’s even worse if you’re married to gifted and have a gifted child. Those feelings of inferiority can crop up so easily. Remember, you are the often the relatable, approachable face of the family. You make people feel comfortable when they might be uncomfortable interacting with your spouse or child. And as the parent of a gifted child, you are often the best example for them to model when it comes to social interactions. You aren’t stupid: you’re vital. Vital to their learning, vital to the family in so many ways. The glue, if you will. You matter. Never think otherwise.
5. You don’t have to be their equal in everything.
I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face: gifted isn’t better. It’s different. It’s ok if you can’t do math as quickly as they can. It’s fine if they don’t pick up on your emotional state as fast as you want them to. It’s all right if they cry over something you think is silly. It’s not a big deal if you leave the cap off the pen (it won’t dry out that much, seriously!)
You are partners. You’re not supposed to be identical. You are supposed to be you! Sometimes I joke that I exist to teach my family patience. It’s ok. We need to support each other, to shore up the bits that need it and shine a light on the wonderful details. Celebrate the glorious differences and help each other with the hard parts. That’s really what marriage is about, gifted or not. It’s just that with gifted, those differences might feel like a world apart at times.
Being married to gifted is difficult at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s certainly never boring!
(note: the plaque in the image is something Mr. Genius’ mom gave him. I think it was supposed to be sarcastic but he thought it was a statement of fact.)