Why Dating Someone Smarter Than You Can Change Your Life
A dating expert discusses the many benefits of dating your intellectual match.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | December 29, 2022
Pop culture would have you believe that if you're physically attractive and financially well-off, you can rest easy when it comes to finding a good match. However, there is another important determinant of attraction and chemistry that sometimes gets overlooked: intellectual compatibility.
Research conducted by the online dating app Seeking.com, a platform for aspirational daters, suggests that a growing number of its users have high educational qualifications and preferences. In the United States, for example, 81% of male users and 74% of its female users have a college degree or higher.
Interestingly, they found that success on their app increases with one's level of education. Users with advanced degrees, such as a Ph.D., get approximately 30% more interactions and attention on the app than those with lesser qualifications.
This doesn't mean you need to go out and get a Ph.D. to be a successful online dater, it simply means that the dating world isn't limited to aesthetics, money, or popularity.
"People who are attracted to intelligence would naturally admire those who they perceive to be more intelligent than they are," explains Emma Hathorn, Seeking.com's in-house dating expert. "It's human nature to want to possess what we admire. Admiration for someone's intellectual capabilities could quite easily lead to infatuation regardless of age, gender, or really any physically defining characteristics."
Apart from the obvious benefits of instant chemistry and sparkling banter, there are two deeper, long-term benefits one can derive from dating their intellectual match:
#1. High-quality communication
According to Hathorn, having a partner who has similar interests and intelligence levels makes conversations more fulfilling and stimulating.
"I think what every human being craves in relationships is to be truly known and understood, and an intellectual match will analyze you, understand you, and, in turn, would want to be analyzed and understood by you," she explains.
People can love each other deeply and yet be separated by a gulf of miscommunication. Partners who can keep up with each other intellectually and emotionally have a strong bridge of communication.
This is probably why research has found that intellectual connections last longer. Most men and women consider attractiveness as a relevant factor for a short-term partner and intelligence as a desirable quality for long-term relationships.
"Intelligence does not fade like looks," says Hathorn. "Conversations are more interesting with a partner whose mind fascinates you. To feel fulfilled by even a mundane chat is an expansive and satisfying experience for anybody and it can turn the day to day into something extraordinary."
#2. Personal growth
Dating someone who is mentally stimulating also encourages both parties to grow and evolve as individuals. When you're surrounded by people who challenge your beliefs and push your boundaries intellectually, it forces you out of your comfort zone and encourages personal growth in ways that may not have been possible otherwise.
Most people understand this on an intuitive level. A study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that once a partner's attractiveness was deemed to be 'sufficient,' intelligence was what mattered most to potential suitors.
What to do if 'dating up' scares you
If you struggle with the idea of getting involved someone whom you think is more intelligent than you, Hathorn offers the following advice:
- Don't just check the box. Instead of solely looking at someone's academic accomplishments, you have to make sure they also fulfill your inner definition of intelligence. While educational qualifications may suggest intelligence, finding an intellectual match requires you to dig deeper. "Instead of finding someone who is deeply intelligent or academically intimidating, it's more vital to find them inspiring," she explains. "A potential partner who impresses you with their mind and with their knowledge should inspire you to better yourself and push you to new levels."
- Network with a like-minded community. If the usual tricks haven't worked for you, Hathorn suggests reconnecting with your academic circle and finding matches in areas of your life you haven't searched in before. "Intellectuals, in the academic sense, are often very busy (and, let's be honest, sometimes reclusive), so they're not always easy to find," she says. "Being active within your academic community and networking with other like-minded people can lead to new connections."
- Use technology to your advantage. There are dating apps that help you filter and curate your process of date selection to an elaborate degree, especially when catering to certain niches. "Modern technology has made it more convenient to seek out what it is that you're looking for in a partner," she explains. "If you're looking to swap quips with a Ph.D. candidate, modern methods can put you in touch in the shortest amount of time."