What Happens When You Tell That Woman You're Smarter Than Her
And how you're assessment of her intelligence destroys what you care about.
I remember the day it happened.
We were sitting at the dining room table in his parent's house. We had sat there many times before. Sometimes the two of us. Sometimes with his family.
Sometimes we even had friends there, like a true couple, hosting celebrations. There was magic when sitting at this table. It felt, well, normal, in a chaotic world.
But magic doesn't last.
Then came the conversation. For some reason, my ex and I started talking about school. We were both at university at the time.
I was studying performing arts at Monash, one of the highest-ranked universities in Australia. And in the top 50 in the world, too. He was studying business at Latrobe, a fine university but nothing of the calibre of where I went.
I started talking about my final performance of the year, a play where my grade came from my acting skills.
I remember telling him about my nerves when the laughter ensued.
"Why are you nervous? It's a play. It's not a real exam or anything. You don't have to be smart to do a play. You do have to be smart to study business."
I remember thinking; did he just call me dumb? Did he say he was smarter than me?
Yeah, I think he did.
Men versus women cliches
First of all, I want to say that I hate that this story is true. It actually makes me upset to my core that what I despise in romantic movies and paperback romance features in real life.
I thought it was only on the pages of fiction.
Or in the schoolyard, where someone would actually attack someone's intelligence.
And, to make it worse, the intelligence of someone you're meant to love.
Wait, let's make it even worse than that, a man putting a woman down to make himself feel superior about himself.
Cliched. I hate it. But it happened.
It's probably why at that moment I didn't respond to my ex. I didn't say anything, I kept on eating my dinner.
What could I say?
I could yell and scream and tell him how much he hurt me and how wrong he was. Yet, at that moment, it didn't seem like it would work. The hurt and shock paralysed me.
How could a modern man say that?
Trust and the disappearing act
It was almost immediately that I felt a lack of trust for him vanish. Into thin air. Poof, it was gone.
We, as a society, always talk about trust in relationships as this unsaid bond the other person won't cheat on us. Or do something behind our backs. Or won't lie to us when they should tell us the truth.
To me, trust is about avoiding hurt. You trust the other person isn't going to do or say anything, with intention, that hurts you.
You give them your heart to hold and cherish; your feelings, emotions, normal human thoughts and feelings.
Everyone knows how to hurt each other when the time comes. Trust is there to protect they will never use that knowledge to do that.
When he made note of my intelligence, he kicked trust to the curb. I didn't believe he was capable of being loving, caring or acting like a human being.
Because people who care don't make such a comparison. They might think it, but saying it is a very different story.
One, two, three, compare
When the dust settled on the situation, I started thinking about the validity of what he said. How could I not?
I know anyone in this situation would start to wonder if they were dumb, or not as intelligent as the person saying it. It's only normal to let the mind wander to that place, as unhealthy as it is.
I say it's unhealthy because I found myself comparing my intelligence to my now ex. I started looking at all the classic signs of intelligence he showed and positioned it against mine.
Who really was the smarter person?
Who would win in a battle of the smarts?
Him or me?
Suddenly I found myself not liking myself in our relationship because I was doing what he did to me.
I was diving into this jealous space where I analysed everything we did and ranked each other like we were in a competition.
Relationships aren't a competition. They're meant to be teamwork. But like the trust, out went the teamwork.
Where did the faith go?
Did I have any faith he will treat me equally in the future? Because he didn't that day.
That's this whole teamwork thing again, and trust for that matter. You have faith that trust and teamwork will work side by side and your partner won't go out of their way to hurt you.
Once something like this happens, there is no faith the relationship will get any better.
I lost all hope that he would treat me the way I deserved. I lost any faith he would make a good long-term partner; I wouldn't be able to marry a man who treated me like this. Nor could I have a child with him.
If he said this to me, what would he say when times were tough? Or what would he say to our child?
You might think this is a step too far in the pipeline. It's catastrophising.
But if you ask me, more people should think ahead about what people do next. Thinking about the worst-case scenario might help you see all the little things that lead to those events.
Sure I wasn't thinking about having kids right then. But this catastrophising helped me answer an important question; if I didn't want to have kids with him based on this event, why am I still with him?
And the eyes started to look
And once I knew I didn't want to be with my ex anymore, cue the hunting. I started looking for someone else.
Not necessarily someone better or different.
But I knew there would be someone out there who wouldn't pick fun of my intelligence. Or compare my smarts to theirs. I knew someone else out there would treat me like an equal.
I didn't quite know I was doing this by the way. I didn't actively check out of the relationship and begin looking for the next person.
But I did catch myself wondering about other people and other relationships, wondering what it would be like. And that wondering sent a signal to me.
I wanted to get out.
Pack up the confidence
I'm not going to pretend what my ex said didn't knock my confidence. It destroyed me.
Though most people will tell you not to pay attention to what someone says about you, it's impossible to ignore the opinions of the people you care about. What my ex said about me carried weight with me.
If he was saying this, I felt I should listen. He was saying this for a reason, right?
Even though I deep down knew I wasn't dumber than him (and our schooling records proved it), he made me feel small.
His words had an impact. And like another cliche, he tore me down with what was an off-the-cuff analysis of our relationship.
Here's what I want you to know though. Anyone who's had their intelligence insulted knows it's not off the cuff.
It never is.
You don't just think things like this. You work through it. You come to the conclusion after much deliberation and thought.
That's what makes it worse. And that's why when you challenge a woman's intelligence, we leave. We don't need you tearing us down. We can do that without you.
I have regrets about this situation.
I wish I could have told him where to go. If you want to tear me down to feel better about yourself, you're going to live a very lonely life. People won't stand for your assessments and comparisons. I know I surely won't.
I didn't say that though.
I just left instead.
My actions spoke louder than any words could.
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