I’ve always considered myself a smart person. And so, when I was confronted with the harsh reality of how stupid I was in my first marriage, it was a tough reality to accept.
How could I be SO dumb when it comes to love?
1 – Smart People Are Still Subject to the Addictive Nature of Love
No matter how smart you are, you are still impacted by your biology. And our biology has evolved to encourage us to form strong social bonds and to procreate. Oxytocin and serotonin help to create the feeling of love and encourage us to stay close.
But those aren’t the dangerous one.
That moniker goes to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives us a little jolt of pleasure whenever it is stimulated. And the best way to stimulate is through intermittent rewards.
Dopamine is present in high amounts at the beginning of a relationship when you cannot stop thinking about the other person. It’s the first, heady rush of the drug in your system. And it can easily become the dragon you keep chasing.
Manipulative people are masters at controlling the dopamine response in their partners. These are the abusers that follow their assault with copious amounts of affection and attention. Or, the ones who ignore your bids for attention and then randomly provide you with the love hit that you crave. They control you as surely as researchers doling out treats to the rats in the cage.
Much like any addict, when you’re under the influence of love, you can do some irrational and dumb things while seeking out the next high. And like any addict, it’s difficult to see the addiction while you’re still under its spell.
2 – Smart People Set Goals for Themselves and Are Used to Achieving Them
Smart people are used to dictating their lives. When they set goals of getting married by a certain age, they fully intend for that to happen. The problem arises when the goal of marriage becomes the sole focal point and the nature of the specific relationship is viewed as secondary.
In school, there is a direct correlation between the hours of study and score on the exam. At work, more effort leads to better results. When it comes to fitness, more hours at the gym results in a more favorable outcome. Yet in love, the corollary between energy and results is much more nebulous because no matter how much we try, we cannot control the behaviors of others.
You can set all the goals you want for your relationship. But if your partner does not share those goals or refuses to put forth the effort to reach them, those goals become moot. This is a difficult truth for smart people, especially when they see the potential within their partner. The question then becomes, are you in love with the person or with their potential?
3 – Smart People Have High Expectations of Themselves and Assume the Same of Others
Smart people are experts at reflection and course correction. They have high expectations of themselves and are often on a lifelong journey of self-improvement. They naturally assume that everyone else is capable of self-reflection and can articulate what they want. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
There are people who go through life taking advantage of those who see the best in others. People who do not hesitate to operate behind the veil of optimism and good graces. It’s almost impossible for those victimized by this behavior to understand it because it is so far removed from their very nature.
4 – Smart People Adapt to Their Environments
When you put sane people into an insane environment for any length of time, they will begin to adapt in order to survive. The analogy of slowly turning up the heat in order to boil the frog is apt here; even as the situation becomes dire, there is a constant recalibration of “normal.”
Smart people are good as assessing a situation and responding in a way that is advantageous for survival. Often, this is a desirable response. But when the response means that you have to continually bite your tongue or hide your true nature, the reactions have become maladaptive.
When the situation is toxic, it may be better to escape rather than to continually acclimate. After all, even if the water no longer feels hot, it can still scald.
5 – Smart People Often Trust Their Brains More Than Their Guts
When you’re smart, you learn to trust in your perceptions and your conclusions. You become adept at analyzing a situation and assembling evidence to support your case. This trait, useful in most areas, can be dangerous when it comes to love.
First of all, we want to believe that we made a sound decision when we selected our partner. So we’re reticent to admit to any signs that perhaps we made a mistake. Additionally, we fear losing love and ending up alone. So we create complicated narratives that excuse red flags in order to avoid facing that painful experience.
Smart people often dismiss their gut feelings, viewing intuition as a lesser skill than reasoning and believing only in things that can be proven through factual evidence.
Even when we can’t prove them, our gut feelings are important. They often operate like the sensors placed to recognize even the slightest increase in seismic activity. The disturbances are so slight that they operate below the level of conscious awareness, yet the gut can still tell that “something” is off.
6 – Smart People Fall Into the “Sunk Cost Fallacy” Because They Don’t Like to Quit
Once you have invested years into a relationship, it’s easy to use the time spent as justification for spending more time and energy. Sometimes, this inclination is advantageous. But if the demise of the relationship is inevitable, it’s simply throwing good money after bad in a desperate attempt to keep from admitting defeat.
Smart people have learned that success comes from effort and perseverance. They may struggle to understand the distinction between quitting (born from fear or frustration) and letting go (which arises from courage and acceptance). As a result, they will often do – and try – anything to keep from giving up. Even if it means giving up on themselves.
There is a silver lining to all of this…
Smart people learn from their mistakes. They understand how to break down a situation and reflect upon its merits and detriments. Smart people don’t shy away from responsibility or hard work. They see the correlation between effort and outcome and know that anything worthwhile isn’t easy to obtain.
Smart people can learn how to become smart in love.