Ok, before I begin, let’s remind ourselves we have exes for a reason. We broke up with them for a reason. And we’re always going to think they do shitty things. This is one of those exes.
When it came to this particular guy, I have several reasons for breaking up with him. But you could say his trying to intellectually outsmart was high up on the list of deal-breakers.
My ex was a constant corrector.
Every time we spoke about something mildly intellectual, he always tried to make sure he was the correct one.
Correct facts. Correct opinions.
He would spend hours ‘teaching’ me the facts of life, despite the way I already knew these things from my extensive education.
On many occasions, he would start comparing grades from school. We weren’t long out of school mind you, yet he still wanted to make sure he could academically succeed past me.
Then came the kicker.
I overheard him telling a group of his friends that he was smarter than me. He didn’t tell them why he was, or how he knew this, but his declaration was clear. If there was an intellect hierarchy in our relationship, he would be on top.
Any rational person would step in and tell my ex where to go. How dare he make that comparison?
But me? I left it alone. I never told him I heard that. Here’s why.
I wasn’t playing into the pissing contest
This is what a battle of intellects really is; a pissing contest. Comparing who can do it better through some sort of rivalry.
I remember these well from growing up with two siblings. For many of us with siblings, our entire lives are one big contest like this. You’re always under the microscope, you’re constantly compared. And then you’re always competing with each other.
Quite frankly, it’s exhausting. It’s a type of game-playing that sucks all the life out of me, depleting my precious energy. I had better things to do with my time, like figuring out why he was doing this with me.
I also knew the consequences of buying into this race. It would never end.
The longer it went on, the more I was telling him that I was accepting of this behaviour.
I was not accepting, at all, so I wasn’t going to do that.
I know relationships don’t survive with comparison
To correct him on his assumption of me would have required going into who was more intelligent.
That’s how this works; if he thinks one thing of me and I want to prove it’s not true, I have to present my case.
I would’ve had to demonstrate all the ways I was smarter than him, and prove he was dumber than me, which involved a butt load of comparison.
I know romantic relationships don’t survive the comparison. When you’re meant to be a team, a cohesive unit, comparison is the enemy that undoes that team-like bond. It doesn’t promote unity. It does the opposite.
Comparison also breeds resentment.
I already felt this resentment towards him for having compared us in the first place. Why would I inflict that pain on him?
I didn’t like it happening to me, and I’m not into sharing pain for the sake of retribution. Especially not with someone I’m meant to care about.
What would I have gained by winning?
If I went down that comparison path and proved I was the smarter person, what would I get out of it? Really? What is the prize for putting our relationship through that ordeal?
You could say my prize would be that I would restore pride in myself. It’s not nice when someone is bad-mouthing you, especially when they don’t have their facts right.
But this isn’t a situation where I was going head to head with a complete stranger, one of life’s hecklers. It wasn’t some stranger I was never going to see again.
If I said something I couldn’t take back, this would be problematic in many ways.
He was my boyfriend. There was a lot to lose if I played to win.
I could only see a lot of downsides if I tried to win. Surely, he would break up with me. Or not so much him breaking up with me. It would cause a fight that would lead to a messy situation, which could lead to a breakup.
It could have caused more mud-slinging. When people confront each other, the defense barriers go up. I was inviting him to say more things about me, or say things to hurt me because he was feeling attacked.
Sure, it could have gone well, too. But considering he was saying this about me, I knew the outcome already.
That’s what comes from knowing the person doing the comparison.
I listened more to what he was doing, rather than saying
Sure, he was trying to make himself look like the smarter person with his friends. I get that.
And yes, he was badmouthing his girlfriend at the time. No, that wasn’t cool.
But those were the surface problems, the one-dimensional issues caused by what he was saying. Those were one thing. I concerned myself more on what he was doing by saying this.
He was trying to keep me down. He was trying to put me in my place. And he was trying to assert himself in a position of power over me.
Even if it was only with his friends, it was only a hop, skip and jump before he was doing it directly with me. And he did, by the way.
That’s a bigger concern than him trying to degrade my intellect. His manipulation of our relationship meant red flags in mass proportions. It showed me he wanted to change the dynamic of our relationship, to a situation by which I suffered.
I didn’t like this realisation. It wasn’t comfortable discovering he was trying to manipulate me in this way. Yet, it was better to know this before it got out of control.
And if you asked me what made me truly realise this? Not biting.
By not following that knee-jerk reaction, I could stop, contemplate and see what was happening in my relationship better. It was the clarity I needed.
No regrets there.
If I had a next time…
This has nothing to do with intelligence by the way. It has nothing to do with whether he was smarter than me or not. And it has nothing to do with the adequacy of my intelligence.
Sure, I don’t need anyone to prove my smarts. I have a pretty solid grasp of my knowledge of the world, and what I don’t know.
No, this is about how two people treat each other in a relationship.
I could have said something to him about the way he was treating me. And I could have called him out on my realisations, and confronted him about what he was trying to do.
I didn’t though. Because his actions said enough for me to know the argument was futile. He told me everything I needed to know about how he felt about me.
You could say he scribbled the writing on the wall that day.
I couldn’t come back from that. There was nothing he could say or do that could erase my memory of what he was doing to us. Or what he was saying.
It was like he cheated on me. Comparing our intelligence was a deal breaker too far.
If I had a next time with him, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would stay silent. And I would exercise my emotional intelligence and walk away all over again.
Because, sometimes, saying nothing and letting your actions speak louder than words is the smartest thing to do.
By the way, I have no idea who was the smarter one between us. But I will say this; I did outscore him by a lot in high school and university. And I would never be so stupid to talk about my partner like that in earshot.
Make what you will of that!
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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