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Ross and Rachel: cute but not intellectually compatible…

I haven’t written an IB (Intellectual Badass) article in a long time. But for some reason, the idea of intellectual compatibility has been rolling around in my mind for a while. What is intellectual compatibility? Is it important to date someone on your intellectual level? If so, how does that look?


Intelligent vs. Intellectual

I have a saying: Chemistry gets a relationship started, but Compatibility keeps it going. If you’re tired of “flame out” relationships that start great and then go to shit, chances are you aren’t dating people you’re compatible with. As I talk about in my books, compatibility is necessary for a strong relationship that lasts.

But what does intellectual compatibility entail? As someone who’s spent a lot of time with many kinds of people, from the totally uneducated to those with advanced degrees, I’ve found that there’s a difference between being intelligent and being intellectual.

Intelligence is about IQ: how quickly and efficiently your brain processes complex information. When people refer to intelligence/brains/smarts, they’re often referring to IQ. Some people have more efficient brains than others.

Intellectualism is about one’s interest in intellectual topics. offers a definition of an intellectual as “a person who places a high value on or pursues things of interest to the intellect or the more complex forms and fields of knowledge, aesthetic or philosophical matters, especially on an abstract and general level.” These are people who like to discuss complex ideas, they often read a lot, and they can really delve into topics of literature, science, world affairs, etc. 

Intellectualism varies considerably among people as well, depending on their background, education level, IQ, and their general interests. They can be low-brow, high-brow, or anything in-between. Here are a few ideas to consider in terms of how intellectual you are:

  • Do you prefer reading internet news and magazine articles (less intellectual) or do you prefer classic literature or non-fiction that really makes you think (more intellectual)?
  • Do you watch movies for entertainment (less intellectual) or to look hard at the film’s deeper meaning and message (more intellectual)?
  • When you read news or mags, do you go for fashion mags (women) or Men’s Health, or do you aim for the NY Times or the Atlantic Monthly?
  • Do you attend school to learn a trade or to learn to think?
  • Do you take things as they are, or are you compelled to analyze everything?

It’s important to mention that neither way is “better.” There’s a certain amount of snobbery out there about intellectualism, but we like what we like and not everyone needs to be an intellectual. I admit I rarely read heavy-hitting literature and only read the NY Times if my friend Adam sends me an article he thinks I’ll like. And if you saw the kind of adolescent male movies I watch (e.g. Tommy Boy, any Fast and Furious movie), you would laugh. But I will analyze the hell out of a film or TV show and what it says about society.

In dating, I think it’s more important to be compatible with your level of intellectualism than with IQ itself. True, the two things are somewhat related, but they aren’t the same. In my experience, I find extremely intellectual men too serious, but non-intellectual men find me and my intellectual side annoying. I did best with men who are like me: somewhere in the middle on the intellectual spectrum.

Consider where you fall on this spectrum. Think about who’ve you’ve dated in the past: did you feel a certain intellectual connection with some but not others? Chances are, you felt most connected to someone who’s roughly on your intellectual level. And avoid being judgmental; not everyone is a philosopher and not everyone needs to be.

What are your experiences in this area? What worked for you and what didn’t?



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