Why the Most Impressive People Struggle in Love

I had a Memorial Day barbecue yesterday and got a chance to connect with some amazing friends. As the day wound down and the sangria pitcher drained, I started musing about dating and relationships, which is the kind of thing I do whether I’m sober or not.

It occurred to me that all of our friends are demographically similar: Attractive, fun, 30-40 years old. Writers. Directors. Marketers. Professors. Artists. MBAs. Just a solid bunch of folks.

And yet there was only one other couple at our party – everyone else was single.

So if the common denominator between my friends is that they’re single and impressive, is it possible that the reason that they’re single is BECAUSE they’re impressive?

When you have everything going for you, does it become that much harder to compromise on looks? Intelligence? Humor? Money?

Without psychoanalyzing any of my friends (since a. they didn’t ask me, and b. I’m not a shrink), I’d have to at least pose the question:

When you truly are an 8 in looks, a 9 in intelligence, a 7 in career, an 8 in humor… is it imperative to find someone as impressive as you are? Is anything less “settling”?

Believe me, I’m not one of those people who became an expert when he put a ring on his finger. After all, for most of my career, I was the single guy. Plus, it’s quite evident that married people aren’t necessarily smarter – they’re just more committed to one relationship.

But maybe it’s not just a coincidence that the cream of the crop is largely made up of “maximizers” as described in Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice”. These folks have so much self-worth that they feel that the grass is always greener. And if they have 90% of what they’re looking for in a mate, maybe they just won’t rest until they find 94%.

Alas, as Schwartz points out in his amazing book: maximizers are rarely happy. In fact, “satisficers” – the people who are content with “less” – tend to be happier people overall.

So, is it harder for the most impressive people to find love? Would they be wiser if they learned to compromise? Are they holding out for something that doesn’t exist?

What do you think?

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Comments:

  1. 61
    happygirl

    Curly Girl wrote:
    My vote is that a good number of them (us?) aren’t looking for the one, forever and ever, amen. There is so much to do in life and so many people to do it with. Marriage is only one thing on the menu and doing that often precludes doing other things.

    I have to say that I agree with Curly Girls statement.
    I was married, dated a lot after I got divorced…was looking for a great partner etc…
    Then I decided to just go out with the idea of making a lot of friends and have a great time..I decided not focus so much anymore on looking to meet someone.( sorry Evan)
    I am just happy where I am at in my life. I have a lot of freedom and have a great social life.
    If I meet someone fine…if not fine too……
    That’s my take on it.

  2. 62
    delicia

    Yeah, I second that…. do you believe they are… dare I say it… too picky??? Does that even exist? How do you know whether you are being too picky vs. adhering to your standards??

  3. 63
    Carol

    Working with Evan and having dated over 40 men in 2 years, there were two men I really felt I could easily spend the rest of my life with. One was an old high school boyfriend with no money (not an issue for me), but uncomfortable for him. He was a nice looking guy with brains and quirkiness to be interesting, but although our values were similar it didn’t work for him.
    The other man wasn’t handsome maybe a 5, but there was not one thing I didn’t like about him, hard to know the real reason we are just friends, sometimes I think I have the vision the the guy doesn’t. So the search continues, I think I am much willing to settle for less than a man, it doesn’t matter to me if he has less monetarily, but I need at least a 4 in chemistry some similar values and interests, so the search goes on.

  4. 64
    Angela

    Cilla I agree and disagree I do believe as we age we get wiser and much of this talk about 10’s and impressive is BS! I do not believe there is necessarily a correlation between intelligence and wisdom.

  5. 65
    Karl R

    Lyn said: (#60)
    “The great thing about internet dating – the chance to meet lots of people you wouldn’t have access to otherwise, is, oddly enough, its greatest curse. It feeds into our consumer mentality that there is always going to be someone better looking, younger, thinner, taller, or richer out there.”

    And for all the people we think would be looking for us, there’s someone out there who is younger, thinner, taller or richer.

    Example:
    Let’s say you’re a 40 year old man, so your competition is about 35-45. You’re 5’10”, athletic & toned, exercise 3-4 times per week, have a bachelors degreee and earn $70,000 per year. You should be in good shape, right?

    I ran some numbers on Match.com (for men, 35-45, in my area)
    18% of the men are 5’10”, 53% are taller
    49% of men describe themselves as “athletic & toned”
    53% exercise 3-4 times per week; 16% exercise more
    42% have a bachelors; 33% have a higher degree
    11% have an income in the $50-$75,000 range, 39% earn more, and the only saving grace is that 43% don’t list their income, so they automatically get filtered to the bottom by Match.com’s search engine.

    In online dating, above average seems average or below average.

  6. 66
    starthrower68

    @ Karl #45

    There is nothing wrong with the genuinely sincere, nice guys who like heavy women; I’m not just running across them in my area. And I admit, unfortunately I am not without my own bit of narcissism (of which I am NOT proud and am trying to be more open-minded). I’m talking about the strange creepy types and believe me, they are out there and in abundance. I risk getting completely off topic if I say anymore, but let’s suffice it to say that my experience with this is mostly online. On the flip side, I have seen many very attractive men on the BBW sites and I think, “oh no. There’s no way he can sincerely prefer heavy women unless he’s a freak”. Yes, I’m willing to concede that might be a bias attitude, but I have trouble buying it.

  7. 67
    Selena

    Re: #65

    Unless a good percentage of the men are LYING. Something that appears to be common on internet dating sites.

  8. 68
    Cilla

    I agree with Selena in #67. I’ve dated eight men through online services in the last 12 months. Seven of them listed themselves as “athletic and toned,” but three of them were average or even slightly overweight. Several of them added an inch or two to their height. One grossly exaggerated his income. One said he was divorced when he actually wasn’t. One subtracted three years from his real age. And those are the untruths I know about–who knows what other fibs were told.

    One of the things I like about the man I’m currently seeing is that he described his body type as “about average” because he didn’t have perfectly flat abs. I would actually describe him as “athletic and toned.” I appreciated that he was more unassuming than most guys on Match and felt no need to be boastful about his appearance.

    I suspect that we have the kind of complementary relationship Evan wishes his friends would find. We each make close to six figures. We each have an academically gifted child who is now of college age. We own our own homes and seem to have our lives pretty together. While I have “only” a bachelors degree, he has a PhD. I find him very attractive, but I suspect I am a little more “out of his league” than some of the practical and less girly academicians he has dated in the past. In the area of our differences, I don’t think either of us feels we are compromising or settling in the least. Maybe when the right chemistry is there, is doesn’t feel like something’s missing, just that you are a good fit for each other.

    I also have to say it’s nice to date someone who, while not a lovesick puppy, is kind of smitten with me and lets me know how lucky he feels to be together versus the guys who always subtly made me feel I wasn’t quite good enough for them. Any ambivalence I had at the start of our relationship because of missing that bad boy adrenaline rush has been replaced by a feeling of contentment.

  9. 69
    Tammy

    We derive some of our self-esteem by the regard others have for us. If someone who I regard as a 2 on the intelligence scale says I’m smart, I don’t update my self-worth on that scale. If someone who’s a 10 on the intelligence scale does, though, I get an ego boost.

    This process is energy-intensive, so people prefer not to do it unless there’s a benefit (ego boost). For this reason, people tend to prefer others who are at the same level or higher than themselves. Also, our ego becomes more fixed as we age and get a better sense of self, so it’s easier to make these choices when you’re younger.

    In an ideal relationship, you each regard the other higher than they regard themselves, so continually get an ego boost.

  10. 70
    JuJu

    Starthrower: I think secretly, we all want someone who is more than we are.

    I think the women do, not the men.
    My definition of a man I want, after all, is someone taller / higher, bigger and stronger than I am in every way.

  11. 71
    JuJu

    Honey: I consider myself physically to be a 6.5 or 7 (though if I could actually bring myself to exercise I could be an 8 ) so that’s where I’m most likely to compromise.

    I am not (likely to compromise). I mean, yes, I might consider myself a 7, but that means I want a 7, too. And to me any man shorter than 5’10”, for instance, is automatically a 5 (maybe a 6 if he is really built), so it *is* tough.
    (I want someone in my league of looks (and height) not because it’s a vanity issue, but because I simply won’t be attracted otherwise.)

  12. 72
    JuJu

    ** “is automatically no higher than a 5″, should have said

  13. 73
    Honey

    @ JuJu, I didn’t mean compromise in the sense of being attracted to someone who was less attractive than I am…I meant compromise in the sense that people on this thread have been using it, i.e. anyone who’s not a 10 is a “compromise.”

    The BF is probably close to me in looks (he could use a workout, too, but he’s certainly not overweight) but he is only 5’6″ or 5’7″, which automatically takes him off a lot of girls’ radar. I’m 5’3″, so it doesn’t matter much to me.

    Honey´s last blog post…I Grabbed Some Chick’s Ass On Memorial Day

  14. 74
    A-L

    Cilla wrote I also have to say it’s nice to date someone who, while not a lovesick puppy, is kind of smitten with me and lets me know how lucky he feels to be together versus the guys who always subtly made me feel I wasn’t quite good enough for them. Any ambivalence I had at the start of our relationship because of missing that bad boy adrenaline rush has been replaced by a feeling of contentment.

    Right on!

    Tammy wrote In an ideal relationship, you each regard the other higher than they regard themselves, so continually get an ego boost.

    Beautifully put!

    And no, I didn’t have anything I really wanted to say except that I really agreed with/loved these two quotes.

  15. 75
    JuJu

    Speaking of Kevin James, in real life he has, like, the hottest wife! (The Asian girl who played Carrie’s manicurist in a few episodes of “The King of Queens”).
    I was in total disbelief when first found out about this on imdb.com, and, in fact, a couple years later, still am.

  16. 76
    JuJu

    Mr. Right said: “Because, let’s be honest, there are a LOT of attractive intelligent women online. ”

    Really? I’d never guess. I actually think those are few and far between.

    It’s the same as with men – there may be a decent amount of attractive men online, and may even be – of intelligent ones. But intelligent AND attractive – those are hard to come by.

  17. 77
    Nikita

    Impressive may be the wrong word to use. However, I agree with the general principle.

    I am a doctor doing my residency now. I passed my exams at an early point in my career, I have my own apartment and am about to get my first sports car. I’m a size 6 and attractive. But for some reason, I’m also single.

    I dated extensively during my house jobs. I partied and didn’t open a single textbook the whole year. Then I decided I wanted to do surgery. My head got stuck in the books. I fell into a bad relationship and went on a boy fast for 6 months which then extended into 12 months. I got so caught up in work that I didn’t leave any time for socialising. I leave by 7 am and get home at 10 pm. Weekends off are precious and just used to recuperate from the hectic week. On-calls show no signs of abating.

    Somehow, with work and trying to be the best in the game, I’ve forfeited my love life. Sometimes it’s just because the most “impressive” people just put other things ahead of love and relationships. Perhaps I will regret this when I’m 40 years but at the moment, all I want to do is be the best at my work.

    Nikita´s last blog post…One of those days

  18. 78
    Mr_Right

    @JuJu 75 – Really? Well, I’m not surprised, but that’s definitely interesting. :)

    @JuJu 76 – Nope, there ARE a lot of intelligent attractive men/women online. It’s hard to find them though, because I don’t think people look in the right spots. Or rather, they’re not looking correctly.

    @Nikita – You seem a lot like my girlfriend… we were walking the mall recently and we went into the Ann Taylor (or rather, she dragged me in), and I noticed she was a size 6, which is interesting, because I have no idea about women’s sizes in the first place. Plus she’s a resident… You know, what you might want to try is eHarmony, where they send you matches, it worked for her (and me). I guess you have to make finding a relationship one of your priorities if you have a busy schedule.

  19. 79
    Selena

    Cilla #68
    “In the area of our differences, I don’t think either of us feels we are compromising or settling in the least. Maybe when the right chemistry is there, is doesn’t feel like something’s missing, just that you are a good fit for each other. ”

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Why is this so difficult for some people to grasp?

  20. 80
    JuJu

    Interesting, now that I think of it, I don’t think I ever was guilty of trying to get an “upgrade” in my online dating escapades.
    For me the biggest problem has always been finding someone attractive and interesting enough, but whenever I did, I absolutely gave them a chance.

  21. 81
    Carl R

    yea I agree, I am pretty young 22 educated and pretty intelligent (member of Phi Beta Kappa) and this certainly applies to me!!! Im not exactly a 10 in looks only because I am short (5’6) which really hinders me. Women tell me in pretty handsome but I am short which is frustrating. The town where I am from is considered one of the least educated, most illiterate in the nation so finding the intellectual connection in people is damn near impossible. When I came back from college it was a shock, I was extremely lonely and still am but I really let my standards sink low. I dont care if you have a damn GED, thats good enough for me as long as you look good enough and can hold a somewhat decent conversation. Its sad but what are you gonna do?

  22. 82
    Selena

    Re: #81
    “It’s sad but what are you gonna do?”

    Carl, have you considered moving to a larger metropolitan area? More women to choose from, particularly if you put yourself out there to meet them.

  23. 83
    Miafaru

    To me sexual attraction is a priority, as it is hard for me to get easily attracted and stay that way.
    If I am attracted then I would risk efforts and time to keep the spark.
    I believe I am picky and that lmits my choices. It is a double edge sword to be impressive.

  24. 84
    LX

    I think the main problem with a lot of these “very impressive” people are the fact that they don’t try hard enough, myself included. If I believe I am a great catch, why do I have to put forth that much effort to date a guy, and a guy in a similar situation feels the exact same way. Therefore, it is very hard to pair up the “very impressive” bunch.

  25. 85
    Taylor

    @BTTW , a 5 my friend is doing pretty well :-).
    I’ve just happened upon this website by chance a couple of hours ago. But even if it isn’t solving my problems it’s a source of great amusement and delightful banter. It really has made my day.
    This is exactly the topic I was looking for when I typed in my query .
    I feel fairly sure that it IS settling . If you can’t be fulfilled , it’s settling .
    I’m quite isolated here in Australia. Population 22 million .
    Suitable suitors ? Currently zero.
    My intense frustration has led me to anxiety and consequently ill health. Although I only became willing to admit the physical was caused by stress after a miserable Christmas where it seemed as though my body was trying to shut itself down.
    The issue is , I look fit and healthy . Amazingly so . Not an unsightly curve to be seen but I feel like an old woman . I am 19 with essentially the perfect figure . Toned and ample everywhere I should be an nowhere I shouldn’t .
    I will admit my head isn’t bad either. Allowing room for personal preference I could confidently say physically I am 9.5 -10 . As for intellect , 8.5 -10 because I’ll be the first to admit I’ve said some amazingly dimwitted things on occasion and I can be socially inappropriate at times though others I am so perfectly charming and witty nobody would ever no how hard I struggle to be in harmony with others. I can be very funny . I can be a little tedious and intense when the mood strikes to be painfully observant .
    Since my career is by nature one of inconsistency , especially being exotic in a country where although the look is embraced , in advertising , it is not always viable to use an exotic minority model when reaching for a certain audience.
    Sometimes I am contracted by multi billion dollar corporations to star in their campaigns and some months there is no use for a model that doesn’t fit the general population image . So my career can go from a 6 to a 10 on the whim of the fashion and advertising “season”.
    I am always kind , but that is not enough really.
    It’s just not and I can’t pretend otherwise. I have a very extensive web of connections but I can’t seem to find a match.
    I’m lonely . And really , there aren’t that many people left in Sydney , Australia to meet.
    I don’t need a partner to be a ten in physical attractiveness but if you can’t converse and communicate in an effective and enjoyable way how can anybody be satisfied?
    98% of the population quite simply can’t keep up. And then I feel as though I’m the rotten one because they’re the majority and they don’t care to be reminded that some things are out of their mental grasp.
    What’s a girl to do?

  26. 86
    *

    My personal experience, for what it’s worth: I had a “perfect 10″ in my life for a while, so I know it’s possible. Quite annoyingly, he was married to someone else and in the end he chose to stay with her (I know, I know, they all do, fool me twice for hoping it would end differently). But see, through all the pain and wreckage I still know that I can get a 10’s attention – and boy was it intense during the initial wooing phase. So I will wait around for another chance, it’s not as if I can’t do it, I just had an unlucky test run and that was mainly my fault for picking the wrong situation.
    Of course, it’s not easy at all. I have horrible days. More precisely, I’m having horrible years. But I refuse to let a setback dictate my course of action for the rest of my life.

  27. 87
    Ruby

    * #86

    I’m not really sure how a married man who is cheating on his wife could be considered a “perfect 10.” Maybe he looks good on paper, but a married cheater as an eligible boyfriend anyway.

  28. 88
    Sparkling Emerald

    *86
    Really ?  A married “perfect 10″.  AFAIK, a cheater is a big fat zero !  Don’t care if he looks like George Clooney and has the intellect of Einstein, if he has the morals and trustworthiness of a sewer rat, then he’s a big fat zero.  And a man being married is more than “annoying” no matter how good looking he is.

  29. 89
    Peter

    Worse than satisficers or maximizers are those who review their decisions after they have taken them.  There is a time to decide and then you get on with it.  Five fogs sit on a log in the middle of a lake in the forest.  An Osprey sits on a tree nearby.
    Three frogs decide to jump off.
    HOW MANY FROGS ARE LEFT?
    Five because deciding isn’t doing.

  30. 90
    Peter

    @Paul 47.  Or as they say in Cornwall.  Kissing don’t count.  Cooking do.
     
    Speaking as someone who has a trophy girlfriend 8 now, 9 when younger who cooks like a witch.

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