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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  1. 91

    Many people were just Meant to find love that many others can’t, and i will never ever understand that at all. It is like God is punishing us for a Reason that we Never Ever Know.

  2. 92

    Jim 91 – No one is punishing us. 
    Sparkling Emerald – 88 – Love the answer.  Made me laugh.  Big fat zero, eh?
    Evan – This is a very thoughtful question. 
    The men that I have been really very attracted to have been, invariably, very very intellectual, some of them having extremely powerful positions, but with some serious dealbreakers (women-chasing, and other things which I could not accept, much to both of them’s disbelief – she said no to US?????)
    As women get older, yes, maybe the pool of men available does decrease.  That’s possible.  And our choices change as well.  Sometimes our attitudes too (as in, oh God, do I have to go through all this dating stuff AGAIN?)
    Our bodies are less juicy, and gravity takes a bit of a toll, as does possibly our energy levels (mine were very high as a youngster so I’m still very energetic!)
    Yes, if I find the man who is faithful, loyal, bright and relatively attractive (read = well groomed at least), and if he has at least good moral values, (including being single and available!) I would probably prefer to be in a LAT relationship, all things weighed up.

  3. 93
    Sparkling Emerald

    Jim @ 91, I understand how you feel, I have often felt that way, though I am not a believer in God, I have sometimes felt that the Universe is punishing me in the love department.
    But then I look at everything else I have,  stable finances (not stellar, but stable), excellent health, a son that I adore,  lot’s of friends, hobbies that I love to do.  No major tragedies in my life either. 
    I know people who have had their children murdered, a woman who’s hubby committed suicide and took others out with him, people who struggle day in and day out with chronic painful illnesses, people who were sexually abused growing up,  couples who WANTED children and struggled with infertility etc.  I look at how badly others are being “punished” and my little ol’ divorce & roller coaster dating experiences pale in comparison.
    I think EVERYONE struggles in some aspect of their life.  For some, it’s a struggle for love, but those “lucky in love” people are being “punished” with a different set of struggles.

  4. 94

    re.  Peter 90.  When a guy says that his girlfriend cooks like a witch, is that a good or bad thing?  I’m picturing meals consisting of eye of newt, toe of frog, etc.
    re * 86.  She had a “perfect 10″ guy in her life… who was a cheating on his wife with her (for a short while).  She explains that she is now “waiting around” for another 10 because she was once able to garner attention from one, and that the early stages were “intense.” 
    WOW.  This comment hit home.   One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on this blog is, as Tom10 succinctly summarised elsewhere on this blog, “… I’m coming to the conclusion that “men will date down for sex/casual, whereas women would rather abstain” concept can be used to explain so many of the issues in modern dating.”   Comment 86 was a clear example of this, and also of why it is so often a trap for us women!
    Men are often willing to date, flirt and/or have sex below their league but these are not the women they want to keep as long-term, respected partners.  However, many of us women, having received attention from men above our league, imagine that this means we can have one as our boyfriend or husband.  “That male model lung surgeon trust fund philanthropist took me to dinner, twice.   No relationship developed from that but CLEARLY I have what it takes to attract other men of that caliber; I won’t settle for anything less!”  Meanwhile, the years pass, our “value” falls and we ignore the thoughtful, hard-working guys who actually want relationships with us.  
    Posts like 86 are one reason I appreciate Evan’s comment section.   Sometimes we can better recognise flaws in our own thinking/behaviour when we see them glaringly illustrated in others…

  5. 95

    I’m still perplexed by this concept of leagues.  I have come to the conclusion that someone who being highly educated, extremely good looking, wealthy or even highly intelligent, does not necessarily qualify them to be in a higher league.  I think it’s as Evan is always saying, character is more important.
    I went on a couple of dates with a guy who genuinely appeared to have all the trappings – he was gorgeous, a surfer (with a surfer’s body), successful and rich, and appeared to be very cultured and well-read.
    And I WAS very taken with him on the first date.  However, by the second date it became apparent that he was used to being the shining star and centre of attention and a certain amount of arrogance came through and I suddenly found him less attractive.
    I suppose all this is to say, I think it would be great if we could evolve past the point where we are so obsessed with superficial characteristics, and where we could find qualities with more substance attractive, and that *that* would be at least as important as looks in determining what league someone fell into.

  6. 96

    once you are focused on substance and character, leagues don’t come into it.
    I admit there is a certain cachet to being seen with someone v attractive but I fully realise it’s shallow! 

  7. 97

    What do I think?  I think Schopenhauer is right.  Romantic love doesn’t have anything to do with love.  It has to do with the survival of the species.  Mother-nature plays her little trick on us so that the species continues. 
    I don’t think that most people that are married are happy.  I don’t think that most people that are single are satisfied.  This dichotomy is evidence enough to me that love has nothing to do with happiness. 
    We want to be loved.  We need to be loved.  Biologically we’re primates so we need to have social interaction to keep from going crazy and dying.  But, we don’t need social interaction with hostile people.  If a person wants love then they should earn it.  We don’t love people for what they can do for us or to us.  We love them for who they are; their virtues.  It’s what they value.  It’s their value-system.  It’s their character.

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