He Thinks He’s Smarter Than She Is

Readers: Should She Set Him Straight?

I got this question from a reader:

Recently, my husband has made comments that insinuate that he is smarter than me, and that his job is more important and worthwhile. He is in his final year of medical residency. I am a caregiver and have not completed a degree, although I have made it almost halfway through several. We had a fight today during which I asked if he thought he was better than me. He replied “Yes, but only a little.” I am very hurt by this. He thinks I am overreacting. Am I? I can’t help but be worried that, as he gets older and continues his career, his opinion of himself will continue to go up and his opinion of me will go down. What should I do, if anything?

Readers: I’d like you all to weigh in here. This reader needs your insight and advice. Have you ever been in this situation before? Have you ever thought you were smarter than your spouse? Or has your spouse indicated that he or she is smarter than you are?

My take is that your irritation with his comment says more about you than it does about him. I sense that you already felt insecure about your intelligence long before this conversation. In my opinion, the solution here isn’t about getting him to see you as intelligent. It’s about getting you to see it. If you felt secure about it, then his comment wouldn’t have bothered you. To the contrary, you’d probably find it amusing. So I would recommend sitting with it for a bit. Why do you feel inferior? What is causing this lack of self confidence?

I also, in situations like this, recommend a Buddhist strategy called “Accepting Defeat and Offering the Victory.” I’ve written about this in the past here, here, and here, among many other posts. The idea is that you just allow him to have his belief, by saying lovingly and sweetly, “You’re right. You are a little better than me. That’s why I fell in love with you and married you.” I know. It’s dang difficult because a part of the mind wants to scream, “But he’s not smarter! And I should put him in his place! He needs to recognize my intelligence!” And, in a perfect world, he would. In a perfect world, he would bow at your feet and tell you that you are the smartest person he knows. But this is not a perfect world. In his world, he wants to feel smarter. This belief makes him feel good. You can try to prove that you are smarter, but the effort will probably be frustrating, futile, and lead to more fighting. It won’t get you where you want to go.

To help reduce the mental resistance to accepting defeat, try to see things through his eyes. Take your mind and put it inside his head. Think about his perspective. Why might he need to feel smarter? What is that about for him? If you do this, you just might be able to develop some compassion and that compassion will lead to the humility it takes to hand over the victory.

Or perhaps you should just play Jeopardy together and you should cream his ass. I don’t know.

Readers: what do you all think?

52 comments… add one

  • Anon February 23, 2012, 11:47 am

    Well, if I had said something like that to my wife, I would apologize.

    It is probably also the case that certain professions, and the medical profession is perhaps chief among them, engender a feeling of superiority over those who do not share those credentials.

    I suppose honesty may demand acknowledging if one spouse has demonstrated more achievement than the other. But I see 2 possible problems:

    1.) If one spouse’s achievement was made possible by the sacrifice of the other, then talking about how that achievement makes one better than the other is not fair.

    2.) If it is used to “pull rank” in discussions and invalidate the other’s opinion, and this can look like different things than pointing to professional achievements or credentials — “I’m their mother!”

    It’s probably also worth considering why someone would marry a spouse he considers himself superior to.

    • Danielle March 20, 2012, 11:08 am

      Thank you! That follow up post was very clear and accurate.

  • alison p-h February 23, 2012, 12:37 pm

    That is a tough one. I really like the buddha example of dropping it. I will have to try that for me.

    However, if it continues to bother you I would revisit with the idea of seeking clarification with your husband. What do you mean about “better”? What were you asking and what did he think he was answering? Was it career oriented only? Because “being better” is a term that can be applied to many areas and needs clarification. Each of you have your strengths and weaknesses. Who is …….better at a career, better brains, better cook, better homekeeper, better fix-it person, better driver, better listener to name a few of many. I would hope that each of you have great skills and behaviours that bring out the best in each other and together you guys create a great home.

    I am learning the hard way that our definitions of words are different even though English is both our first languages!

  • Sarah February 23, 2012, 3:22 pm

    I am a professor and my man is an engineer. While I am smarter when it comes to people and research and statistics, there is no doubt that he is smarter when it comes to machines and systems and computers. He also has the patience to tinker with things for hours, which I don’t have (great for fixing my jewelry!). I have 7 degrees – he has 1, so we obviously value academic learning differently.

    I think that for us, there is no tension over this issue because I recognize that while I am probably smarter in some ways, he is smarter in other ways. He doesn’t understand my work – very few people do. On the other hand, I don’t understand his work.

    Is there any way you can get your husband to tell you the things that he thinks you are “better” at? Maybe people skills, being “likable”, being funny, ability to guess murder-mystery outcomes, etc. That way, whenever you feel like he is being mildly hurtful, you can remind yourself that there are other things that you can do that he can’t. Can you turn his comments into a joke? Like say…”Well, I’m obviously not as intelligent as the man who can’t find his keys/put a pizza in the oven/something else mildly funny?” (make sure its not something acidic that you fight about but something that you tease him about!)

    I will say, that my peer group is constantly asking how I can be with someone who is not “on my intelligence level.” But I am very firm about reminding my well-meaning friends that my man, N, has attributes that more than compensate for his lack of academic knowledge or conversational skills. He is patient, compassionate, empathetic, a good listener, willing to talk about his feelings, willing to work on problems, will never quit on our relationship….all these things are SO much more important than his intellectual prowess, or the fact that he reads serial fantasy novels instead of the latest research. So it is a trade-off that I am willing to take. Others may not be willing to take that trade-off. I like Dan Savages concept of the “price of admission.” We all make trade-offs when we select our life partners.

    But maybe he is just being a little snobby or arrogant? Can you call him Mr. Arrogant-pants? Or use the “Last Lecture” line – “Its such a shame that no one listens to you because they perceive you to be so arrogant?” My man and I are very playful/teasing, so I do call him mr grumblepants sometimes (when he is grumbling about something silly)

  • Sarah Liz February 23, 2012, 3:30 pm

    The way I see it in a relationship is this:

    We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Each of us is better at some things than others. Each of us is better-equipped to handle a situation, or know more about a certain topic than others. This is what makes coupledom, relationships and marriage so wonderful! If we tune in to our spouses strengths and good points, and we hone our own, than all is taken care of. It can be a beautiful tapestry made of us balance and different strengths where the other is weaker.

    In truth, however, NO ONE is better than anyone else. Period. No better, no worse.

    Now, at least this woman’s husband was honest. That has to be appreciated. But, I agree with Alisa, it wouldn’t have affected her so much if she didn’t already agree to that statement on some level, somewhere deep, deep down.

    Now, that being said, it is still a very hurtful thing to say to someone and this woman has every right to feel hurt.

    However, you have to hold your own. You have to know that you ARE worthy, smart, competent, valuable, capable of helping/healing others in your profession. And this woman is, CAREGIVERS are AWESOME! That’s a tough job to say the least and she should be incredibly proud of the work that she does.

    We all choose different paths in life, in a marriage, there’s always a way to blend those paths, and there has to be for a marriage to survive.

    My advice to this woman is to forgive him, forgive herself and to let it teach her. I would also say that she should focus on the things she and her husband have in common–the medical field is one of them–and all the things they love/like about each other.

    Also, her husband is probably second guessing himself deep down as well, and his comments were probably just a reflection of himself, instead of how he really felt about her. That’s honestly my belief.

    Medical school is beyond hard and there’s so much competition and so much on the line (like peoples’ lives) that sometimes, they do get a ‘God-Complex,’ but I assure this woman, wait it out a bit and that will go away. I’m not saying he had a right to say that, I’m just saying practice empathy and forgiveness.

    I also think she needs to state firmly, but kindly, that this hurt her feelings as much as it did. Tell her husband why and then let it go. I know that’s really hard to do, but it’s the only way to keep the peace and her sanity.

    I hope I’ve helped.

    Have a great day!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

  • Anon February 23, 2012, 3:33 pm

    One more piece of advice would be to not ask a question to which you don’t want to hear the answer.

  • Meghan February 23, 2012, 4:51 pm

    I think there are two issues here. One is the intelligence factor/career importance. I think in this regard your summary of the situation is pretty accurate. The reader sounds like she herself feels not as good (having a few incomplete degrees, etc) and her husband also seems to take great pride in his own intelligence/career. This is a little insufferable of the husband, but may somewhat come with the territory of being a new doctor and maybe he is more intelligent. The reader doesn’t mention she doesn’t think that’s accurate in her letter. Most people are not equal in any single aspect. In any couple, one may be more intelligent than the other, more athletic, better looking, a better cook, more outgoing, and the list goes on. In any single thing we compare two people in, one will probably be better. That’s how it is. It’s not a problem in itself.

    I think what really concerns me about this letter is the leap from “Is he smarter than me” to “You think you are better than me”. I think that’s a huge problem. Intelligence or career success are only a part of life. I would bet there are certainly things this letter-writer brings to the relationship that she is much better at than her husband. And anyone who has had one of those doctors who doesn’t listen and thinks they know everything after spending 5 minutes with you will tell you that it isn’t just being intelligent that makes a good doctor. Or a good husband. Or a good person. Her husband should love and cherish this woman and see her gifts. And if he only sees that he is better than her then I think that’s something that needs to be addressed with him. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way. Maybe he is being paraphrased in a way that isn’t accurate. But I think it needs to be clarified and, if he truly feels he is an actual better person than his wife, then I think that probably makes some of her fears well-founded.

  • Kate February 23, 2012, 6:58 pm

    I don’t know, I beat my husband’s ass at Jeopardy all the time and he still thinks he’s smarter than me! Go figure! I agree, sometimes you have to smile and nod.

  • L February 23, 2012, 7:02 pm

    DTMFA !

  • Kat C February 23, 2012, 8:41 pm

    I’m thinking outside the box here… I may be wrong, but wanted to offer some other possibilities about what might have happened in the situation above. There are some other really good points listed above, and I particularly like what Alisa said about believing in yourself and your intelligence.

    Is there any chance that perhaps the husband is feeling insecure about his own abilities, perhaps some of those qualities that she possesses as a caregiver (such as bedside manner?) and is taking out these insecurities on his wife? (as an aside I’m not condoning this, just wondering if that is what has happened)

    Or, perhaps he knows her strengths, and he thinks that she is well aware of her good qualities, and has said the above in what he thought was a teasing tone, as a means of de-escalating the argument, and failed miserably? ( this has happened with me and my man before in relation to other things… he thinks he’s teasing, doesn’t understand why I’m hurt, I think he’s serious, and get really upset, he thinks I’m over reacting because I should know that I am not )

  • Kat C February 23, 2012, 8:42 pm

    the last part of my comment disappeared… after not it should say “insert whatever the teasing comment was about”)

  • Frank Leal February 23, 2012, 8:51 pm

    Well I agree with taking sometime to reflect as to why he feels that way, but I would have a discussion as to how he hurt you by belittling you in a calm state. He may not know how you feel about the comment.

  • Suezie February 23, 2012, 11:57 pm

    I personally feel that I’m smarter than my husband, I earn a little more money, I beat him at any card games/board games/sudoku, I am a better parent, partner and you name it. I feel I’m better in everything and sometimes thinks he is not good enough for me. So you should imagine the look on my face when I realize he’s always been letting me win and I mean, not just saying “I let you win” but really is letting me win.

    I agree with Alisa about feeling confident about yourself because then it doesn’t matter who is better, you will still feel secure.

    Although I must say that once you feel confident with yourself it is good to pull that trick my husband pull on me. I still can’t work out who is better and it doesn’t really matter.

  • Dinky February 24, 2012, 8:01 am

    Wow hard principle to apply – accept defeat and offer victory, but definitely something I want to be able to do. I am wondering how I would apply this to my situation where an old girlfriend from my husbands past has come back into his life, she believes he is her soulmate. I have fought a long hard battle destroying my marriage in the process for two years. Do you think this is a situation where I should be gracious and corageous enough to accept they want to be in each others lives and trust that all will be well in our marriage despite their strong feelings for each other? Do I hand over victory to her accept the defeat that I wont be the only special woman in my husbands life and let her in and trust the outcome to be in the hands of the universe?

    • Alisa February 24, 2012, 8:09 am

      Dinky– That’s a tough one. I wasn’t sure by your comment how your husband feels about her. Is he only tolerating her to be nice or is he in love with her, too? Assuming the latter, only you know what you are willing to accept. No one can answer that for you. In situations like this, I do think it helps to accept that “perfect” isn’t going to happen. That’s what most of us grasp for–a complete alleviation of suffering and of what we don’t like. We grasp at getting our way and getting what we want. If you can let go of the idea that things will ever be exactly as you want them to be, then you can come to a clearer place where you can make a hard decision. Do you want to spend your life in a half-marriage (he’s half with you, half with her), do you want to be alone (get out of the marriage), or do you want to continue to force him to do what you want even though that hasn’t worked for you in the past two years. It’s a matter of choosing from three negatives, so none of the answers are going to be ones you want to embrace. But it’s better than getting stuck and feeling resentful and angry. It allows you to move forward because it gives you power– you are making the decision. Once you take back your ability to decide, THEN you can move to a place of acceptance over the outcome. The victory that you are handing over is his ability to make his own decisions, too. But you are not being a doormat. There’s a difference.

      • Dinky February 24, 2012, 9:58 am

        Alissa you are right, the victory I need to hand over is my husbands right to make his own decisions.  My struggle will be to do so with grace.  I fear that I won’t be able to hand this victory over with a pure heart.  I will worry that he will then choose to allow his old girlfriend to be in constant contact with him.  I realize that I have been trying to save my husband from making poor decisions that will destroy this family, but that is arrogant of me and makes him feel like a child.  His bitterness towards me has been as a result of him feeling like I am controlling him.  The problem is that in all the books I have read about affairs (his was an emotional one as she lives in a different country) clearly advise that a friendship with the opposite sex needs to be conducted in the open, my husbands communications with his old girlfriend are all closed to me.   To take a step back, my husband in the first year of having reconnected with his old girlfriend via facebook, felt deep emotions for her.  They were separated when her parents immigrated when they were teenagers and both feel that their relationship would otherwise not have ended.  He has not seen her in 30 years!!  He has now in the second year after having reestablished contact, got some perspective on things and is not so emotional about the loss and pain he carries for their relationship, but says he will always feel very deeply for her and she will always be extremely important to him.  She emails him everyday sometimes more than once a day.  I don’t know that I can live with that, knowing that if I come home from work in an irritable mood, I am competing with someone who has spoken to him in a loving, kind and patient way perhaps only minutes earlier.  I feel like she is a shark circling, waiting for my demise.  They both say they just want to be friends.  I believe the relationship would (and it has) developed overtime as they share thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.    I think those 5 words – hand over victory, accept defeat – have helped me workout what I need to do.  I have had 2 years of anguish, pain and uncertainty not knowing what decisions to make.   The victory I hand over is that it is his decision to choose to continue their friendship.  If this results in me not being able to stay in the marriage because the secrecy and uncertainty would drive me nuts, then so be it.  Our marriage ends.  Do you think if I was an emotionally more secure person, I would I be able to live with their friendship and not let it bother me so much?   Would this situation make others also feel insecure?  Should I just try and accept the friendship and get some dharma lessons to calm the mind and trust all will be ok.  Sometimes I wonder if my obsessing and trying to control the boundaries of their relationship hasn’t indeed made the friendship a bigger problem than it really is  - I am not sure?  What I realize is I can’t save this marriage on my own. I have to stop fighting his decisions in my effort to save this family.  My fighting for this family has lead to a lot of pain and destruction already – time to let go.  I have been so inspired by your references to your dharma lessons that I have found a local centre here in Australia and will be attending my first class next week. Thank you Alissa for your wonderful blog I don’t know what I would had done without it as I have travelled this journey in my marriage these last two years.

      • Alisa February 24, 2012, 10:26 am

        Dinky– it’s so hard for me to tell you whether you will find happiness if you become more emotionally secure. I struggle the most with advice to people like you who are dealing with any kind of affair because it’s just not something that has ever plagued my own marriage. My husband is and has always been completely devoted. He doesn’t flirt or even have any female friends. It’s just how he is. So it’s really hard for me to tell you that this is something that you will grow to accept. It’s possible, but in reality I just don’t know. I do know that the more emotionally secure you are, the happier you will be regardless of your life circumstances. Happiness is found inside–not outside. I wish I had better advice.

      • Mandy February 24, 2012, 2:42 pm

        Dinky – Maybe a more emotionally secure person would accept this kind of thing better, as you suggest, but maybe not. Secure or not, there are some things that are not acceptable in a marriage. What those are may depend on the context and the individuals involved. My husband has a lot of female friends (inevitable because of his line of work and his personality). For years this didn’t bother me at all. I am normally a very confident, emotionally secure person. But at some point I began to feel very bothered, and became increasingly suspicious. My gut feelings were right. He had developed a strong emotional connection to a woman he had known for several years. It didn’t turn into an affair, but I think that it had that potential. It really undermined my ability to trust him, not only because the relationship was inappropriate, but also because he kept the nature of his friendship with this woman a secret and kept denying it even after I saw a revealing text he had sent her. He kept insisting that he was “just friends” with her and that there was no threat to our marriage. I was miserable because I simply didn’t believe him and his denials made me suspect the worst. When he eventually talked more honestly about what had gone on, I immediately felt much calmer and stronger. I didn’t approve of his behavior, but I felt much better able to deal with the situation once I know what it was The secrecy and the dishonesty were much more harmful to our marriage than the actual relationship with the other woman. I think that secrecy between spouses is almost always bad for the marriage, especially if it involves intimate relationships (whether emotional or sexual) with others.

      • Dinky February 25, 2012, 12:14 am

        You are right Mandy it is the secrecy that causes the feelings of betrayal more than the actual friendship itself. I understand my husbands attachment to this person, and the pain he felt loosing here when they were really young, and then the excitement of reconnection and the possibility of putting it all right again, if either of them were prepared to move countries and give up marriages. I can accept their special bond and friendship if i was included but it is the fact that he does not share her communications with me as he says that what she writes occasionally might be hurtful to me, like when she tells him she loves him. He says he ignores these statements he just keeps the written communicatifever everyday topics, but although I know he can’t control what she writes and says to him, he can decide whether it is appropriate to have a friend who clearly does not respect the boundaries of our marriage. I wouldnt do this to him, he knows the frequency of her writing to him causes me pain but he says he can’t loose her again. The question is do I just learn to live with this situation because I do love him and I don’t want our children to grow up in a split family or do I draw a line in the sand and say unless all correspondence and communication is open, the marriage is over. This is the question I have been grappling with for two years and there is no clear answer. I had hoped that my husband would see the pain and recognize the devastation this has caused to our marriage and that he would have taken steps to save us. However he sees this relationship with his old girlfriend as an innocent friendship, he says he has chosen to be here with myself and the kids and he does not see what all the fuss is about. I fear that if he is forced to give up talking to his old girlfriend because he will loose our marriage, he will probably choose the marriage however he will resent me and I wonder what sort of marriage that will then be – probably a joyless one. He refuses to open his communication with this other women to me, as he feels like he is being watched and he feels like a he is being treated like a child.

      • Mandy February 25, 2012, 3:21 pm

        Dinky, a book I would recommend for you is Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson. If your husband is willing to work on the marriage, you should read it together. But even if he is resistant, reading it by yourself will probably be helpful. It explains how we get trapped in negative cycles in our relationships and what we can do to change the way we communicate in order to break free from those cycles. This book was very informative and inspirational for me, and it eventually led us to find a marriage counselor who really helped us put our marriage back together. (I was skeptical about counseling, but it proved to be a marriage saver for us.) Although it took some time, my husband came to understand that he needed to make an effort rebuild trust with me. Even without a counselor, the insights from a book like this can be very helpful if you really apply them.

      • Dinky February 25, 2012, 7:27 pm

        Thanks so much for the book recommendation, I will most certainly read it.

      • Trish March 4, 2012, 6:44 am

        I’m sorry to hear of your painful situation. Unfortunately, as you’ve found, you can’t control another person’s heart and mind, not even if that person is your spouse. You can try to control their behavior to some degree by imposing consequences on them, but you can’t control his heart or what goes on in his mind and you’ll only drive yourself even more crazy if you try. Even worse, if you try to stop their relationship (even though he should be stopping it himself), it only further unifies them, this time against you!

        If you’re not emotionally OK with him loving her and having a relationship with her, then in my opinion your best option is to divorce him. Not as a punishment or for revenge, but simply so you can start the process of ending your emotional attachment to him, i.e. to move on without him. Most divorced people do eventually remarry, so chances are good you will at some point meet a new man, fall in love again, and marry again. But you can’t do all this if you’re still physically married to him and living together.

  • Marissa February 24, 2012, 8:34 am

    I think that this boils down to he needs a better understanding of her feelings. She feels under appreciated, and it’s sounding like she is wanting more positive reinforcement from him. Often I have found that with lack of high gives, even the tiniest negative remark can weigh and hurt more than it should.

    I would hope that this doesn’t turn into a competition where she needs to prove herself to him. Relationships shouldn’t be about who is better at this or that. But should be about who has strengths that complement the others weaknesses.

  • Christa February 24, 2012, 9:25 am

    I’m no longer married, but I am in nursing school, and I did my undergrad at an Ivy League university where everyone was cutthroat competitive; from that perspective, I’m going to throw out a simple suggestion, for what it’s worth.

    Medical students and new doctors in residency are OBNOXIOUS. They are SO OBNOXIOUS. It will pass. Right now, he’s competing his heart out against other residents every day at work, who are all pushing each other to their limits and beyond, and I’m sure it is very intellectually stimulating. Also, while the competition is healthy, and definitely beneficial for their career, it also gives them a huge ego. Is he better at the etiology of disease than she? Definitely. Does it make him smarter/better? Definitely not–but right now, while his world is this massive competition, focused solely on etiology of disease, it makes him think he is better.

    Therefore, my advice is, give him a year of being a super supportive wife. Be his cheerleader and cook him dinner and massage his shoulders after another resident beats him at getting a journal published or if he doesn’t get chief resident. Remember that he is in a stressful time of his life and probably is inflating his ego at home to cope with the stress. After he’s settled and established and finished with his residency, I predict he will calm down, renew his perspective, and realize how pompous he sounds (and that would be the day to recommend that expensive restaurant you want to try/that weekend getaway at the beach/etc).

    And if he doesn’t, well, then, I don’t know. Take a MENSA exam and frame it over his side of the bed, I don’t know. But I suspect the phase will pass.

  • Christa February 24, 2012, 9:29 am

    P.S. I have nothing but the highest respect for med students and residents. It shows commitment, intelligence, and drive. I think choosing to put yourself through hell for the honor of studying one of the most sacred disciplines is really, well, it’s really something. But they are obnoxious during that time. Being obnoxious for a phase in one’s life is not intended to be a slight on anyone’s character.

  • Rena February 24, 2012, 9:44 am

    I have a husband who also says hurtful things. I don’t think they do it to hurt out feelings, they just don’t know how insensitive they are. FIRST I would like to say that no matter how much education a man has, until he does what a wife/mother does on a daily basis he will never understand how hard the job is and how much intelligence it takes. You have to be able to outsmart a child, multitask, cook, clean, all with a smile on your face. You give of your entire self until there is nothing left of yourself, you have to be Godly! I know that my husband does not comprehend all that I do for him and our girls. SECOND the reader needs to take some time for herself. I left my husband alone with our 2 kids (4 years and 2 months) for 4 hours and I came home to an appreciative, loving husband. They don’t know how hard our job is until they have to do it. So leave Mr PhD to the kids and house and see how smart he feels then!

    • Tony February 27, 2012, 10:45 am

      Interesting how you word this. You say he doesn’t know how insensitive he is. You didn’t word it that he doesn’t know how sensitive you are.

      Seems like you are shifting the blame/responsibility to him. If only he were more sensitive…

      One might make the counter argument, if only you were not as sensitive, right?

      Then of course you follow it up with he could never do my job line of thinking. Should he take offense? She he feel hurt by this?

      You are setting a double standard here. You are suggesting he cannot say the same type of things you are saying when you suggest he cannot do “a mom’s job.”

      Don’t expect him to be sensitive is this is an example of the sensitive nature you model for him.

      • Suezie February 27, 2012, 11:15 pm

        This is very interesting. For a while my marriage was a bit shaky because of my attitude of thinking that my husband was at fault. He was the insensitive one. He was the lazy one and he was the one needing anger management. I ponder about my problem for a very long time before it hit me to think before I stereotype. That’s when I realize he is as sensitive as me and I may have been insensitive in the things I say. And that it was not him that is lazy but him that is tired. I feel he does not take an active role in parenting but really I did not give him a chance to be an active parent. From then on, we are kinder to each other and it’s a better place.

  • Michelle February 24, 2012, 9:49 am

    Dear Reader – Please understand that you have value! You are a smart, intelligent woman who, I agree with other posters here, must have some feelings of insecurity. But heck, who doesn’t? I believe your husband is an idiot for playing these “superiority” games b/c no one is a winner. He’s probably very insecure as well and needs to hear from you that yes, when you look up “smart” in the dictionary, his picture is there.

  • Kent February 24, 2012, 9:50 am

    Sadly in the heat of an argument we often say things we don’t really mean, and often live to regret. I think that in the aftermath of the fight, in a calm relaxed moment, she should tell her husband that what he said hurt her and that she is disappointed that he seems to feel this way. The he has an opportunity to rethink/restate his position, and maybe apologize.

    If she says and does nothing, I am afraid it will just fester and likely cause her to build up even more resentmemt everytime he says something similar. Plus, as men are often dense when it comes to understanding what their wives are feeling, if she does not say clearly to him the impact of his statments and insinuations, he will assume all is well and forgiven and just blow it all off and continue his arrogant behavior (completely oblivious to said behavior and its impact on his wife).

    Open, honest, communucation is the key, right? You cannot expect someone to change their behavior if you do not give them the feedback. And he might not change. She should know that sooner rather than later so she can decide how to deal with it.

  • Rena February 24, 2012, 10:31 am

    I would not be okay with my husband befriending an old girlfriend either. My ex-fiancee left me for his ex-girlfriend so I still have insecure feelings from that. I do not believe women and men can be friends without some sort of attraction on someone’s end. You have every right to be suspicious and jealous. YOU are the woman in his life and that should be enough for him. If it’s not he should look into that and figure out why.

  • Joanne February 24, 2012, 11:18 am

    I agree with Sarah and Sarah Liz, but I also have to wonder why people need to feel they are smarter than some one else! My partner is much smarter than I and I am not at all intimidated by it. She is a hospice nurse and is absolutely incredible. I am an Office Manager and I like to keep her organized and on track, something many smart people find hard to do.
    I prefer to surround myself with people smarter than me, I don’t pretend to know it all and welcome other peoples insights.

  • Anon February 24, 2012, 11:26 am

    I think it’s worth remembering that the husband in this case did not volunteer that he thought he was smarter or better than his wife; he answered affirmatively to a direct question.

    Now, I probably would not answer “yes” or “no” to a question like that, but deflect it that we each have strengths and weaknesses in different dimensions.

    When I would do something like that, my wife used to insist that I answer “yes” or “no” to those questions. Almost every mean thing that was charged against me for saying was from when I submitted to this insistence. I finally smarted up and said I would not do that, and that I would choose the words I use to express my feelings, not have her put words in my mouth.

    My point is that I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to judge someone’s character and attitudes based on words that were put in his mouth. It is certainly plausible that a medical resident could be arrogant, but I suspect his true feelings are a bit more complex than, “I think I’m better than you.” It might be helpful to check them out in a non-judgemental way.

  • Jim February 24, 2012, 12:07 pm

    I believe that the Reader has every right to feel bothered, humiliated and concerned for the future. Her husband sounds like someone who may be verbally verbally abusive, has a “narcissistic personality disorder” or “borderline personality disorder.” The signs and symptoms of BPD are people who are controlling, obsessive compulsive, always have to be right, always have to have their way, pedantic, dismiss their partner’s concerns and feelings (e.g. “you’re just overreacting”) and demonstrate a pattern of subtly (and not so subtly) demeaning their partners. The woman’s post does not indicate how long they’ve been married, but the humiliating treatment of her could will probably get worse, especially after Husband becomes a respected, high-paid, cosmetic surgeon.

    • Anon February 24, 2012, 12:30 pm

      Per my above post, I’m not sure it’s valid to make a diagnosis like that based on a one-paragraph description of behavior that includes exactly one direct quote that was a response to a question.

      And I say this as someone who is often told that I’m overreacting, that my feelings are irrational, and that the behavior I am complaining about is well within the norm.

      Her intuition is worth exploring, but I don’t think extrapolating this single answer into a lifetime of abuse is the correct response.

      • Jim February 24, 2012, 1:53 pm

        The reader indicates strong feelings and that she was “very hurt” by the comment and perception. Assuming she communicated these feelings to her partner, there was no apology, only the invalidation of her perception and the dismissal of her feelings. There is a significant educational divide between them and, as smart as he purports to be, he should be sensitive to her potential insecurities in this regard. Why hasn’t married of equal educational experience? Why should the Reader expect this treatment to change, when he cannot see that there is even a problem?

  • Rose Byrd February 24, 2012, 12:56 pm

    I think you should do as Alisa says. Be humble, tell him that his intelligence is one of the things you love most about him. Then try to meditate and discern qualities about himself he seems to be uncomfortable with, less confident about. These are sure to come to the surface in your own mind as you practice compassionate discernment. As you continue to mediate and continue to practice your caregiving in your work, you will come to see why he needs to feel intellectually “smarter” AND which qualities you possess in greater degree that he does. DO NOT TELL HIM ABOUT THIS–simply quietly and humbly practice what you are very good at more and more AND love him with comforting, wordless reassurance through those little weaknesses of his. You will experience the miracle of growing into better people TOGETHER!
    Rose Byrd´s last blog post ..—-and now a brighter light through no spots

  • holly February 24, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Who put him thru med school I wonder? His lack of respect for her strenghts would worry me too if he’s about to be surrounded by a lot of DR. Worshipping nurses. She needs to gain back her power and he needs to walk in her shoes and stop the competition.

  • jaime February 24, 2012, 3:45 pm

    My husband also at one point thought he was smarter then me. And it wasn’t him thinking it that bothered me, it was him saying it & in a hurtful way – so I sympathize with you. I think most people believe either overtly or secretly that they are special & smart & wonderful (even those of us with low self esteem – I have it but I secretly think I’m amazing but most people don’t see it – even me sometimes) and that is great but when we think we are better & proclaim it in a cutting way it is not ok. I think you should tell your husband that it is fine if he thinks he is “better” because you think you are too. You can both agree to disagree – congratulate each other for marrying such special people and keep the negative comments out of it. Or you can just do what I did -get very upset, tell your husband he is wrong & have a fight about it. Not much fun but years later when he came to see & acknowledge that I was in fact smarter (in general, we both have our areas) I must admit, it was so sweet. Notice I didn’t say that I was more mature or modest.

  • anon February 24, 2012, 4:16 pm

    I was in med school and learning about the human body and how to heal it. It is a noble and worthy endeavor, but worthy of humility, not arrogance, as it is a gift to be taught to heal. Too many doctors in training are never given that message.
    My knowledge was soaring in a respectable field.
    My wife was at home taking care of 3 little kids with the usual brain-draining activities that being an overwhelmed caretaker of children demand.
    I remember times when we had people over–all med students talking about how cool their lives were, I felt sorry for her.
    I was wrong. I should’ve felt sorry for myself– that I couldn’t see that what she was contributing was the heart and soul of our family, an unfathomably more important endeavor. It turns out I was wrong on all fronts. Since the kids are older, and she has more time, she’s read a jillion books and is brilliant, while I am in an ever-demanding profession, with the stress taking away my personal time, and I don’t even have time to read a newspaper. She has to tell me what’s in the news. I’m the one with the brain-drain now.
    It can turn around in a heartbeat.
    So please show this to your med student partner and ask him to follow my advice: who you are is infinitely more important than what you know or what you do. Knowledge, no matter how important and specialized, has no value without a heart.

    Been there

  • Betsy February 24, 2012, 6:29 pm

    “Everyone is a genius. If you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein Everyone is good at something!

  • Dinky February 24, 2012, 7:41 pm

    Dear Reader
    There are many different types of intelligences and interestingly enough I heard a discussion on the radio where I learnt that today many of the top positions in companies are not necessarily filled by smart people in the traditional sense of the word, but rather by people who are socially/emotionally smart, in tune with their staff, able to ‘read’ a situation. The danger with this notion of who is smarter or for that matter any other area of comparison like who works harder, who has more free time etc is that we get into the realm of competitiveness -Alissa has posted on that topic before and it makes for interesting reading. I think do what Alissa says, offer thd victory of intelligence to your partner.

  • Dinky February 25, 2012, 2:51 am

    I think my husband has been given to me to challenge me to be a better person. I was mowing the lawn when I heard a horrible rattling noise. I asked me husband what it could be. He tightened one of the handles rolling his eyes saying I have told you so many times to make sure the handles are skewed on tightly before you begin mowing. I became really defensive, as I had tightened the handles and resented the insinuation that I just never listen to him. He walked off in a huff saying it’s not worth starting an argument over some
    silly lawn mower handles. I breathed deeply thought about Alissa’s blog and offering a victory and plucked up all my courage to apologize and say you were
    right, the handles were not tight, but I did try tightening them as much as I could before I started mowing. I was waiting for the type of gratious response Alissa’s husband gave her when she gave her husband the victory of being a backseat cook. Nothing came, just a mmmmm – I walked away thinking – bastard do you know how hard it was to accept defeat and to offer this gift of victory to you and all you can say is mmm. Then I sat down on my newly mowed lawn and thanked God for someone who was going to test all my weaknesses and turn me into a really good person! Lesson learnt – don’t have expectations about how people should react to a good deed or gift you give them.

    • Suezie February 26, 2012, 5:50 pm

      Hey Dinky,

      Don’t give up giving victories. When you get the hang of it, it will come naturally. Always think that it’s not worth fighting, channel the negative energy and release it elsewhere say maybe cut down some trees or something. In fact cut it so badly that the next day when you are no longer angry you can laugh over it.

      My husband too think I was overly jealous that I should be affected with his constant mentioning of his exgf and he is helping her in so many ways. I too fought it for a while until I started to give up fighting because I was sick of fighting. I have since accepted the fact that she will never be out of his life. I do not feel agitated that he is calling her or caring for her. In fact when I started accepting her, things have gotten really good, he appreciates the trust I give him and he appreciates me more. It is harder to be angry with somebody who is giving you trust.

      I think when he spends time with his gf, he gets a certain good feeling, such as maybe he feels needed, maybe his opinion is valued, and all the good stuff that simply makes him feel good and he is addicted to that good feeling because let’s face it, if you are miles apart, you are probably not going to argue about why that lawn mover is making noise. I would suggest you too should boost his confidence, should make him feel good and so he sees you as his confidante too. It will take a lot of effort for example, there may be things that he likes and you never liked it, find the time to understand his hobbies so you can have things to talk about but let him be the one that knows it all where as you the happy listener. Cook the food that he likes, let him see how much effort you are putting in it and never never complains because that reverses the effects. Ask for his opinion and follows his opinion, let him be actively involve in your life. And over time… things may change and if it doesn’t then you may need to reevaluate if there is anything else you could do.

  • Elle February 25, 2012, 9:55 pm

    I’ll reiterate what’s already been said Alisa in a quote by James Allen “We think in secret and it comes to pass, environment is but our looking glass.”

    Encourage each other.
    Elle´s last blog post ..Power Of Attention…Wise Words.

  • Tony February 27, 2012, 11:12 am

    I think it’s a loaded question. The problem isn’t necessarily with his answer. The problem was the question. If she didn’t want that answer, which is a possible answer, then perhaps she should not have asked the question.

    It’s a no win question. If he answers truthfully, then he’s crucified. If he answers to protect her feelings, he’s not being honest.

    The problem is not his answer. The problem is she’s not willing to accept difficult to hear answers to impossible questions.

    If you ask such a question, instead of choosing to be hurt by the answer, why not choose to dig in deeper to get to know why he answered as he did.

    After all, we keep reading the stereotypes that women want greater intimacy. Here was a great opportunity for greater intimacy. Too bad she let her hurt feelings get in the way of greater intimacy.

  • Bern February 29, 2012, 9:14 pm

    To the author of the original topic – I agree wholeheartedly with the comments that we are all ‘smart’ at something, so you shouldn’t feel intimiated that your husband believes himself to be ‘smarter’ than you – strengths that he has will be more than matched by strengths that you have, and vice versa. I thought Betsy summed it up well with her comment of a fish climbing a tree!
    I see you say that he is a doctor – reminds me of a joke;
    Question “What is the difference between God and a doctor?”
    Answer “God doesn’t think he’s a doctor”
    Once your husband has a little more experience and maturity hopefully he may lose this arrogant approach to your relationship, and value what you BOTH contribute to it.

  • Trish March 4, 2012, 5:49 am

    the Reader asked her husband a loaded question. He didn’t come up to her and say “I’m better than you” instead she pushed him into a corner , violated his right to his private thoughts, and then proceeded to get angry and upset at him for doing what she wanted.

  • Bern March 5, 2012, 3:47 pm

    Dinky – a couple of really good books that helped me understand relationships, why we are attracted to the people we end up with, understanding ourselves, etc, are by a guy calle Harville Hendrix, and called “Getting the Love you Want” and “Receiving Love”.

    He really goes into the psychology of relationships, love and attachment, and I found it provided great insight into my (now former) wife’s behaviours but also learnt a lot about myself.

  • TG May 25, 2016, 9:58 am

    I have been going through the same thing lately. My boyfriend is a lawyer working for the government and he graduated from Yale. He is obviously a very intelligent and smart because Yale Law School is top school with only 1% acceptance rate. However, it has been many times that he told me in the past that I am not as intelligent as he is and I am not a smart person. To be more specific, he thinks that I am lack of the ability to provide supporting details and make argument with him. I know it is untrue because I am definitely an intelligent person. I am from China and I have been staying in the U.S for 4 years now. I came to this country the whole way by myself for graduate school in hotel management and I got a job immediately after the graduation as a hotel manager and now I am on my H1B working visa. He also criticized my English and said he found hard time communicating with me because I am not a native.
    “In my opinion, the solution here isn’t about getting him to see you as intelligent. It’s about getting you to see it. If you felt secure about it, then his comment wouldn’t have bothered you. “
    Anyway, every time he said things like that makes me very upset and it hurts me inside deeply. However, after I read this article, I cannot help but thinking that is my irritation saying something about myself? If I don’t feel that I am less intelligent than he is, why would I be so upset? Otherwise I can totally think it’s just a joke.
    I think I agree with him that English is not my first language and I am sometimes still struggling with grammars and words, and I cannot make an argument as good as him (but come on, I did not receive a Yale degree in Law either). On the contrary, he is also acknowledged that I am great with people; I am a very social person; I know how to get people like me and etc. After all, my intelligence is not shown on just about making argument, but about the bigger picture in life. My boyfriend is not good with people and he is not social at all. Most friends think he is weird because he only talks about topics that he is interested in (politics, law, what’s going on with the news).
    “To help reduce the mental resistance to accepting defeat, try to see things through his eyes. Take your mind and put it inside his head. Think about his perspective. Why might he need to feel smarter? What is that about for him? If you do this, you just might be able to develop some compassion and that compassion will lead to the humility it takes to hand over the victory.”
    My boyfriend even admitted himself that the reason he is being so mean to me is because he is unhappy with his life. He graduated from Yale but he is not great at the interview, so he didn’t get any good jobs at the corporate law firms after graduation. Now he is in a mediocre federal government job. He feels that I cannot help him with his career because we are in different fields. On the contrary, his ex-gf who is also an attorney helped him get the current job. He told me he wanted to find another lawyer partner and someone that he can have intelligent conversation with. He thinks that he is “trading water” with me every day because he doesn’t feel that he has a deep connection with me. I have done a lot for him. I took him out to meet friends, to attend parties and in general, to make him more social than he is. He certainly appreciated what I have done for him, but still he is unhappy with his life and there is nothing I can do. I certainly worried about him and I want him to be success, but I don’t have resources to help him find a better job in his field. My question to everyone is how can I support him in other ways and is it worth it to be with someone that does not appreciate your intelligence but look down on you all the time.

    • Elana V. July 8, 2016, 5:03 pm

      His words are hurtful. That’s why you’re upset. If I accuse you of stealing, you’d be upset with the accusation, even if you are innocent.

  • Elana V. July 8, 2016, 4:59 pm

    If he gets the idea that he’s better and you humor him, he won’t feel the need to treat you as a respected equal. So when it comes to decision making, his view will be considered more legitimate, for if you reduce yourself in his eyes, why should someone like you be making decisions at a? Also, he’ll grow bored of you: perhaps find someone he feels is more “intellectually stimulating “. He’ll begin to see you as a burden, slowing him down. The shelf life of the marriage will expire.

    This isn’t about putting him in his place, competing in who is “better “. It is about respecting your partner as an equal. He doesn’t respect you. If he did, he would not say this to you, even if secretly he felt it was true.

    I’m a performance artist. My husband is a data analyst. He knows how to crunch numbers, identify statistics and data better than I can. But he can’t sing and aria, play music, or create art. I can look down at him because he’s boring and uncreative. He can look down on me because I don’t understand strategy and information like he does, and have trouble organizing my affairs.

    But that would be disrespectful of us to say these things. And irreverent of one another’story feelings.


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