OnDating: Does Being Smart Makes It Harder to Date?

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 3, 2009

Alex Benzer, a Harvard grad and author of "The Tao of Dating" books, created a stir last month by declaring that the smart people of the world have the toughest time dating.

His reasons make sense: In adolescence, intelligent folks spent more time trying to tick off college application-worth achievements than developing real relationships; they feel entitled to an easy dating life because of all they've achieved; for years they've valued smarts over sexuality; they discount potential candidates for not being up to their brainiac standards; and most damning of all, they over-think everything.

If he's right, Benzer's assessment has particularly searing ramifications in Washington, where it seems every other person is a high school valedictorian who was reading by age 3 and nailed a perfect score on the verbal portion of the SAT.

So, is it true? We decided to talk to a few experts -- smart ones, of course.

"They may over-analyze things. They come in with very high expectations. They want the person to have the same level of education they do," agrees Amy Schoen, author of several books on dating and marriage.

She especially hears this complaint from women: "They don't want to date me because I'm smart."

"The more education you have, the fussier you are," says Ann Wood, the grande dame of Washington matchmakers, who also agrees with Benzer. "What I find is that smart people have more interests, more activities. As a result, when they try to find somebody who likes to do the same things, it's harder for them because they have a smaller pool."

Toni Coleman, a McLean dating coach, thinks the problem isn't too much intellectual prowess but rather, too little emotional intelligence. "Some folks don't have a good groundedness in how they're coming across and how they're reading people," she says. "Anyone who's sincerely trying to date that has these issues . . . would be open to looking at things differently and recognize the messages they're getting."

The key, Schoen says, is to manage expectations. "Learn to see what's really important -- looking at people's values, rather than what their diploma looks like or what's on their résumé."

Do you think being smart makes it harder to date? Drop us a line at dating@washpost.com.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company