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Wednesday, February 15,2012

Advice Goddess

Dim and her & I'm with Cupid

by Amy Alkon

Q: I’m having a whirlwind romance with a man I met online on Thanksgiving. I moved across the country to live with him on December 20, and we’re now building a life together. The problem is I have a high IQ (137), and he’s very unintelligent and illogical. It’s hard to have a good conversation unless we talk about sex. It´s too late to leave now, so…any advice on how to keep our IQ difference from ripping us apart when things are less new and exciting? I really love him, as he´s pure of heart. And boy, is he sexy and great in bed! So far, I’ve held back from telling him when he’s gullible or irrational, but I worry that I’ll eventually call him something nasty — like “idiot.” I don´t want to hurt him. I crave his company and love him for who he is, not what he knows.

—The Smarter One


A: Is there a chance you cheated on your IQ test? You seem to pride yourself on your intelligence, yet you spent a few weeks chitchatting on the Internet with some dull blade, dropped everything and moved across the country to live with him. Now, you two lovebirds are “building a life together” — that is, whenever you aren’t too busy grumbling about needing your intellectual equal and not the coffee table’s. 

You might “love him for who he is,” but you also despise him for who he isn’t. Oops. Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman found that expressions of contempt are the greatest predictor that a couple will go kaput. Of course, anybody you get involved with will have some annoying habits or flaws that challenge the relationship. Relatively benign bad habits are things like snoring, and for that, you can get those little strips to put on your partner’s nose. What’s the answer here, strapping a piece of duct tape across his mouth? 

Check out your completely lame excuse for staying: “It’s too late to leave now.” Now check your feet. Bolted to the floorboards? If not, what’s keeping you there is probably irrational thinking that economists call the “sunk cost fallacy” — deciding to keep investing in some endeavor based on what you’ve already invested (an unrecoverable cost) rather than assessing how your investment will pay off (if at all) in the future. People are especially prone to overvalue prior investment when their ego is also invested — like when sticking around helps them continue the fiction that they’ve behaved wisely in going all-in with a guy whose intellectual “spirit animal” is probably the amoeba. 

Fools rush in, but the real fools find themselves facedown in a pool of “boy, was I dumb” and get busy coming up with reasons why staying there is a wise idea. In “The Folly of Fools,” anthropologist Dr. Robert Trivers explains self-deceptions like yours, noting the difference between intelligence and consciousness: “You can be very bright but unconscious.” When you realize you’ve been unconscious, you can choose to wake up and cut your losses — before you start saying cutting things to your goodhearted sexy simpleton. To live less sleepwalkingly in the future, reflect on what got you into this — what void you tried to fill by telling your rationality to shut up and go sit in the corner so you could congratulate yourself on the great love you found. And goody for you on what you actually found — some really great sex — but let’s call a cabana boy a cabana boy, lest you turn a story that should be “My Hunky Winter Vacation” into a move-in special. 


Q: What’s with all the Valentine’s Day haters? Some of my single friends celebrate V-Day ironically, and I sense that they look down on my boyfriend and me for celebrating it for real, as if we’re just buying into a giant marketing campaign.

—Romantically Uncool


A:  Occupy Wall Street is so 2011. Trendsetting inequality haters should be occupying Hallmark: “If we don’t get love, you don’t get love, either,“ and “This is what a woman without a boyfriend looks like!” Valentine’s Day has been hijacked to sell everything short of heart-shaped rubber vomit. I even got a Valentine’s-linked press release pitching surveillance services. Right. Nothing says “I love you” like installing a keylogger on your partner’s laptop. The louder the hyping of the day, the louder the message that somebody’s a loser if they have nobody to buy a bunch of red merch for. So, your single friends’ cooler-than-thou attitude is understandable, but there’s something better than being cool, and it’s being happy. Let them have their black-frosted cookies with the little dead cupids and their marches against romance-colored corporate greed…well, until next year, when they’re sneaking into Godiva to buy chocolates for the girl they fell in love with after they got pepper-sprayed together.

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