Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What's it like to live with someone more than 5sd from mean intelligence?

Frankly, it's absolutely exhausting.

While I was attending to matters in Canada, Chris got a friend of ours to be his personal assistant for a few days. His work days were going to be nuts, he's still not over the pneumonia and he wanted someone to take care of the house and the dogs while I was gone.

A few days later, the friend who helped him out (no intellectual slouch herself, and an experienced professional) asked me something: "how do you do it?" meaning, how do I handle the energy, the intensity, the intellectual challenge... How do I keep up?

Then this morning I read his latest post, understood 80% of it (despite having no background in the subject matter), and realized that the osmosis is working.

By that, I'm thinking of something another friend said: "I'm sure you learn more about guns through osmosis, just having sex with Chris, than I could ever learn after years working in a gun store."

He was a little off as to the method, but yeah that's about right.

At 16, my IQ tested out as 155, putting me at over 3 standard deviations from the mean of 100 (IQ is by definition scaled to a notional mean of 100). Chris's IQ is somewhere around 180, which is either "a little over 5" or "a little under 6" standard deviations from the mean, depending on which exact set of numbers you're looking at.

Intelligence isn't linear though (nor are IQ tests particularly precise or accurate)... Sometimes the difference in IQ seems more logarithmic than anything else. Sometimes it seems like he's only twice as smart, or five times as smart. Some days, in comparison to him, I feel like the village idiot.

Remember, this is someone with an IQ over 150 saying "some days I feel like the village idiot in comparison".

This can be rather difficult to deal with, especially when you're aren't used to the idea.

On top of that, he thinks in very different ways and handles information very differently. Sometimes we are speaking two different mental languages, and it shows. I really can't comprehend how he processes things, even when he explains it to me. I can't understand at all how FAST he processes everything. I'll barely have finished physically hearing a piece of information never mind beginning to think about it; and Chris has already processed it, understands it, and has either formulated questions, or moved on to the connections and implications.

He just seems to get everything, instantly. It isn't really instant, it's just that his "clock speed" is so much higher than mine I can't see the delay. It's like, my brain is a flash drive... pretty fast, a lot faster than a "normal" persons spinning disk hard drive.. but Chris's brain is like RAM. He's continuously inside my process/decision loop.

And sometimes, it's really frikken irritating...

So how do you handle it when your spouse is so much smarter, more educated, more experienced, and thinks differently (engineer brain) without going absolutely insane?

1. Lose the ego. Seriously. If you thought you were smart before, you might as well get used to feeling like an idiot. I figured this out about 3 months in.

2. Don't compare yourself to them. Not only will it not go well for your now small-as-a-grain-of-sand ego, but it's also the quick route to failure.

3. Keep at least some separate interests, and cultivate your own hobbies. Nobody can know everything, and it turns out everyone is good (or bad) at something. Pick something you won't be tempted to compare scores on. This keeps you from feeling like a complete idiot.

4. Keep your ears (and mind) open. Turns out you won't retain all of it (who can) but you may learn about firearms, politics, history, music, geekery... whatever comes out of their mouths. This will make you smarter as you learn more.

5. Cultivate a base knowledge of everything, especially what your spouse is interested in. This will also make you smarter, and also keep you actively engaged in their lives and their conversations. It is also extremely appreciated, as most people don't make the effort to keep up.

6. Make the effort to keep up. Ask about their day, or the problem they're working on, even if you don't fully understand it. Learn enough about what your spouse does to understand when they vent. This takes time but is worth the effort, as eventually you WILL understand.

7. Ask for clarification when you don't understand. It will come up later.

8. It's entirely possible they have high standards, low tolerances, and a different outlook on the world. Rather than be resentful that your spouse isn't like all the others, learn to take their criticism gracefully and try to do it better. It will make you better at what you do, and will be appreciated.

9. Remember that no matter what, dealing with you spouse will always be intense. That's where the exhaustion comes in. It's not for the faint of heart. Their intelligence is intense. Their conversation is intense and requires your entire brain. Their standards are intense. Their hobbies will be intense. Their passions are intense. That also means other parts of your relationship will be intense, and I'll leave that there.

10. Life with your spouse will be challenging, occasionally discouraging, often humbling, and exhausting. However, you will get as much (or more) out of your marriage than you put in.