According to a recent study conducted by Kristin M. Perrone-McGovern of the Department of Counseling Psychology at Teachers College at Ball State University in Indiana, married couples with at least one gifted spouse have higher levels of relationship satisfaction than nongifted married couples. People who have elevated levels of academic and developmental achievement are usually considered gifted. Giftedness is often measured during the early school years, and gifted children are afforded special opportunities to engage in enriching experiences that are not available to all students. But giftedness can come at a price. Many people who are gifted are also extremely sensitive to criticism and experience isolation because of their unique differences. In the context of intimate relationships, these qualities can either help or hamper an individual’s ability to interact and communicate effectively with their partner. When both partners are gifted, couples may feel a stronger sense of acceptance and therefore experience a higher level of satisfaction than couples with only one gifted spouse.
To determine how giftedness affects marital satisfaction and overall life satisfaction, Perrone-McGovern assessed the marital and life satisfaction of 87 married gifted participants twice over the course of 5 years. She found that similar to other findings, the level of marital satisfaction directly impacted the overall life satisfaction at both assessments. For couples in which both partners worked, marital satisfaction and life satisfaction were significantly higher than in single-income couples, but only at year one. At year five, the levels of life and marital satisfaction of both single- and dual-income couples were relatively equal. The study also revealed that at year one, dual-gifted marriages had higher levels of life and marital satisfaction than those with only one gifted spouse. But this finding also shifted to equal levels of single-gifted couples at year five.
Perrone-McGovern believes that gifted individuals may rely on the support of their gifted spouse more when they are just beginning to develop their identity through a career, relationship, and social interactions. However, as time progresses, these same individuals begin to acquire a stronger sense of self-esteem, and the qualities of their spouse do not influence their level of life and marital satisfaction as heavily as before. Although the current study did not distinguish between perceived or actual giftedness of a spouse, Perrone-McGovern insists that factor is irrelevant. She added, “What matters is what effects this perception (or reality) has on the participant’s satisfaction levels.”
Perrone-McGovern, K. M., Boo, J. N., Vannatter, A. (2012.) Marital and life satisfaction among gifted adults. Roeper Review 34.1, 46-52.
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