Are Gifted Couples More Satisfied Than Nongifted Couples?

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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  • gretchen

    April 4th, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    I would like to make a comment about this. My husband and I were both in gifted and AP classes througout high school, although I would have to say that I applied myself more than he did. We both wento on to complete our college degrees. And are we happy? Of course we are. Have we had our ups and downs? Of course we have. I don’t know though that we are any more or any less satisfied than other married couples we know who may not have been in gifted program in school. Look, a successful relationship is not about what kinds of grades you made but how committed you are to one another and how well you communicate the things going on with you. I would bet that the divorce rate is about equal with gifted versus nongifted partners. Perhaps we report higher satisfaction, but we could lie too, right?

  • Katelynn

    April 4th, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Are you seriously going to be a proponent of this?
    This is a bunch of hypocritical information that the uber genius population wants us to believe and then we have to bow down to them even more that we are already expected to? No thanks.

  • Samuel A

    April 5th, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    Come one! Give me a break! Are you serious?! Didn’t even Einstein have a rocky relationship with his wife? Just because someone is book smart does not mean that they are common sense smart. We have seen enough mistakes by those in the public eye who are obviously in some sense intelligent (ahem Bill Clinton et al) but make seriously stupid mistakes in the relationships that they are involved in. Perhaps it makes for a better boardroom situation but in the bedroom and beyond? I find that kind of hard to believe.


    April 5th, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    Well it depends on what you consider “gifted”.Some people have this ability to manage relationships better than others can and they can handle situations better.If that is what is being referred to as being gifted then yes being gifted may help a marriage.

    But if we pick other parameters to define being “gifted” then the results may vary.And that is the reason the difference is not much after a five year period in the above mentioned study.

  • Hans

    April 6th, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    You would think that with 2 gifted individuals together in a relationship would be even more difficult. One may feel superior to the other, or act like they are. Or always have to argue to show that they are right. That might get pretty annoying.

  • c christensen

    May 1st, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    I think it’s all a matter of appreciation.

    We all know that gifted kids often have a hard time fitting in / finding their own place as they grow up.

    They also may tend to particularly value interaction with others who can keep up with them.

    So there is a possibility that two gifted people will particularly value the other–and also particularly value being valued by the other.

    They may also feel that this kind of valuing experience is itself precious and worth protecting.

    And there you have it.

    Been there. Still doing it. 43 years and counting.

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