Dr. Deb would love to answer your burning relationship questions.

Today’s Advice Highlights

  • What do you do if your partner is great, except they don’t inspire you or you don’t find them mentally stimulating?
  • A rundown of reasons why intellectual compatibility is important in the success of a relationship.
  • How to deal with lack of intellectual compatibility in a relationship.
Dear Dr. Deb,

I’m 22 years old with a sweet, generous boyfriend who I also consider my best friend. He knows how to show his love and has always been supportive of my achievements. On top of that, our physical chemistry is undeniable. We’ve been together for two years now and I really feel like I lucked out.

Here’s the thing: he makes me feel amazing – for the most part. And for rest of the time, I feel everything fall flat.

I’ve always appreciated how we seem so good for each other, even with our different backgrounds. But I feel the big divide between us whenever I look to him for a deep mind connection.

He’s my Mr. Right who can’t seem to “get” with me intellectually. Our conversations lack depth, and I don’t feel inspired by them. He’s definitely not dumb and can hold his own in his own way. It’s just that it feels like we’re on different wavelengths. When I tell a joke, I’m never sure if he’ll find it funny.

I’m a creative type with a rich imagination and I’d love nothing more than to share my insights and interests with him – whether it’s conversation, a solution to a problem, a new way to rearrange furniture. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to do the same.

I’m not expecting every conversation to be super interesting, but more and more, the lack of connection between us leaves me feeling lonely. I feel guilty for feeling this way, especially as he hangs onto every word I have to say and clearly values me. I love that he adores me, but I can’t say that I feel the same for him.

Dr. Deb, I don’t know what to do about this missing connection. How would I begin to bridge our differences? Our relationship has been smooth and conflict-free, and the thought of leaving him makes me so sad. I’m hoping for your words of wisdom to help me resolve this.

Disconnected and Frustrated

Dear Disconnected,

Your story reminds me of the relationship of my very close friend and her husband. She’s an avid reader and very well informed; she can’t remember the last time he read a book. She’s interested in theater while he hates the arts. They even stand on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Surprisingly, they’re still deeply in love after twenty-five years of marriage.

I have given a lot of thought to why their diverse interests and intellects haven’t caused a rift between them and how they manage to keep their bond so strong. Here are my reflections on intellectual compatibility and its importance to the success of relationships:

  1. While intellect and shared interests are important, intellectual compatibility is so much more than simply passing the same tests or earning high education.
  2. They find the same things funny — they’re touched by the same things and react to people similarly.
  3. They seek out the same sort of relationship and family life. They stimulate one another. They are soul mates. Think of Michelle and Barack Obama.
  4. While they value their sexual intimacy, it’s not the only thing that sustains the relationship. They have ideas that attract their partner, whether complementing or opposing them.

In short, intellectually compatible couples go beyond the surface and engage in discussions about what both people value more deeply. They energize and learn from each other, support one another’s individual growth, and feel completely safe in sharing what they think. Their curiosities mirror one another’s. 

In the case of my friends, I will call what they have a kind of spiritual compatibility. I have observed them entertaining each other and being excited by their respective ideas. They’re interested in each other and how they view the world. The wife “outsources” her other intellectual needs by going to conferences and participating in book clubs.

It’s understandable that you value your “easy and conflict-free” relationship. Honestly, I envy the adoration he has for you. However, I also understand that since you’ve realized learning and communicating with him is a one-way street, the novelty of that adoration has worn off, and you’re left feeling trapped.

Consider talking to your boyfriend about your frustration, and be specific about what you need from him.  If you’re looking for a long-term relationship and building a family, I suggest you weigh the pros and cons of an uncomplicated, stress-free, but unstimulating relationship against your frustration over the lack of intellectual connection. 

Ask yourself what’s truly important for you. It’s true, we cannot get everything from a partner, but sometimes, we don’t need to. Like my friend, you can “outsource” this to other friends and activities. In the end, only you can decide what you can forego. 

Sincerely yours,
Dr. Deb

Do you have a burning question – Your comments in response to a column are welcome. ​I will do my best to answer as many of your questions as I can. Please email me at


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *