Y Me?: Making an effort to accentuate the positive

Posted 11:21pm on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012

I consider myself a generally positive guy. That's not to say I'll be leading pep rallies any time soon, but I've never noticed a dark cloud hanging over me. That's why it was so baffling to me when my date on a recent evening asked me to stop being so negative. She was downright angry about it, too. When I told her I didn't think I was being negative, she just rolled her eyes and the fight began.

The event that precipitated the row was, I thought, my pretty innocuous criticism of the restaurant we were dining at. All I said, if memory serves, was that the place was as bright as a tanning salon (which it was). It was then she listed all of the other complaints I'd had about previous places we'd been -- I had no idea she was keeping a running list.

Apparently, I had also complained that the bar we'd gone to before dinner was too expensive ($5 for a beer at happy hour is too much), and said the service was slow at the restaurant we ate lunch at earlier (which it was). On a previous date, I also couldn't decide on a bar to go to, because I don't like to inhale other people's cigarette smoke (they should change that law) and I hate young people (their enthusiasm annoys me).

As she was going down the list, it occurred to me that I was bringing her down. It wasn't that I was depressed or generally gloomy, but it was a death by a thousand cuts -- in other words, all of those little comments built up and coalesced into a big ol' ball of negativity.

It didn't matter that I was right about all of my criticisms. In fact, she agreed with all of them. What mattered was that I dwelled on them, and began to look for the flaws in every place we visited. I should have just been focusing on how great and way out of my league she is, and why a girl like her would ever want to ... there I go again.

When I made all of those comments, I thought I was just venting. But at some point during our argument, I realized I was just using her as a sounding board for all of my negative thoughts. I believed that it was perfectly reasonable to sound off on everything that was bothering me. And that would make her feel OK about venting to me. And once everything was off our chests, we'd move on.

The problem with that is once I started down that path, I stayed on it. I was picking apart the smallest details everywhere we went. I didn't see it as me being particularly negative; I just thought we were bonding over how superior we were. Looking back on it, that was a huge mistake.

Attitude is an important part of dating. If you go into a date with a positive attitude, good things will happen. (I know, put that on a coffee mug or a poster.) I've since made a concerted effort to focus on the good things, and stop looking for flaws. It doesn't always last that long, especially if I'm being charged $5 for a beer at happy hour, but at least I'm aware of it now. That makes it easier to just let things go.

And, frankly, our dates are more fun these days.

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