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The Grouch

  • Les & Leslie Parrott for the eHarmony Research Library
  • 2003 7 Mar
The Grouch

Let's admit it. The breakneck speed of most days and the busyness of our workloads as well as our social planning can lead to a character flaw most of us would rather not acknowledge. If we are busy and stressed, we've probably become cranky and grouchy around others, even the people we are dating.


We didn't start out this way, of course. On our first date, we were the epitome of kindness and sensitivity, full of compliments, smiles, and open-mindedness. But somewhere in the process of dating, without any effort on our part, a side of us was revealed that can become surprisingly testy, touchy, and downright irritable.


Have you ever blurted out driving instructions from the passenger seat, even though you knew that would chill an otherwise enjoyable date?  Have you ever snapped with a question or command, and then tagged a gratuitous "please" on the end that was clearly an afterthought?  Have you ever grumbled and groused over a meal your date has prepared for you because it wasn't specifically what you wanted to eat that night?


Most of us justify our irritability with thoughts such as, "This isn't really me acting rudely to my date; I'm really a caring person.  This is just one date, and at the next one, I'll be nicer."  We convince ourselves that our grouchiness is a temporary condition that will go away as soon as we pay the bills, throw our friend's baby shower, or complete an important project at work.


But over time, we realize our rationale is wearing thin.  We gradually learn we can't even convince ourselves, and there are only so many tense dates we can go on before the person we are dating stops returning our phone calls.  So what can a grump do?  Plenty.


It begins-and ends-with paying special attention to how we treat the person we are dating.


Can you imagine if your home, your phone, and your car were bugged? For the last two dates, every conversation and every comment you made to your date was recorded on tape. Feeling queasy? 


Even worse, you are now going to have to sit down and listen to yourself and how you spoke to your date, and think about whether those words brought you and your date closer to each other and helped you learn about one another or whether they created a distance that made the date less fun for your date than he or she might have had spending time alone-or dating someone else. 


It's a frightening thought for most of us who have been steadily dating. And it's probably a good thing we won't have to endure it. But to change our grouchy ways, we will need some method of monitoring our interactions. Why? Because awareness is often curative. Simply recognizing what you are doing, when you are doing it, is enough to get you moving out of your grouchy plight.


If you feel you are taking your grumpiness out on someone you are dating, work on increasing your awareness by keeping a journal for a week or more to record the kinds of things you say. You may discover, for example, that you are particularly irritable at certain times of the day, or when you are hungry.  These are important things to know. 


"Time alone to read and think, to ponder and pray, nearly always leads to deeper awareness," says Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of "If you get more deeply in touch with yourself, you always have more to give to the intimacy process." However you go about it, raising awareness of your ways will become the key to keeping your irritability under control.


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