From His Perspective: Optimism

Most people can be classified into one of two categories: Optimist or Pessimist. Erin and I have the “advantage” in our household of having both under one roof. This makes for a lot of fun during turbulent times…even in times of relative calm things can get interesting. For example, I love to think about the future and what great things could be coming our way. She thinks I am jinxing it and we should prepare for and expect the worst. The start-up I joined recently is not going to make it. While disappointing, I look at this as an opportunity to get closer to where I should be. Erin is understandably scared, nervous, and probably thinks I will never find another job, we’ll lose our home and live in a ditch (as a side note, I have several opportunities already…no need to worry folks…no “How I decorate my ditch” posts forthcoming).

Optimists are classified as naïve dreamers by pessimists. Pessimists are classified as negative nellies by optimists. Some people see life as a series of challenges, others as a series of obstacles. My glass is half full while Erin’s is half empty and dangerously close to being dropped on the floor. Ying and Yang.

What I find is true here, and in most every other part of life, is it’s not black and white. While I am an optimist, it doesn’t mean I am unaware of the worst-case scenario. It doesn’t mean I haven’t considered it. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me. It means I function better when I am looking forward to the best-case scenario. I would rather run to something than away. While Erin is a pessimist, it doesn’t mean she thinks we will actually live in a ditch. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t hope for the best. She even at times believes things will work out. It means she functions better planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Both ways are perfectly fine.

In fact, I don’t know anyone who is so optimistic that they have no idea something bad could happen. I also don’t know anyone who is sure that the worst-case scenario is in fact the only scenario. Even the people predicting the demise of the world at the end of the year are looking forward to the after-life.

The world is not black and white…it is very much grey. There are very few areas in which only one approach works. Are there not “experts” on both sides of almost every issue? I have a style that works for me. Erin has one that works for her. We have a therapist that works for us. A lot of the world’s problems could be solved if we all were a little better at understanding this. We need all kinds of people in our lives. If our thoughts, ideas, and actions are not challenged, we don’t grow. While it aggravates me to no end to hear the doomsday scenario from Erin it is also a needed reminder. It ensures that I do stay grounded. And while she thinks I am naïve and a dreamer, she needs a bit if that too. And when we both realize we are right, but just in different ways, we realize why we love and need each other so much.

-AG

16 comments

  1. I have also noticed that in most strong relationship the optimist/pessimist ratio is balanced. It actually works for me and my boyfriend so that if one of us is falling to the pessimistic side, the other one tries to balance it up by being more(overly?) optimistic.
    And especially I have noticed this with my mom. Normally I am the shining sun and happy about everything around me and how and where I live and she gives me speeches how I could do better and how I can be happy and I deserve better etc. While on the other hand, when I am really down and lost and feel it’s all over, she always finds 1000 positive things to make me feel better.

    So I guess the balancing can be done in different ways:)

    Thanks for great thoughts!:)

  2. The thing about anxiety, thinking about the worst case senario, the what-ifs is that you have to take it to the live in the ditch image and when you can relax to that, then you will have some peace. Not that it is going to happen, you just don’t have to worry about it anymore and it won’t hold power over you. I think some people are pessimists because life slaps us down and we get shell shocked and don’t believe it will get better or that we deserve better. I always remember a statement I heard the late Christopher Reeve say “hope for everything and expect nothing”. It keeps me moving forward when I’m rejected for the umpteenth time on job interviews or any other experience that doesn’t work out the way I would like it to.

  3. Thanks for this post, Andrew. I enjoyed reading it. To some extent, my husband and I share a similar dichotomy (with a slightly narrower degree of extremes – my husband is a little less optimistic than you). I think life can be scary, unpredictable, and sad at times, and I find it comforting to expect the worst and hope for the best. I see this as preparing myself mentally for what is to come, avoiding disappointment, and allowing myself to occasionally be unexpectedly surprised by life’s wonderful moments of joy. I liked Erica’s comment above and tend to agree with her; I consider myself a realist rather than an optimist (perhaps the term realist is simply a euphemism for a pessimist). I agree with you that different perspectives work for different people, and it is good to be challenged by the other perspective. Slightly off topic – have you seen the television series Six Feet Under? It is filled with amazing talent and character development (I would argue one of the best ever on TV) that makes one think about these issues.

  4. Hi Eileen – I have seen that show, but not for some time…perhaps I will go back and watch some of the episodes…thanks for the comments!

  5. There is the old thing about the glass being half empty or half full. Well, look at it this way–if the glass is half full…you’ve enjoyed half your drink. If the glass is half empty….It’s time to get the bartenders attention. You see? It’s all in how you look at it.

  6. Love your thoughts about your partnership and wish you many more happy decades together. Erin, all this and he loves your Helmut Lang leather pants! You are a lucky girl.

  7. Andrew, I really enjoy reading your posts, do please keep them coming! They inspire me to think a bit differently about things which is always needed :)

  8. I love how you both recognize that neither outlook is right/wrong, but just a certain way of looking at the world. I wish more world leaders could do this- focus less on proving that their outlook is the ONLY way and focus more on understanding what another outlook can teach them.

  9. Andrew…..you need a weekly post. About relationships. Living with a pessimist AND someone who can not communicate his feelings……who considers my “glass half full” naive……..how nice to hear from a guy who can articulate that both is needed to balance a cohesive relationship! How depressing it would be to live in a home where both were “half empty” …….but then again ALL ” half full” could lead to chaos and possibly living in that ditch you mentioned!

    Here is to more advice from Andrew! Not that we don’t love Erin……:)

  10. Andrew this post plus being a ‘celebrity in Europe’ makes you my favorite American Married man right now!! Great post from an inteligent man married with a great Inteligent woman! Wow!! I bet that house is a hanfull!! Funny, Pedro (my hubby) and I, are the on the opposite situation! Me the optimistic and him the pessimist. I think it makes it a bit worse when it comes to finance talking, because a optimistic with a taste for shopping it’s not good for a house!;))) Please do ask Erin for weekly post on a Man living with a decorator! I bet even my husband would read it!

  11. Great thoughts Andrew. You and I share this experience. Common phrase from me to Rach “when was the last time things didn’t work out for us”. Common phrase from Rach to me “you don’t know it’s going to be ok”. Which is great because as you mentioned she helps me to stay moving and not get complacent and I help her to relax and not worry about the outcome. Great piece, thanks for sharing.

  12. You had me in tears. Thanks for the glass half full attitude, you got it from your Father. I’m much more like Erin. But, Dad and I have made it for almost 42 years. Here’s to you and Erin making it for a long time too. I MISS you. Love – Mom

  13. Yay, for Andrew! Great piece about the differences between pessimists and optimists in a marriage. My husband and I are kind of like this so I loved the humor of it. Andrew’s looking on the bright side of having a different worldview. How great!

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