“I Married Up” : Can We Stop With This Backhanded Compliment?

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Married Up

Tracy and I celebrated 11 years of marriage earlier this year (2013). It has been an unbelievable journey marked with highs and lows, challenging moments, beautiful stories, and fun. Lots and lots of fun. I cannot imagine walking through this life and sharing the moments we have shared with anyone else. I am tremendously thankful for my wife. BUT, and let me be really clear here, I did NOT marry up.

I know, I know, how unromantic and even mean spirited of me to say. What a horrible thing to say after a decade-plus-one anniversary. You’re all wondering if I somehow missed the “man memo”, right? The memo that explicitly reads: “To pay the highest compliment to your wife in public, you must say with gusto: ‘I married up!’ This will garner you the love and affection of a blushing bride, and cover a multitude of sins.”

This “compliment” (I married up) comes straight out of the standard-issue husband-manual you receive on your wedding day. It is a required sentiment to describe your wife to others. It’s an updated phrase from the last edition when we used, “my better half” in the same situations. And this phrase is well meaning, but it is anything but a compliment. In fact, I’d argue it’s more of a backhanded compliment.

Let me explain, because you simply have to take the inverse of the phrase to get what I’m saying.
When someone says, “I married up,” what exactly does that say about their spouse?
It sounds like their spouse is better than they are, right? Like the husband is being romantic, discarding his own pride and ego as a means to elevate his wife. And therein lies the compliment. However, there’s a backhanded side to this phrase as well. If you think about the sentiment for just a moment you’d have to then wonder, how did you get someone like that? Did you catch her on a bad day or a bad year? Did she settle? Poor girl. Maybe you simply conned her? She must be pretty gullible, eh? The implications of this phrase don’t speak very highly of your wife, does it? Doesn’t really speak volumes about her judgement of character, does it? But then again, wives are just supposed to be pretty, shiny trophies right? I mean, that’s how we often times treat them, isn’t it?

You may think I’m being ridiculous or that I’m too caught up in my own hyperbole. You may think I’m over thinking this whole thing and trying to make a point where one doesn’t really exist. But I do wonder, and I think we all should wonder, why has it become necessary to degrade ourselves in order to give a proper compliment? Think about it… I’ll wait.

When this becomes our approach, we not only degrade ourselves, but we unintentionally diminish the other person robbing both them and ourselves of our humanity.

So, I did NOT marry up and I hope that Tracy would say the same thing. We both made a wise decision and have worked hard to not only sustain our love but to sacrifice for and submit to one another. My wife is a brilliant and talented woman who tirelessly gives of herself to others. She exemplifies the kingdom of God, challenging and pushing me to be a better version of myself. And she is an amazing mother… an absolutely amazing mother.

Isn’t it more honoring to actually compliment our wives instead of saying, “I married up”? So, men, can we please stop using this phrase and work at using real compliments?