Kind words that aren’t…
You may think saying your husband looks cute trying to fix the lawn mower is music to his ears, but he’s hearing a different tune. Women’s words of praise can sit the wrong way with their spouses. Sometimes emotional responses, like frustration and excitement, creep into compliments and unintentionally wound guys’ pride.
“When giving a compliment, put it in the best light possible to show you really appreciate him,” says Match.com relationship expert Whitney Casey. Here, experts dish on 10 compliments that could use a man-friendly makeover.
1. “It’s so sweet you want to help me clean up, but I can do it faster myself.”
While you may have certain chores down to a science, your man may not. Be gracious when he offers to ease the load, and don’t comment on his glacial pace. “We’re all guilty of it. You’ve had a long day and want things done as quickly as possible so you can relax,” says Casey.
“But men hate feeling like they’re not good enough for you—and he’ll think you’re calling him slow with that comment.” Instead, use the extra time you spend on dishes to catch up on each other’s day. Above all, tell him you appreciate him wanting to help.
2. “I’m amazed you were able to fix the leaky faucet.”
Don’t act surprised when he pulls off a project without professional help. “Telling a man you’re ‘shocked’ by his capabilities is a huge hit to his self-esteem,” says Casey. “Men never want their wives to question their ultra-masculine abilities.”
Try this: “Handsome, smart and handy? I knew I married a triple threat.” Nothing says you see him as a sexy stud more than complimenting multiple facets of his manhood at once.
3. “I fold the laundry this way, but thanks for trying without me asking.”
Nix “trying” from your complimentary vocabulary. “He thinks he’s done something great by pitching in, but that gets shot down quickly when he takes ‘trying’ as ‘it wasn’t good enough.’” Abandon your inner perfectionist and go with the flow. “It’s OK to have a specific way of doing things, but compromise instead of critiquing his efforts,” Casey says.
4. “You’re the only person I can talk to.”
Avoid putting such a hefty emotional load on your man. He doesn’t want to be your girlfriends, mom and sister all rolled into one. “That puts pressure on him to be the only support system,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Carin Goldstein, creator of BeTheSmartWife.com say he’s your favorite, not your only, for greatest impact.
Try: “I know I talk to my girlfriends and mom all the time, but you’re the best listener. I love talking to you because you really get me.” He thrives on feeling helpful, and this shows how much you value his ear.
5. “You’re so cute!”
Your man would rather not be lumped into the same category as puppies and babies. “I’m not looking to be told my dimples are cute,” says Peter from Boston. “That doesn’t exactly convey my rugged handsomeness.” Goldstein says, “‘Cute’ makes him seem like a little boy, which does a number on your couple chemistry.” Goldstein likes Peter’s alternative word: handsome.
“People choose elementary words because they avoid deeper intimacy. Saying something underused like handsome really says, ‘I love you,’” she explains.
6. “This gift isn’t quite my taste, but it’s the thought that counts.”
Tell him he’s thoughtful, yes. But even if the necklace he chose for Valentine’s Day is the last piece of jewelry you would’ve picked, stay mum. Speaking up says he doesn’t know you well enough. “It’s a total slap in the face,” says Goldstein. “He’ll end up not wanting to get you anything next time.” Acknowledge the generosity behind his present, and wear it sometimes. Before the next special occasion, though, point out the exact gifts you like at the store, so he’ll know what to get.
7. “It’s like you’re my third child, but I love you anyway.”
Saying you adore him in spite of his faults by tacking “but I love you” onto a dis is “totally passive-aggressive,” says Goldstein. “You’re basically saying he’s a pain in the butt.” Separate these two thoughts instead of qualifying one. “Say what you’re trying to say,” Goldstein insists, suggesting you lead with a “soft starter” before getting things off your chest.
Try: “I love that you’re so close with the kids and make time to play with them. Sometimes, though, I really need you on my side with discipline.”
8. “My husband did the most romantic thing ever.”
Don’t gush too much to your friends about your man’s private gesture. Word travels fast, from your girls to his guys. “There’s a lot of talk in male circles about being ‘whipped,’ and this would fall in that category,” says clinical psychologist Andra Brosh, PhD.
So he planned a romantic dinner because he loves you? His boys could give him a hard time for the added pressure they now feel to please their wives. If you want to spill, make him look good. Dr. Brosh suggests, saying, “We focus on keeping things fresh, and most recently my husband did this.” This shines the right light on your man. Though it may invoke a little jealousy in your friends, it’s likely to keep his buddies’ taunts at bay.
9. “I love your tummy flab!”
If you were raving about Ryan Gosling’s six-pack yesterday, your husband will hear mixed messages and won’t know what to believe. “Guys who spend that much time on their bodies can easily be more focused on themselves than their partners,” says Dr. Brosh, who suggests telling your husband that you prefer a man who’s a great partner and father than one with great abs. “This will let him know what’s truly important to you,” and reassure him that he offers those things.
10. “You’re the best I’ve ever had.”
He wants to pleasure you in bed, but he doesn’t want to think about the men from your past. “You suddenly think of all these guys who’ve been there and done that,” says Matt* from Big Rapids, MI. To compliment his skill in the sack, be specific to this sexual experience with him. “Say, ‘I love how it feels when you…’” suggests Dr. Brosh. “Keeping it personal ensures that the focus is on the partner, not on some general comparison.”