In Christian circles, and even in pop culture, it is rather fashionable for husbands and wives to say that they are married to the most amazing and wonderful man/woman they’ve ever met. I understand their intention in saying this. They want to communicate how much they appreciate their spouse and show that they are not taking them for granted, which is a helpful push against a culture that tends to promote self-absorption. More importantly, they simply want to bless their spouse, which is very admirable. But this hyperbolic and misguided approach can actually promote the very opposite effect the fawning lover intends.
A complement, to be lastingly effective, must be based in truth. The chances that our spouses have been, and will continue to be, the superlative of all humans we’ll meet is rather slim. Despite the ambiguity about which properties the impassioned cry is made, even if those could be enumerated, it would still be highly unlikely. Humanity is just too wonderful and diverse to believe that in our small corner of the world we’ve found the best.
But perhaps the complement is really a way to say that our spouses are the best for us. In other words, it’s a subjective statement and therefore cannot be challenged. Granted, but the declaration is a comparative statement. The focus is on comparing this man or woman with every other man and woman in the world. If I wanted to say that they were best suited for me, then I would make myself the focus of the statement. For example, “My wife is so wonderful to me,” or “I’m amazed by the beauty and kindness of my wife,” or “My wife means more to me than any other woman in the world.” The focus here is the impact of this person on me (a subjective statement), not a qualitative comparison with others. However, you rarely hear these statements made this way. To talk like this is to bear one’s soul, which seems rather unsophisticated, and so an uncourageous facsimile will have to do.
More significantly, the real problem with the “amazing man/woman” boast is that it suggests that our spouses mean something to us because they possess certain characteristics. It reduces them to a favorite object or a preferred good or service. They’re the best product on the market. This is truly demeaning because people are not objects. People are irreplaceable beings. They can’t be reduced to their various characteristics. True love isn’t loving someone because of something they have (their beauty, their personality, their talents), it is loving them period. I’m not saying their qualities don’t matter. Of course they do, and they do factor into our selection of someone to be our friend. But it’s not because our loved one is the best instance of those qualities that we choose them. If it is, then our love is a farce.
Someone who is loved for their properties can be replaced when another comes along with a greater quality or quantity of those properties, or when they happen to lose those properties through age, disease, or an accident. Love that has any real meaning is a love that can’t be explained. Just as each person is a profound mystery, so is the love that binds two friends together.
I’m pleased that there is a current trend to unashamedly affirm our spouses in public. But the best affirmation is one that doesn’t cheapen the person and courageously bows before the beloved.