Avoid giving a married man compliments that are overly personal.

Complimenting a Married Man

by Arlin Cuncic

Some situations exist in which offering a compliment requires deft social graces. A compliment delivered to a married man could be smoothly received or considered an awkward faux pas -- or worse -- as a romantic gesture. If you find yourself wanting to offer a compliment to a married man, keep in mind the social constraints, choose your words well, and gauge what you can say based on how well you know him -- and his wife. In some instances, a compliment not voiced may be the better option.

Don't Get Too Personal

In the "Psychology Today" article, "9 Types of Compliments That Work (Or Don't)," psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne advises against the inappropriate compliment -- those that overstep the boundaries of personal relationships. A compliment to a married man could fall into this category, if you are not careful. Do not give a married man a compliment that is too personal. Saying that you like his shirt -- good. Saying that you like how his shirt shows off his physique -- bad.

Don't Flirt

It might seem obvious, but take care not to inadvertently (or deliberately) flirt with a married man when you offer a compliment. Whitbourne calls these the "envious" compliments -- those that covertly convey your interest in obtaining an object or quality -- or, in this case, a person. These types of compliments combine your genuine wish to say something nice with your secret wish to obtain something for yourself. A married man who receives this type of compliment may rightly worry that the situation could get out of hand.

Choose Your Words Carefully

When complimenting a married man, make sure to choose your words carefully. Use adjectives that don't convey attraction such as, "You are looking well," "You are looking wonderful," or "It is good to see you so happy." Compliments such as these can double as praise for the spouse of the married man -- and may be offered in the presence of his partner. Compliments about clothing choices are also safe bets, particularly if you focus on an unusual item such as a unique tie or a glossy pair of dress shoes.

Consider the Relationship

Finally, when complimenting a married man, think about your relationship and how well you know the individual. How long have you known the man? Do you know his spouse? Take all these factors into consideration when choosing whether to offer a particular compliment. For example, if you have known him and his spouse for a number of years, you might be able to get away with something a little cheekier such as, "John, you have really slimmed down!" As a general rule, never offer a compliment to a married man that you would not say in front of his spouse -- and, if you are married -- that you would not want to have offered to your spouse.

About the Author

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.

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