Behind Every Great Man Is…

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…potentially a woman who is quite tired of hearing this quote. if you finish the sentence of “behind every great man is a great woman” then you are not alone but i would like you to reconsider it.

in 2012, i coached my husband ryan avery, as he entered and then WON the world championship of public speaking. here’s what it’s like to be married to a world champion and this has lead us to pursuing opportunities all around the world! that’s a pretty amazing statement and i feel thankful for how our life has taken shape.

when people see my husband on stage, where he speaks of how we worked together through the process of the world championship and how we now run a business together, i can almost guarantee you that at least three people will come up to me after he’s done to say “ya know…behind every great man is a great woman!”

Behind Every Great Man....

i realize most people who say this to me are coming from a place of encouragement and they mean well but it actually drives me insane. i also acknowledge that while it may actually be my husband on stage a fair majority of the time and i’m in the front row or at the back of the room with our resources, i’m still not behind him. in our relationship, i’m never behind him but rather next to him, even if not literally at all times.

chelsea and ryan avery on stage

when people first started saying this to me, i used to just smile and nod even though it felt like banshees were screaming in my head. i know that he doesn’t see me as just his supportive arm candy so why do i care what others think or say?

i care because words are how we communicate so they do matter and effect us.

i know people don’t usually mean to place more value on my husband than me. heck, i’ve even had people say “behind every great man is an even greater woman.” while that’s nice, i don’t see myself as greater or better than my husband.

i’ve started responding in a very ‘new wifestyle’ way of:

“actually…neither of us is behind or in front of the other! we strongly agree that we stand next to each other since we are equals in our relationship. we both support and encourage one another. we work hard at being a team so thank you!”

of course there are times when i’m in a more supportive role while being his encourager and vice versa. point being, it matters to be intentional with our words and even if “you don’t mean it that way” think about what you are saying because words are powerful.

if you are reading this and you’ve said this to me…no, you don’t need to apologize. however, i would ask you to consider retiring this old saying.

here are some alternatives to use when we talk about supportive spouses:

“couples who support each other go farther together.”

“success usually involves many people all gathering around one goal.”

“behind every great man is his behind.” (that’s just a fact)

Behind Every Great Man....

1) what is your take on this age-old saying?
2) what other sayings are you tired of hearing regarding marriage/wife roles?
3) how do you decide when to just ‘smile and nod’ and when to speak what’s really on your mind?


  1. Amanda

    February 18, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Huh! I’ve heard that saying over and over, but never really thought about it. What a great way to interpret that. Ooh, you should analyze that other saying – the man is the head but the woman is the neck, or something like that.
    “behind every great man is his behind.” love it.
    Amanda recently posted…Let’s Go On a Blate in Fargo: Tell Me About Your Town

    • chelsea

      February 18, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      thanks for your comment amanda! it never sat right with me, even though i know the intention is well-meaning. ohhh head vs. neck. i’ll have to mull that one over!

  2. Audrey

    February 18, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Phrases like this usually bother me, but I hadn’t thought about it like that. I suppose the word “behind” is the most troubling, since great is describing the man and woman. There are tons of phrases and cliches that I can’t stand, but I can’t think of any right now, haha. I feel very good about the equal relationship I have with K. I’m glad you have that, too!

    I have a very opinionated family and I find myself biting my tongue ALL THE TIME. Sometimes it’s easier (and less taxing) to let them sound ignorant. When my brother and I conference-called my grandpa for his birthday he made a comment about how my brother will obviously make more money in life than my husband and I because he’s a guy (unlike me) and will have an engineering degree (unlike my husband who didn’t attend college). Um, my brother is in his 5th year of undergrad and my husband already has a very successful, nation-wide business. My brother doesn’t share my grandfather’s opinion and we’re supportive of each other, but I hung up the phone very, very irritated.
    Audrey recently posted…I’m Not Good at Skiing

    • chelsea

      February 18, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      glad to hear you have equality in your relationship too, audrey! yeah…i’m not so much into the “behind” piece of the saying because it implies, in my mind, that we are to stay in a supportive role and aren’t allowed our own dreams and desires.

      i know what you mean with family and sometimes it can be easier not to start a big thing. sorry to hear that those words came out of your grandpa’s mouth-that’s hard but glad that your brother is supportive of you! thanks for your thoughts audrey!

  3. Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties

    February 18, 2015 at 11:39 am

    interesting! I’ve never thought of that saying in that way. I guess I figured it was “behind” in a supportive way, and was kinda complimenting the woman for being supportive, not that she’s necessarily lesser than the guy. BUT I totally see what you mean once i think about it!

    Hmmm I can’t think of any other phrases like that but I will say that the one I’m sick of is people saying things about mike “supporting” me (financially) while I build my biz. that’s probably the most obnoxious/incorrect thing someone could possibly assume haha it drives me NUTS! but I’ve basically learned to just tune it out because all that matters to me is that he and I both know that isn’t true!
    Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties recently posted…Fight the temptation of NEW purchases

    • chelsea

      February 18, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      i think that’s what most people probably mean by it, ashley! in my mind, it comes off as we (as women) do a great job in that supportive, traditional role where wives used to not have a career/passion/dream of their own.

      looove that you are living out your dream with building your own business! you’re amazing. that is ridiculous that people assume that about your situation but glad you are working to tune it out…i should work on that too 🙂

  4. Meagan

    February 18, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Interesting – I’ve never thought of that saying in that way before. But you know what? It’s so, so true. I love your responses – specifically “couples that support one another go farther together”, and of course “behind every great man is his behind”, because #truth.
    Meagan recently posted…It’s Me… A to Z.

    • chelsea

      February 18, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      the saying just always rubbed me the wrong way and it’s true that couples who support one another go farther together…as well as where everyone’s behind is 🙂 thanks for your comment meagan!

  5. Elizabeth T

    February 18, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    You know I’d never thought of that saying like this but it totally makes sense the way you explained it. My husband’s family is always saying things that are decidedly un-“New Wifestyle” so it’s been pretty difficult to learn how to pick my battles on things like this.
    Elizabeth T recently posted…Dear Hawaii, I’m Not a Fan

    • chelsea

      February 18, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      elizabeth, that would be really hard to hear things like that from your husband’s family because i’ve felt like that before too. i’ve found that when i’m able to describe the reality of our relationship (like ravery cooking 9 out of 10 times because he ENJOYS it and i don’t), that can sometimes help. other times…it’s just not worth it!

  6. Melissa Camacho

    February 18, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    what a great way to put it. I definitely think Josh and I stand side by side rather than one being in front. well said my dear
    Melissa Camacho recently posted…A Paper Airplane

    • chelsea

      February 19, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      that makes my heart happy to hear that you stand side by side each other, melissa!

  7. Sarah Hannen

    February 19, 2015 at 5:22 am

    YES! this has always bothered me as well. i also hate the saying that a lot of women like to throw out there: if you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best (or however it goes). i’m like… why would you want anyone to have to “handle” you? why don’t you stop using that as a way to excuse awful behaviour. i love this articles take on it, it starts talking about it halfway down:

    i used to smile and nod a lot, but now i’ll usually just stop someone by saying “ehhh, i disagree.” and if they want to pursue it and figure out WHY i disagree, they will, and if not, then at least they know where i stand. ya gotta pick your battles with that one!

    • chelsea

      February 19, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      that was a super interesting article, sarah! thank you for posting that because i’ve totally been guilty of buying into that quote in the past but yuck…i need to change my ‘worst.’

      ohhh i like your method on simply saying you disagree and then they can pursue the continued conversation. smart lady right here!

  8. Amanda Wood

    February 19, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    “Behind every great man is behind.” Unless it’s my hubs who has no behind haha!!

    Love this post though. I hate that saying too. I also hate when people thing I’m not “contributing” because I’m not working. No I’m not contributing financially, but there is so much more to our marriage than money.
    Amanda Wood recently posted…Sponsor Q & A With Our Favorite Llama

    • chelsea

      February 19, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      whaaat! he has no behind?! haha that’s hilarious #flatbooty.

      that’s a HUGE thing for me too, amanda! you are totally right that there is so much more to marriage and LIFE than making money and we all contribute in different ways (thank goodness). sparking lots of article ideas from this point because i’ve been there too! thanks for your smarts 🙂

  9. Shelby

    February 20, 2015 at 7:16 am

    I just found your blog, and this resonates so much with me! When I got married I chose to keep my last name for multiple reasons. But when most people find out I still have my own last name they ask, “Well, how does you husband feel about that?” It’s something that truly bothers me — what do you mean how does my husband feel about me having my own last name? How does he feel about our marriage that didn’t change what-so-ever? I’ve never understood how choosing to keep my own last name was more about how I was making my husband feel by not taking his name. I feel like it speaks to this idea that the man should still be the head of the household, and be the figure head of our family, when in reality we are 50/50, with our own strengths and weakness — and last names.
    Shelby recently posted…My Baby Blog

    • chelsea

      February 20, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      hooray thanks for stopping by the blog and for your comment, shelby! ohh the last name choice is HUGE. that is so bizarre that immediately people want to know how your husband feels about your own last name-people are nuts. that would really bother me too.

      i’ve been meaning to write about it but it took me 2.5 years and multiple couple’s therapy sessions before i made the *choice* to share the same last name as my husband. it’s not something to do lightly so i’m glad you’ve found what works best for you! sounds like you’re owning the ‘new wifestyle’ 🙂

  10. LIndsay @ The Wife in Training

    February 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

    This is so good, every single word. It’s so true – neither partner is in front or behind but rather standing on equal ground, supporting each other side by side. There have been moments in our marriage where Andy supports me more, and also where I support him more. That’s just how it works. You’ve found a very classy way to handle that statement, it seems. 🙂
    LIndsay @ The Wife in Training recently posted…Friday Favorites

    • chelsea

      February 20, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      thanks lindsay! it’s so true that of course there will be times when one person is supporting the other more often and in different ways but the value and worth of each other doesn’t change! thank you for thinking it’s a classy way because shin kickin’ didn’t seem to work too well 🙂

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