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Guys, There Are No 'No Win Situations'

02/24/2015 02:40 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2015
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As a couple's therapist, there are some common themes that crop up.  One is the idea, set forth by men, that there are a multitude of "no win situations" in which, no matter what they do, their wife will be unhappy.  I live to rectify myths, especially ones that dismiss one gender's perspective. Although I do not doubt that men truly feel this way,I have never heard of a no win situation in which the woman did not think of a pretty easy way that the man could win.  Let's explore this idea further, since my kids are asleep and I don't feel like doing the laundry.

Here is a great example of the facts in what a man calls a "no win situation":
  • His wife asks how she looks in a dress.
  • His wife does not look good in the dress.

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As a man, you are already feeling your testicles retract into your body out of anxiety.  Women are universally all thinking the following (if you're a woman and you don't think this, please email me so I can probe your mind more, you anomaly, you):

"I would like him to tell me the truth, so that I do not embarrass myself and go out in public looking like an orca with no fashion sense, and I would like him to say it kindly, so that I can continue to feel that he is my teammate and partner and not some seventh grade bully that mocks my back fat."

So in this "no win" situation, there is an easy win!  It is to tell the truth, in a nice way.

"Bullshit," my male readers exclaim.  "How the hell am I supposed to say something mean in a nice way?  You're setting me up to fail, she-devil. Another no-win situation. Goddamn crazy women."

Well, here are some options:

1. "Hey, you know what, I don't really like that dress on you, but I do like the blue one or the red one."

2. "No, you don't look your best in that dress.  I like the other one, or nothing." (This will go over better if you're not racing to go out, but it might get a smile.)

3. "That dress does not show off your boobs (or whatever it really doesn't show off)."

4. "I don't like it.  I like your sexy body though."

Any variation will do.  Here are the key components.

  • You are nice.
  • You are truthful.
Here are some things that husbands say, that end up leading to a fight, which then leads to the myth of the no-win situation:
 
1. I like it. (She knows you're lying because you do that weird thing with your nose when you lie.  So now she knows she can't trust you to make sure she does not look like an orca.)
 
2. I hate it, it makes you look like a grandma.  (Honest, but rude. And would it kill you to throw in something nice?  An alternative dress?  A compliment? A card trick? Anything, guys.)
 
3. Stop asking me these goddamn questions.  (Argumentative and distancing, at best.)
 
4. Yeah, it's fine, I don't know. (Dishonest and also you're being a bit of a wimp there.)
 
 
Now you're ready to take a quiz.  Remember, the goal is NICE and HONEST.  Answer to the best of your ability.
 
1. Your wife says, "You like your mom better than me." This is nothing you've ever even thought about.  When you reflect, it is possible that it's true, but only when you and your wife are fighting.  You answer:
 
a. "Damn straight because she isn't up my ass nagging me all day."
b. "Not at all, and you're crazy for thinking that."
c. "I can see why you think that because when we're fighting I tend to call her. I love you but it's hard for me when we fight."
 
2. Your wife says, "I am a fat heifer.  I need to go on a diet, right?"  You, who still want to have sex with her, but notice she has put on a good 15 pounds, say:
 
a. "Moo."
b. "No way, I don't see it at all."
c. "I think you're sexy at this weight or when you were thinner. But if you want to eat healthier, I'm on board and I'll try too."
 
3. Your wife says, "I can't believe my boss has the nerve to say I shouldn't have taken Madison to work with me today!  What an asshole.  Right?"  You agree with the boss.  You say:
 
a. "It's called a job, not daycare, babe."
b. "Total asshole."
c. "I know we had nothing else to do with her, but I see his point.  Do you think we should look into backup sitters so you can focus on work?"
 
4. Your wife says, "I can't believe that your brother sleep trains his kid.  People who do that are so mean."  You don't agree.  You say:
 
a. "Yeah it's really terrible that my brother gets to have sex with his wife at night and not spend two hours rocking the baby to sleep."
b. "Yeah, he sucks."
c. "I think it works for them.  To be honest, I've been wondering if it's time for us to try something different, but I know you feel strongly about this so I don't want to push."
 
Score:
a  = asshole
b = blatantly lying
c = can we say ideal husband?
 
If you have fewer than 4 c's, go back and reread the main points.  Women (and men!) like partners who are NICE and HONEST.
 
If you try nice and honest and your wife still responds poorly, then you are fully within your rights to shake your head and say, "Goddamn no-win situation."  A poor response is something like, "Why did you agree with me having to lose weight, you asshole?"
 
However, if she still LOOKS SAD after you speak, then that is not a poor response.  It is her thinking something like, "Shit, now I have to go on a diet.  That's going to suck."  Sadness is a feeling and then you can respond to it with EMPATHY AND KINDNESS, and say something like, "I'm sorry you're upset.  I love you."
 
That's all for today, folks.  Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Helps You Be A Better Partner In Spite Of Yourself.

For more, visit Dr. Rodman at Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, and Twitter @DrPsychMom.