Let me explain something you probably already knew… basically, married guys begin calculating the probability, or odds, of how night is going to end from the moment they walk in the door from work… and sometimes, the calculations begin as early as the mid-day ‘check-in’ call with your wife.

Most guys want the evening to end in a certain way every day of their lives. And after years of marriage, guys become very adept at interpreting and processing each mannerism and phrase their wife utters with the precision and speed of a Cray supercomputer. Each word, story and facial expression a wife conveys is a new data point that is then entered into the probability equation to generate an updated probability forecast. These calculations happen instantly, and the calculator constantly runs in the background. Once kids are part of the equation, then each of their words and actions become part of the calculation as well because we all know that the evening can go from >90% probability to 0% if one of the kids starts barfing.

Since women are difficult to read and impossible for the human male to fully understand, it is important to note that these are just forecasts and there is always a ‘chance’ factor to consider. Additionally, each word, phrase, incident or gesture must be re-calibrated as their predictive value can erode with time. As a result, men really have no idea what the real odds are, but we must soothe our curiosity by trying to quantify our chances anyway. And as a mathematics friend pointed out, “even though the odds on the night appear infinitely low, it is always a non-zero number because we can all remember times when we got a late night tap on the shoulder in the face of long odds. In fact, it probably would have paid off to play the lottery instead.”

To give a sense for how this plays out in a typical evening, assume husband A walks in the house feeling he has even odds on the night, or a 50% probability of a happy ending to the evening given that the midday call went well. He says, “Hello” and his wife says, “hey.” Odds have now dropped to 43% because her voice inflection was low and it wasn’t they typically chipper version of the evening welcome. Husband A then asks, “How was your day?” Wife A then responds, “terrible.” Again, not good, and the odds get another haircut to 30%. Husband A then says, “Can you tell me about it?” Wife A then goes into emotional download that involves a variety of issues pushing the odds ever closer to zero. But then she ends with, “…but I feel pretty good about everything.” Odds have just improved to maybe 15%. She then says, “And I did get to sit down for a few minutes before the kids got home from school, and the kids got most of their homework done before they got home so that wasn’t too bad, and dinner didn’t take very long…” Odds just improved to like 33%. Not great, but a big move from almost zero at the low. This example also gives you some sense for the emotional highs and lows we husbands feel on a daily basis.

A note to the young men: there are two periods of time when your probability calculator will give mis-readings. The first is when your wife wants to get pregnant and the second is when you have a baby in the house. If your wife wants a baby, then nothing will stop her. So don’t think you have things figured out, and don’t incorporate queues from this time period into your later statistical framework. The other time when your model will not produce good numbers is when you have a new baby in the house and your wife is going through a hormone overhaul. During this period, I don’t need to know a thing about your wife to know your odds are better playing the lottery.