Every married man will eventually be asked to tell how long they have been married. While the question seems very innocent, everyone knows that the question is a loaded weapon. Miss that question and you obviously are not a caring husband. Miss that question and you might as well crawl away to wherever it is that loser husbands congregate.

On the surface I will admit that it seems odd that men, who can often remember the exact number of runs scored by a player in any given year of the last decade, cannot remember the date of their wedding. But that phenomenon is a distraction to the real issue. As I’ve mentioned before, the answer to this question is not as simple as it appears to be. The answer to that question appears to be a strange calculation based on moon phases, the curvature of space and the wife’s biorhythm. The only certainty that I have been able to deduce in my years is that it will be something other than what the husband claims it to be.

So what is a husband to do? How should we handle this tricky no-win situation? Here are four tactics you can employ:

1. Anticipate the question before it happens – I have already posted advice on trying to avoid the question altogether by being vague. This is a critical skill for every husband to learn. Sometimes, though, a more direct approach may be needed. Just as some teams succeed by keeping their offense on the field for long periods of time, you may need an offensive strategy if a situation seems imminent. How do you go offensive in this case? Simply ask first. If you feel the room shifting and the question being set up, simply make some comment about your relationship and then ask your wife if she remembers how long you’ve been married.

This tactic may require some practice in the mirror as the key is to sell the impression that you know the answer and think she does not. I must also urge caution with this tactic. If your wife is quick and knows that you are bluffing she may offer you a wrong date to let you prove your ignorance by agreeing to it. Its a plan, but it’s not fail-proof.

2. Plan ahead – For any future husbands that may be reading this, let me offer one of the best strategies for dealing with the situation: Pick a wedding date that is easy to remember or unique enough to start conversations.

Easy to remember dates are limited in number for many of us because very few women will agree to get married on Christmas or New Year’s Day. Getting married on Super Bowl Sunday will work against you and is not a fixed date anyway. Try for something a little more subtle. Pick the date that your favorite player reached 400 home runs or first ran for more than 1,000 yards in a single season. The downside to this is that your anniversary will fall during the sports season, but it will be easy to remember. If you were born in a month that does not conflict with your favorite sports season, you can marry on your birthday. That would be easy to remember but may require you getting married in the middle of the week depending upon the year.

Unique dates can be helpful if you can arrange it. In my case, my wife and I married on Leap Day. Usually, as soon as I say “We only have an anniversary every four years” the conversation moves away from “how long” to the eccentricity of the date. Dates that qualify as eccentric are limited, though. Leap Day only comes around every four years, obviously, and I already mentioned that the major holidays are probably out of the question. Try minor holidays like Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day. (NOTE: Those are minor in the US. You may need to modify that list to fit your country.)

3. Use humor – One of the best options may be the use of humor. One major caution here: practice this ahead of time!

Humor can be a great way deflect attention away from you and the question, but we need to realize that what we find as humorous is not always humorous to our wives. That is why I do not suggest you practice this tactic extemporaneously. You should carefully craft a few humorous responses and think them over before using them. You will likely need something better than “What? I’m married? So that’s what this ring is for?” to successfully avoid the question. Try responses such as “It couldn’t have been long since my wife is still so young” at your own risk. If it sounds like sarcasm you may be making matters worse.

4. Give only the year – If you didn’t plan ahead and are not comfortable with the risks of using humor, your best bet may be to offer only the year. The premise here is that it is easier to remember four numbers than eight. If you can somehow etch the four-digit year into your brain you may be able to stumble out of the question with a quick response: “We were married in ’91.” It can be surprising, though, how elusive those four digits can be. You may want to consider tattooing them on your wrist for quick reference.

So there you have it. That’s the best advice I can offer based on my experiences. What about you? Do you have some other suggestions for how to handle the “how long” question?