The jealousy card. You know it well, and chances are you've played it on more than one occasion.
It does wonders, doesn't it? Make a guy jealous, and he's back in the palm of your hands, treating you better, paying more attention to your ups and downs, and cleaning the bathrooms twice a week (with rubber gloves). Genius.
Or is it? As with politics and winter skies, there are various shades of gray here, too. While you may have something to gain by pushing his buttons, you also have an awful lot to lose if you hit the wrong one.
At the risk of being labeled a traitor to my gender - but as a favor to my female friends - here are some surefire ways to safely and compassionately poke your partner with the jealousy stick without risking more serious issues.
Stay Up Later Than He Does
And make sure you're logged in. When he says he's going to bed, tell him you'll be in later, that you just have a few things to look up on the computer. Not that he doesn't trust you and not that you're going to check up on an ex or two, but he doesn't know that.
And his wandering mind may just think you're up to something. And the thought that you might be means that you'll soon be getting more attention than David Beckham in the Los Angeles airport.
Have Drinks with Friends
He knows you talk. He knows you talk more when you're with friends, especially when you add drinks to the mix. And he cares deeply about how he's portrayed in your version of the media - that is, your social network - and how he stacks up against other men. Go out and compare notes with the girls, and selectively report back on the findings of the kangaroo court. He may be less likely to give you damning evidence to report.
Click on ESPN.com
Read up on the latest sports happenings, and bring them up later to your man. When he asks how the heck you knew Padraig Harrington won the British Open, tell him that a couple guys from work were talking about it.
The thought of you playing Erin Andrews (sports reporter for ESPN since 2004 ... C'mon, stay with me here!) around the coffee machine will make him steam without totally burning. (Note: Anything you do with male colleagues that's potentially frisky will infuriate him - and can potentially backfire on you.)
Challenge him in something physical - whether it's in an upcoming 5K or in your regular yoga class. It's hard for even the least competitive men not to feel antsy when his woman is stronger, faster, or more flexible than he is.
He'll say it doesn't bother him when you cross the finish line first or scratch your ears with your toes. Plus, research shows that even a little healthy competition can ignite your sex life. Don't push the Venus Williams act too hard, though, or he'll wonder if his losing streak will send you in search of a man who's faster, stronger, and better.