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Instant Fight Stoppers

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7. Act like an idiot

For Nancy Roman, 35, of Linden, NJ, arguments often end in laughter. "At the beginning of our marriage, whenever we argued, my husband left the house to cool off and I sat and stewed," she says. "In recent years he has started making these silly faces in the middle of an argument and sticking his tongue out at me. I totally lose it and start laughing — thus the argument ends!" Likewise, 27-year-old Angela Barr of Beaufort, SC, raises her fists in a mock sparring gesture and says, "Wanna fight? Come on, let's fight" when she and her husband start quarreling. Then they laugh and the moment passes. "Lately we both break the tension by 'begging' to fight with each other," she says. "Sometimes our teasing will turn into a wrestling/tickling match that ends with both of us in giggles."

One caveat: Don't overdo it, says New York psychotherapist Gilda Carle. Humor is "relationship glue," but being snide or shooting barbs at your husband won't help. And never poke fun about sensitive issues, such as weight or sex problems. "You can't laugh about what's really bothering your partner, or he'll feel he's not being taken seriously," says Carle.

8. Phone it in

Many men respond better to a voice over the telephone than to a steaming woman in front of them, says Carle. She once settled a long argument with her husband simply by calling him on the second line — the two were in the same house but in separate rooms — and hashed it out over the phone. You can do the same thing with a cell phone; neither of you sees any rolling eyes or other physical signals that can add fuel to the fire.

9. Take turns having fun

When Denise Mussman, 35, of St. Louis, headed out to a Cardinals game with her husband and her 3-year-old daughter, she says "My husband was crabby, he didn't want to go, and my first impulse was to say, 'Why did you agree to come?'" When Mussman realized that her husband was going to the game to please her, she backed off. "I told him that afterward we would do whatever he wanted to do. He was like a little kid — his mood changed immediately. We had a good time at the game, then came home and had a barbecue."

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