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Instant Fight Stoppers

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."

10. Use the code

Peggy Elder, 46, of Brooklyn says she and her husband constantly bickered after a stressful move across the country. "We moved because of my job, so every time he complained I'd feel guilty and say something snappish. Finally we decided that any time one of us wanted to complain we'd say, 'This isn't a complaint, just an observation.' It was code for 'You don't need to respond to this; it's not personal — just listen.'"

11. Mind your manners

We sometimes treat the people closest to us with less respect than we do the cashier at the supermarket. Check the biting sarcasm at the door, listen with respect to what your mate has to say and don't interrupt when he's talking: You'll be amazed at how many would-be fights simply fizzle out.

12. Pull out the Palm Pilot

Busy couples often feel as if they have no time to hash things out during the week — and that pressure can make fights escalate quickly. Scheduling time to talk — say, on Saturday mornings while the kids are still asleep or glued to cartoons — about potentially heated issues can fend off stressful confrontations during the week. (You don't have to be formal about it; just say, "Sounds like a Saturday discussion" and drop it for the moment.) My husband and I use long car rides (with the kids snoozing in the back) for this purpose. If you aren't the type who plans every minute of your week, at least ask, "Is this a good time to talk?" before launching into a discussion, suggests author Weiner-Davis.

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