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Instant Fight Stoppers

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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.

13. Know when to quit

Don't look for closure in the middle of the argument by hounding your mate to validate your point, says Weiner-Davis. If he gives in, even grudgingly, back off and let him save face. Sometimes an argument goes on simply because one person refuses to let it end. John Schofield, 40, of Chippewa, PA, uses this simple reminder: "I think of that old song 'The Gambler' by Kenny Rogers — the one that goes, 'You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em; know when to walk away, know when to run.'"

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