She’s screaming. You’re screaming. It’s gone on so long that neither of you remembers how the hell it even started. “Stop fighting to the death just to be right,” says Sharon Rivkin, a marital and family therapist in Santa Rosa, California and author of Breaking the Argument Cycle. There’s a way better way to firmly make your points without going multiple rounds, and a few simple tactics can soften the blows, turning a messy fight around in a matter of minutes. Take this advice, and you may even get to fast-forward straight to make-up sex! (You’re welcome.)

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Stop Saying “You, You, You…”
Scale back the verbal punches by avoiding attack phrases like “you always…,” “you don’t…,” “you never…”—she’ll feel like you’re trying to shame and blame her. Instead, swap the “you” for an “I,” or a “we.” Say “I feel like…” or “I get frustrated when…” “This works because you can't be faulted for your feelings and you avoid coming off as accusatory,” says Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, sex educator and author of Sultry Sex Talk to Seduce Any Lover.

Talk In Turns
As much as it’s tempting to interrupt her when she says something wacky, reel it in and let her have her say before you respond. “When we don’t get heard, we dig our feet in and argue to win,” Rivkin says. One of the most effective things you can say during a standoff is, “I want to hear what you have to say.” Tell her you hope you can come to some sort of agreement and work it out. Once she knows that you’re open to a compromise, she’ll start to soften her tone and listen more closely to what you say. Now you’re getting somewhere.

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Avoid A Repeat
Feel like you’re pressing the replay button each time you argue? It’s time to try a new strategy. “Once you get on the fighting track, your brain kicks in and starts repeating itself,” says Rivkin. So say something new to mix it up and surprise her. Try, “You seem to feel strongly about this,” or “I want to hear your opinion even if we disagree,” recommends Bernstein. “These phrases are effective because they validate her feelings.” Just make sure you say it in a respectful, genuine way. Mocking her will only amp-up the anger.

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Save Jokes For Later
Humor can help diffuse an argument, but it can also make things worse. Make sure the fight is starting to die down. “Humor can feel patronizing and dismissive if it’s done with poor timing,” warns Bernstein. “Wait until she is softening her demeanor or ask ‘Are you ok with me saying something to lighten the mood?’” Stick to subtle humor and steer clear of sarcasm, Fulbright says. Poke fun of yourself and say something like “Wow, I’m worked up” as you smile.

Take a Timeout
If she has her hands on her hips and keeps interrupting you, she’s probably too worked up. Table the argument ASAP and come back to it later in the day. Say, "Can we talk about this after I've had time to think about it?" By the time you come back to it, things will probably be much more relaxed. You should also put a temporary halt on fights that begin at bad times. Don’t start in after two bottles of wine or when you’re about to rush out the door. Drunken rants and slammed doors are pointless. Resist.

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Watch Your Tone
If she says, “stop yelling,” don’t deny it unless you want to talk in circles all night. You’re probably raising your voice at least enough to make her uncomfortable, Rivkin says. Get off the loop and simply say, “OK, I must be more heated than I think I am. Let me take a break.” And if she’s the one shouting, don’t attempt to dominate the conversation by raising your voice to her level. Tell her that you’re listening to her and you’d like her to speak softly because you can hear her better when she stays calm, Bernstein says.

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Ask The Right Questions
If she’s suddenly copping an attitude before you’ve even said a word, it’s time to figure out what’s really bothering her. Ask: “I know you well enough to know something’s up. What else is upsetting you so much right now?” This question shows that you’re concerned about her—and she’ll be more likely to reveal how she got reamed out by her boss, stepped in dog shit, and logged into her checking account to find out it’s overdrawn. (If you’re the one who’s getting snappy? Take a step back, and be sure to tell her that you had a rough day.)

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Craft A Better “I’m Sorry”
If you fired off a low-blow like calling her the b-word or telling her she’s just like her mother, cop to the eff-up right away. Say, “Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean it. Let me rephrase it...” Calling it out immediately is much more effective than apologizing later on. “Rephrasing it in the heat of the moment will show her that you really are sorry—and aren’t just saying it afterward to smooth things over,” Rivkin says.  

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Make The Most Of Make-Up Sex
Now on to the fun stuff: Fights do have an upside—and that upside starts in your pants. “Physiologically speaking, anger and arousal have quite a bit in common in revving up the body,” Fulbright says. “Sex is a much more enjoyable release than trying to work off anger in other ways.” Just don’t rely too much on makeup sex. It shouldn’t be a regular weekly thing—that’s way too much drama. “If you need to fight to have hot, uninhibited sex, then it may be time to rethink the relationship” Fulbright says.

Close It Out In A Good Way
When the storm is over try to give the fight a positive spin. Tell her, “I’m glad we discussed this,” or, “That was tough, but I now feel closer to you.” It will help her feel like your relationship is in a good place. And if the argument went smoother than normal, thank her for whatever she did that you appreciated—like asking you a great question, or making eye contact and listening intently. “Gratitude goes a long way,” says Rivkin. “I don’t think we can get too much appreciation.”

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