BERKELEY, Calif. -

What's the best way to escalate an argument with your spouse?  Tell him or her to "calm down."  Don't believe me?  Try it.

That said, a new study finds the ability to calm down after a disagreement really is essential for a happy marriage -- especially for the wife.

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Researcher Lian Bloch of the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in Palo Alto studied this touchy topic at the University of California, Berkeley.  The study looked at data that included recorded arguments between husbands and wives.

Researchers found that marriages in which wives quickly calmed down during disputes were the happiest, both in the short and long run.

Happiness wasn't affected if the husband calmed down quickly.

"When wives discuss problems and suggest solutions, it helps couples deal with conflicts," said UC Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson, senior author of the study. "Ironically, this may not work so well for husbands, who wives often criticize for leaping into problem-solving mode too quickly."

The study's findings are published online in the journal Emotion.