Ask Mary Jo: Disciplining blended family & communicating better with spouse

Hi Mary Jo,

My fiancé has a two-year-old daughter, and I have a six-year-old son. How can we combine it together and do discipline the same?



Blending a family is complicated, especially with discipline issues of the children. Second marriage blended families that engage in pre-marital counseling have the highest rate of success. This is an opportune time for you and your fiancée to seek pre-marital counseling with a focus on discipline in the family.

These suggestions will help as you choose a discipline style that works best for your children while strengthening your marriage:

  1. Give yourselves and the children time to adjust to the blended family. Too many changes at once can unsettle children and cause conflict between parents.
  2. Understand that consistency is the most important part of discipline. Don’t set a rule unless you both are going to follow through with consequences.
  3. Insist on respect for your blended discipline style. Parents can reinforce this with not allowing back talk to either parent. Both parents should model respect for each other in front of their child.
  4. Limit your expectations. A blended family works when parents have an open mind, support each other, and work to nurture and prioritize their marriage.

Hey Mary Jo,

How do we get our husbands to open up? We’ve been married forever and use to have great conversations. How do we create that again?



The biggest obstacle with couples who don’t talk anymore is that they don’t make time for it. They think it should happen without effort as it did when they first met. But anyone that has been together for more than five years can tell you that staying connected in a busy life is difficult and requires effort.

Marriage experts promote the “20 minutes face-to-face” rule for long-term relationships. Schedule in 20 minutes for you and your partner daily – without the kids or grandchildren around. There are a few rules you need to remember:

  1. Silence all phones. Turn off screens and look at each other.
  2. Talk about anything other than your marriage or your kids. A good place to begin is to ask about their day, what they read or watched lately, or what new interests they’ve found.
  3. Be your partner’s support. Don’t bring up weaknesses that may have caused the situation to happen; be their biggest fan and reassure them of your support.
  4. Hold hands or sit closely while you open up to each other. Often couples feel as though they’ll be attacked or left feeling vulnerable and isolated.
  5. Don’t push your partner to talk and don’t set a timer but DO make a habit of it. Starting this habit 2 to 3 times a week will progress and add to your emotional intimacy.

Every partner has different needs for verbal communication. If you and your partner enjoyed long conversations in the past it signifies you can re-build that quality. Remember, anything worth having requires effort and a willingness to change.