Ask Mary Jo: What to say on a first date; Communicating during a couple conflict

Hi Mary Jo,

What should and shouldn’t I say on a first date?


Dear Rodrigo,

Many people think getting the date is the toughest part, but I think the scariest and most telling is the first real conversations. Here are my do’s and don’ts regarding topics for the first few dates:

  1. Be real and admit you’re nervous if you are. However, don’t spill your guts or turn the date into a therapy session. 
  2. Ask questions that you’re generally curious about. If you’re an introvert or shy, it may be wise to think ahead of time what you’d like to know. Really listen so you aren’t talking over them or trying to one up them.
  3. Ask your date about their favorite foods, movies, and sports team. This keeps conversation light and enjoyable. You may get to see their more playful and energetic side, too.
  4. Avoid politics unless you met them at a same party march or rally. Politics are a heated topic, and it will take your first date to an intense more serious level. It’s rarely ideal for a first date.
  5. Talk about their job but don’t ask them about their salary. Most people don’t want to tell a first date how much money they make, the car they drive, or their credit score on the first date so stay away from these topics.
  6. Don’t talk badly about your ex and don’t put yourself down either. If your date asks you specifically, don’t lie but maintain integrity. Remember, they are learning more about the way you handle drama and take responsibility for your actions.
  7. Speak up if you’re uncomfortable. Dating is about presenting the best part of yourself and sharing time with another. That does not mean you have to stay silent with someone who bullies others or is disrespect to you. Excuse yourself with dignity and leave.

Hi Mary Jo,

How do I communicate most effectively with my husband during a couple conflict?



Learning to communicate effectively during an argument is so important. Marriage experts remind us that unhappy couples fight the same amount as happy couples but don’t express support or a willingness to work together as effectively as happy couples do. Below are things to practice to help you and your hubby communicate during conflict more effectively.

  1. Use "I" Statements. In other words, “I feel this way when you do that," or "I became so angry when you said this or that.” When you use "I" statements, you take responsibility for the way you feel and makes your partner feel less attacked. This prevents the fight from getting worse because your partner doesn't become defensive.
  2. Keep the communication open. This doesn't mean you agree with your partner, but it does mean they have a right to their opinion. There are more ways to do something than your way and acknowledging this helps the other partner soften their stance.
  3. It is not you against your partner. You are a team. Attacking your partner will build a huge wall and you leave your partner no choice but to defend themselves.
  4. Give a signal for time out. If it is your time of the month or if you are stressed with work, it is okay to give a signal you both come up with and postpone the argument or discussion. In fact, sometimes this may solve the problem because you have the time to cool down and think.
  5. It is a myth that you must make up before you go to bed. Sometimes sleep and a fresh start gives you new insights in the morning.

Most of us learned how to argue by watching our parents. If your parents set a poor example, make sure you agree with your partner to not repeat the cycle. Go to classes, get counseling, and read books; most of us are smart enough to change old patterns that aren't working. Remember, it takes both people to agree that this is an area of importance and a mutual desire to set a better example to their children