In the latest episode of Jules Sebastian’s interview series Tea With Jules, Married at First Sight relationship expert John Aiken is the one under the microscope.
In a rare moment of candour about his own life, the Sydney-based psychologist opens up about the criticism for his love matching, reveals why his wife Kelly Swanson-Roe has banned him from “psychobabble” and shares his top tips for a great relationship – including the magic number of how often couples should get intimate!
In this season of the popular reality show, the experts have come under fire for their match-making skills and John tells Jules the criticism was unexpected.
“When we’re in a relationship, we will often – because we are keen on the person and want that person to be in our lives – take some responsibility. We will look at ourselves and try to work through it,” says John.
“But in the experiment, what we’ve found with a lot of the couples is that when things start to break down, rather than saying ‘How do we do this differently’, they just go, ‘John, you’re a fraud – there’s no science in this.
“Why did you match us?” And they lash out on the experts. That’s something that we didn’t really see coming until this series, but it’s been good because it’s made us accountable and it puts us on our toes.”
Jules diplomatically asks John if – in hindsight – some of the couples that were matched were not the perfect match.
“The answer is yes. I mean, you can tell pretty early on with couples how they’re going to go. The couples that side together, stay together.
“When they hit their first couple of challenges, if they start to blame, to turn away from each other, give each other the cold shoulder, badmouth or belittle them in front of the group, you know they’re probably not going to last,” he says.
Although John advises couples for a living, the relationship expert admits his wife Kelly, below, has banned his “psychobabble”.
“When I married my wife, she said ‘John, let’s get this clear. I want a husband not a therapist. Cut the pyschobabble, I don’t want to hear it,” he tells Jules.
John’s top tips for a great relationship are:
1. Listen, don’t fix
At the end of every day, do a daily debrief and ask your partner how their day was. It builds that sense of a real team. It’s absolutely vital that the listener emphasises with their partner and sides with them, but never tries to fix. So don’t offer a solution or advice – just be in their corner.
2. Bring up issues softly
The way you start a conversation is often how it’s going to go. So if you bring up the conversation with, “Why do you always’, ‘you never’ and so on, your partner will get on the defensive and the conversation won’t end well. So bring issues up softly.
3. Say hellos & goodbyes
Hellos and goodbyes are really important, so before you leave home in the morning make sure to kiss you partner goodbye, and when you come home, rather than going straight to the dog, cat or children, go straight to your partner and kiss them.
4. Saturate your relationship
Saturate your relationship with five positive interactions to one negative, so things like compliments, praise, gratitude, doing the errands, unloading the dishwasher etc. If you do five of those it saturates the relationship and you start getting this positive perspective and everything seems really rosy.
5. Prioritise sex
It’s important to prioritise having sex. Once a week, that’s the sweet spot. Sex is another way of connecting with your partner, and it’s a way of saying that what you have together is something special.
6. Rein in your technology
If your partner wants your attention, make sure to respond – don’t tap away on your smartphone. Ignoring your partner will wind them up, so if this means spending less time on technology, so be it.
7. Put your partner before your kids
Kids catch stress, so if a couple is really good, strong and chilled, their kids are chilled. When we are resenting each other and when we are not connecting, kids are going to pick up on that and they’re going to play up. So I always think, I’m going to prioritise my wife over my kids. Some people may not like that, but I think if you get the relationship right, the kids will fall into line.
…and remember, adds John, “it’s the little things you do daily, not the grand gestures”