MAFS' expert John Aiken reveals even he needs psychological help to deal with the drama of the show
This story was originally published by Woman's Day and is republished with permission.
There have been violent bust-ups and emotional breakdowns among the brides and grooms of Married at First Sight Australia – and things are just as tough for the show's relationship experts, insists John Aiken.
"Four years ago, I was a psychologist in a quiet private practice and now I'm fronting the number-one show across Australasia," he tells Woman's Day.
"It's taken me a while to adjust.
"It's tough enough having to play bad cop with all these big personalities on the show, but then people stop me on the street to have a go at me and they're outraged on social media."
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"I'm not there to be liked, but I have to be thick-skinned and not take things too personally. I don't go out as much as I used to and I'm more cautious about meeting new people, so it's changed the way I socialise."
John, 48, credits the Three reality show's off-camera psychologists with helping him deal with the drama and confesses he takes a holiday "on an island in the middle of nowhere just to gather myself" at the end of each exhausting season.
However, his true saviour is his Kiwi wife, former TV3 and Prime presenter Kelly Swanson-Roe, 43. John smiles, "She's had a high profile in the media, so she knows what it's like when you can't get away from the spotlight. She really supports me."
The pair have been married for 12 years and have two children, son Aston, seven, and daughter Piper, five.
The secret to their wedded bliss? "At the end of each day, we debrief over a glass of wine, talking about the stresses that are going on around us," tells John.
"Even though I'm a relationship expert, I still get things wrong, but we're there for each other and this is a ritual that helps keep us strong."
John and Kelly also make a point of being intimate at least once a week.
He explains, "Children come along and you might not have sex for months – but once a week is a good frequency for connecting and saying, 'Our relationship is more than a friendship.'"
The psychologist was born in Sydney, where he lives now, but grew up in New Zealand, where he met Kelly and played cricket for the Wellington Firebirds, the same team as MAFS contestant Cameron Merchant.
John tells, "We know a lot of the same people and have talked a bit about our playing days. It's nice to have someone with a Kiwi connection on the show."
He and the whanau are regular visitors to Kelly's family farm in Hamilton and usually spend a few weeks a year on a beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.
"It's a key part of our family life," says John. "New Zealand has fantastic people with a great culture and it's a delight that the show we make over here has been such a hit with Kiwis."
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