MAFS NZ experts Tony, Trisha and Stephanie reveal their own relationship secrets

The experts are determined to get the matches right this time.

They’re guiding the new batch of singles through the ups and downs of marriage, but what about the Married At First Sight experts own relationships? What are they like and how do they keep them on track? We find out.

Stephanie Dowse: “Experts need therapy too!”

She has two decades of experience in relationship guidance, but new Married at First Sight NZ expert Stephanie Dowse admits she and her husband of 29 years still see a therapist when their own romance hits a rocky patch.

“I try to use my own skills, but I’m not very good at it,” the Wellingtonian confesses.

“Having a third person involved really helps you get things off your chest. We see someone if we really need it. It used to be every two to three years, but as we’ve grown up and matured, we’ve learnt to be direct with one another.”

Stephanie and her soulmate Peter.

Stephanie, 58, and her hubby Peter Riordan, 60, had only been on a few dates when he decided to join her on her OE in Europe.

She recalls, “We had to live together after only knowing each other for three months. It was a really testing time – similar to what the couples are going through on MAFS, so I’ll be able to relate.”

After they wed, Stephanie was keen to start a family, but Peter wanted to travel.

“So we struck a deal,” she says. “It’s all about negotiation! We spent six months travelling through India on a motorbike, then we had our baby, which was the best thing that ever happened to me. The idea we mightn’t have had our son terrifies me.”

Stephanie, whose boy Tim is now 23, was a big fan of the last season of MAFS but insists this series will be better. She tells, “The singles are coming on to the show for the right reasons. It’s not about TV or social media presence. These people really want help.”

Tony Jones: “My family heartbreak”

They got into the swing of Kiwi life, but Tony’s wife Kirsty and kids Finn (below left) and Luca are back in the UK.

After 12 years in Aotearoa, MAFS expert Tony Jones and his family had just moved back to their native England when he got the call asking him to return for the second series of the hit Three reality show.

It was “miserable and really hard” leaving his wife and two young children behind on the other side of the world less than a month after their July shift, but the relationship counsellor had unfinished business after the first series resulted in just one romantic match.

“I’m a sporting man and they’re not the best odds, which is why I’m back,” grins Tony, 37.

“If you take a bit of a knock with one game, you come back harder and we’ve learnt a lot from the couples that didn’t do so well. This season, we’re looking much deeper, beyond what the singles tell us they’re looking for.”

After more than a decade in Godzone, the Warwickshire-born ex-cop and his wife Kirsty, 34, decided to return to their hometown of Rugby – the birthplace of our national sport – so their two sons, Luca, six, and Finn, eight months, could be closer to their grandparents.

“Over the years, New Zealand has become our home,” tells Tony. “We’re citizens now. We love the freedom, the lifestyle and the outdoors, and it was important to us that our boys were born here. We’ve found the dream place to raise a family.

“But we’ve missed being able to share our children with their grandparents. It’s a big sacrifice, but there’s nothing quite like having Grandma spoil your kids rotten.”

Tony is adamant that they’ll be back, but in the meantime, he’s making sure his boys remain Kiwis. He laughs, “I bought them both All Blacks kits yesterday. The timing is terrible considering their result against South Africa, but we’ll always be supporters. It’s All Blacks first, then England!”

Trisha Stratford: “I’m moving back to NZ for love!”

A Wellington-born, Sydney-based psychotherapist who’s been making matches on MAFS Australia for five seasons, it wasn’t hard to lure Trisha Stratford back to her native Aotearoa for a stint as a guest expert.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to come home and share some of my knowledge, and I grabbed it with both hands,” she says.

“I try to come back as often as I can because I miss the friendly, smiling people. But I love the fact I’m a Kiwi on Australia’s top TV show. That’s pretty cool.”

Trisha brings her expertise from time on the Aussie show.

Yet Trisha will soon be making a more permanent move to NZ after finding love with an Aucklander named Roger.

She confesses, “I was always planning to come back, but he’s sped up my time frame. A friend set us up on a blind date and he flew over to Sydney to have coffee. We’ve been together since the beginning of the year.”

Trisha has high hopes for long-lasting matches on MAFS NZ as she says the Kiwi character makes our series quite different to its Aussie cousin.

She explains, “Australians are more like Americans – they have big, out-there personalities – while we New Zealanders are more introspective and reflective. We do relationships a little differently.”

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