Sometimes your squad (or your shrink) doesn’t have the answers. But your hairstylist might. Or your accountant. These professionals get a unique look inside relationships and what keeps ’em rock solid. That’s why we asked a few unexpected experts to give us their best advice. Listen up, folks—this could be game-changing!
- A FINANCIAL PLANNER ON…TRUST
“Get comfortable with disclosure. Lay your cards out on the table and be transparent about short- and long-term goals and anything else that could impact your partner. When there’s nothing to hide, you can get to trust so much quicker.” —Shannah Compton Game, certified financial planner, yourmillennialmoney.com.
Why it’s legit: In order to be officially certified, these numbers peeps are heavily schooled in objectivity and fairness. In addition, they may receive training on how to identify and navigate clients’ emotional connections to their money—something that can also affect a client’s romantic relationship.
For instance, shame about debt, loans, or spending can cause a husband or wife to lie to their partner about their monetary past or keep their current accounts a secret, says Game, which has caused plenty of couple blowouts in her office. Game then has to help her clients clear the hurdle of disclosure before they can make any other joint financial decisions together. That’s why she, and other financial planners, know how important transparency can be in a relationship. “The sooner you can trust one another, the sooner you can focus on the future,” she says.
- A YOGA INSTRUCTOR ON…BALANCE
“Even in the most loving partnerships, the opposing forces of give-and-take will always be in motion. Balance is about offering attention to your partner frequently and genuinely, but being mindful about your own needs too. If lopsidedness endures for too long, figure out how to adjust to get what you need.” —Tiffany Cruikshank, registered yoga instructor, founder of teacher training program Yoga Medicine, and author ofMeditate Your Weight.
Why it’s legit: Before you dismiss this as a flowery yoga-class intention, know this: Yogis complete hundreds of hours of training. Well-rounded certified instructor programs are physically rigorous and require mastering numerous postures and breathing techniques. But they’re equally philosophical, teaching students through meditation how the body is strongly connected to the mind and spirit.
Cruikshank says she can see imbalances manifest on clients’ yoga mats as they go through their flow—and they can be just as evident between you and your partner too. Regular gut checks can help you see if you’re feeling hurt or resentful because your partner isn’t being equally loving or affectionate. Speaking up about exactly what you need can rebalance your union.
- A CAR MECHANIC ON…DATE NIGHTS
“Having a regular date night with your significant other is akin to changing the oil in your car. Saying ‘I love you’ could be compared to checking your tire pressure. Neglect the relationship and it’s sure to fail on you way too soon.” —Toby Schultz, ASE-certified master technician and senior automotive editor atyourmechanic.com.
Why it’s legit: These accredited diagnosticians troubleshoot when something sounds or feels a bit wonky, and they’re willing to get their hands dirty and take a whole car apart in order to solve a problem. Sure, they apply what they know about car engineering and manufacturing, but beyond that, they also rely on their own instincts. That’s a skill many of us start to abandon as we settle into long-term love—we may choose to carry on as usual rather than take the time to address our partner’s needs.
As Schultz says, if you wait until they’re clearly upset (check engine light!), it can turn into a bigger uh-oh than it would’ve been had you been proactively maintaining your bond.
- A FLIGHT ATTENDANT ON…LISTENING
“You need to think of the other person’s feelings. Listen to what they have to say and work on truly hearing what they’re sharing. It’s just as important to admit your own faults and your contributions that led to a disagreement.” —Sanci, Toronto flight attendant with 15 years of experience in the sky.
Why it’s legit: In addition to learning self-defense and safety training for emergency situations, flight attendants are also schooled in how to react to passenger complaints and come up with resolutions on the spot. This schooling is especially helpful when dealing with unruly travelers who really just want to be heard, says Sanci—which is exactly what couples are looking for too.
Another aspect of flight attendants’ education? Plenty of instruction in empathy and compassion. They’re taught to understand that a number of things may have happened to a person prior to their boarding that have made them angry (being held up at security and almost missing the flight immediately come to mind). In relationship land, this is known as baggage—the hurt feelings and broken-heart scars that can influence your behavior with your current main squeeze. The silver lining? You can always overcome it together.
“Whatever the situation, there’s a solution, and we’re there to find it. But first, we listen,” says Sanci.
- AN INTERIOR DECORATOR ON…NEGOTIATION
“Embrace the mix of things you both bring to the relationship. It’s a given that you and your significant other are not identical twins: Expect that there will often be different tastes and preferences at play. It’s all about getting on board with your unique, eclectic personalities and making them work together.” —Lesley Myrick, interior stylist and owner of Lesley Myrick Art + Design.
Why it’s legit: Perhaps you’ve heard of a little phenomenon called the “Ikea meltdown”? Couples fighting over pillow patterns and lighting fixtures? Clinical psychologists now even use the store as a model for communication exercises, because strolling through the aisles often forces twosomes to address the sticky subjects they may not have talked through before (the kitchen conjures up thoughts of how they’ll split up chores; the crib section, long-term plans). In these talks, negotiating is key—and that’s something that interior decorators know how to do very well.
In order to make their clients happy, top decorators keep an open mind, propose compromises to meet conflicting requests, and come up with more than one unique solution to a problem. Take a swatch from their portfolio and do the same when you and your guy are butting heads on a decision. (“Okay, babe, I see that you want to go to Santorini, but I’ve been dying to go to Rome. How can we make that happen?”)
- A HAIRSTYLIST ON…ACCEPTANCE
“Good partners love you even on bad hair days. The best other half wants you to be the most authentic version of yourself, and they’re accepting as you grow and change. They make you feel gorgeous but also like you.” —Kate Allen, hairstylist at Salon by Milk + Honey in Austin, Texas, Kevin.Murphy hair-care educator, and beauty blogger at beautyheadfirst.com.
Why it’s legit: A recent U.K. poll suggests that hairstylists are one of the most trusted professionals (even before police and clergy), and another survey found that many people equate a trip to their favorite mane tamer with a free therapy session. Yes, spending hours in the chair allows for a lot of one-on-one talking time. But it’s also a hairstylist’s job to ask you point-blank what you’re looking for and to make sure you walk out of the salon feeling your best. In other words, they’re supportive of your desires—just like any good partner should be.
It’s important that you and your guy encourage each other to stay true to yourselves and do what makes you happy as individuals. You shouldn’t have to worry that a big decision (such as chopping off your hair or making a major career change) will somehow make him feel differently about you. At the same time, you should be supportive of the unique hobbies and interests that make your man happy (tennis!) and remind him that you’ll love him even when he starts balding.