If you have just started a FIFO/DIDO lifestyle, here are some suggestions that will help keep your relationship as healthy as possible:
Suggestions for Keeping your Relationship alive
1. Have Specific Joint Goals. Discuss your commitment to the FIFO/DIDO decision and state and even write down your specific joint goals. Ensure that both of you can see the value in this decision and you both agree on the benefits and goals you will be gaining.
Consider whether it might work best for your family to undertake this type of work for a set period of time (eg two years) in order to achieve a specific financial goal ie deposit for a house, pay out the mortgage. It doesn’t suit everyone to continue this type of arrangement indefinitely.
2. Your Connection and Communication. This is vitally important, as your connection and communication is the lifeblood of your relationship. Discuss how you will keep the connection and communication going between you while you are away. This can be by phone, email, sending photos, agreeing to watch the same videos, or read the same books, writing notes and leaving them for each other. If at all possible, find a way to connect on a daily basis.
3. Talk about any problems early. Each time you are together, talk about what is working and what is not working for each of you, so that you can resolve any problems early, and they don’t build over time.
Acknowledge the difficulties the FIFO lifestyle presents for both of you. The at-home person may have to cope alone but the away person may be feeling distressed by their inability to comfort and support in times of crisis. Try as much as possible not to lay blame on each other, as many of the problems are common to this lifestyle and need to be dealt with together as a couple.
4. Make your reunions enjoyable. When you haven’t seen your spouse for some time, let him/her see your enthusiasm for him/her.
5. Date Night. Plan a Date night during your time at home so that your partner knows you cherish him/her and your relationship.
6. Be considerate of each other in the little ways you know your partner likes, eg bring him a beer, or buy her some flowers or chocolates when you are at home together. Often these little things make a huge difference to feeling loved and special to your partner.
7. Bedroom nights. At least once a week when you are home together, make it an early night in bed, to just relax together, give each massages and loving touching and whatever else eventuates.
8. Your own time. Make sure you each get some time to yourself while you’re both together to be able to relax or do the things you like for yourself. A relationship has more fire if you have some freedom to also do your own thing.
9. Socialising. Be mindful not to book too many social or extended family activities during your time at home, as it can take away from your primary family time.
10. Jobs to do. Agree at the beginning of your time together on what jobs will be done this time, so that you both have the same expectations. Make it a realistic list that allows for these other important aspects of your time together as well.
11. Managing Jealousy. It is common to feel some jealously at times for either of you, as you are both spending more time interacting with others than with each other, while at the same time, still consider each other as your primary emotional partner. This can lead to fears about what might be going on when absent from each other. It is important to talk about your fears, as fears, rather than accusations, so that you and your partner can talk through these and you can be reassured.
12. Kids. Make sure you talk with them when Dad is away about how they are feeling, and that it is ok to miss him. It can also be helpful to ask what in particular they would like to do with Dad when next he is home, and accommodate some of these things when all together again. It is also important for Dad to spend some quality time with each of the kids, if at all possible, when he can.
13. Parenting. Even though it will be the Mum’s primary role in parenting in a FIFO lifestyle, discuss what is allowable, what are the rules, and what will be the discipline with the kids, so that it feels like a joint decision. Then, early once you are home again, have an update on kids and parenting issues, so Dad is up to speed as soon as he returns.
14. Keep yourself happy at home. If you are the one at home, make sure you make opportunities to get out and do things you enjoy too, including a hobby, so that your partner doesn’t feel like he is pressured to provide all the fun when he gets home.
15. Continue to evaluate. Continue to evaluate whether this is still the best arrangement for the two of you and your kids if you have them. A lot will depend on the length of the swing and how well you are managing to communicate. Don’t be afraid to say “no more” if you feel you, your kids or your relationship is suffering too much. It is important to pro-actively choose this lifestyle together.
Let us help you to Keep your Relationship alive
For more specific help in resolving any problems you might have with adjusting to a FIFO or DIDO lifestyle, our Relationship Psychologists Australia wide are experienced with the challenges inherent in the FIFO lifestyle and can help with In-person or phone or Skype sessions.
We find Skype sessions are particularly popular with FIFO workers and their spouses, as you can access them from anywhere in Australia.
More on having rich relationships as well as a successful business in next weeks blog.
Julie Hart & Mary-Anne Wallace