Keeping your love strong in FIFO Relationships

Keeping your love strong in FIFO Relationships

Having worked in the Mining and Resources sector for the past 7 years and spending extended periods of time in remote parts of Australia, living in camps and being away from loved ones, I know all too well the stressors and strains that this cocktail can create.

There are so many wonderful opportunities that come from a family choosing to live a FIFO lifestyleextended time at home on breaks; more holidays each year and a chance to ‘get ahead’ financially. These advantages also come with risk, if not managed consciously, openly and immediately.

Challenges of the FIFO lifestyle

I have been fortunate to work alongside many couples in FIFO situations and the main challenges consistently shared include:

  • Disruption of routine with the children, to the point where the home-based parent begins to resent the partner coming home
  • Loss of connection (emotionally, mentally, sexually, proximity)
  • Frustration from the home-based person who feel they never get a break from full-time parenting and that there social life often suffers as they have the children when partner is on shift and the need to maximise time with the partner when home
  • Frustration from the FIFO person that they feel they can’t relax in their home when they come off of shift and that they don’t have the freedom to catch up socially with their friends as often feel pressured to spend all the time at home
  • Breakdown in communication due to shift times and long times between coming home
  • A feeling of growing apart and perception that it takes several days to settle back into being a couple when the partner first comes home and then only have a short time before the focus shifts to them going back to site
  • The agreed timeframe to work in a FIFO role gets extended indefinitely once the family is used to the higher income – leads to having no end in sight for having a bonded family unit
  • Perception from the stay-at-home partner that while away on site their partner has plenty of free time with no responsibilities and resentment that they have all of the family responsibilities to shoulder alone

However, you can maintain a loving, connected and bonded relationship while living a FIFO lifestyle.

 

Suggestions for keeping the love alive

  • Set clear boundaries with each other before the start of each trip away. Both share your needs, concerns and expectations that are aligned with you feeling loved and connected
  • Make a plan for how often you will contact each while away – commit to a minimum and honour it
  • Plan your ‘at-home’ time so that each of you has the time you need to feel nourished together AND also have time to engage in the independent activities and social events that you each desire. Agree in advance – no surprises
  • Have child-free date nights each time you are home from site (plan in advance if you need babysitters) and make creating quality intimate time a priority
  • Be aware when your buttons are being pushed and when you are being triggered by the time away from each other. Once you are aware your frustration, sadness or whatever emotion has kicked in, talk calming and truthfully to your partner about it
  • Actively ‘check-in’ with each other about how you are feeling. Do not assume that silence means all is well. It is too easy to get ‘a niggle’ and let it fester into a full-blown argument.
  • Avoid over-committing financially with investments – it is very useful to know you can exit the FIFO lifestyle if your relationship becomes compromised
  • Communicate from the heart with integrity and honesty

To learn more about how to create balance and maintain love in your family life while having a FIFO work-life, you can book an In-house or phone or skype session with Christine.

Author: Christine McKee, B Psych (Hons 1), Accredited Trainer of NLP, AMAPS.

Fly In Fly Out Lifestyle – Suggestions for Keeping your Relationship alive

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.

Keeping your Relationship alive

Julie Hart & Mary-Anne Wallace