FIFO Relationships: Top Issues and How to Overcome Them Quickly

Did you know that there are currently 60000 FIFO workers in Australia? While finding employment as a FIFO worker may have its benefits, it can put a strain on even the healthiest of relationships if FIFO issues are not dealt with promptly.

What is FIFO?

FIFO stands for Fly In Fly Out. FIFO is a working arrangement common in the mining, construction, oil and gas industries. A typical FIFO employee flies into their work site for the duration of their roster before flying home.

While onsite, the employer generally provides accommodation, catered meals, cleaning and recreation facilities for workers. Some companies aim to employ more Aboriginal people, especially in the Australian resources industry.

FIFO can be a great opportunity offering several benefits including financial; however, being away from home and family for long periods can impact your lifestyle and your relationship. For an Aboriginal person, this can be extra challenging as a family is such an important part of Aboriginal culture.

FIFO Relationships Can Be Tough

fifo relationship issues

Did you know that a FIFO relationship is one of the hardest to handle? Irrespective of whichever side of the fence you are on or if you are working and staying far away from your home or the one left behind waiting and taking care of the house, the stress can be overwhelming for both parties.

From maintaining communication levels to missing out on important family events, the FIFO lifestyle has a strong tendency to take its toll on even the strongest and happiest relationships.

Whilst there’s no such thing as the perfect couple or relationship, working through the FIFO lifestyle and the ups and downs that come with it are essential.

Top 3 Issues in FIFO Relationships

There’s no such thing as a perfect couple or perfect relationship. All relationships have ups and downs, and in relationships where one partner flies or drives in and out for work, the ups and downs can feel extreme. I know that many FIFO couples love the buzz of seeing each other again after time apart. I’ve heard many couples say that the high of the re-connection makes it all worthwhile. There’s no doubt in my mind that couples like these, who actually enjoy FIFO and all it brings, are those who understand how to manage the tricky parts of the lifestyle. So what are those tricky issues to negotiate? Well, in my opinion they are:

– How time is spent

Mining Family Matters

FIFO Relationship Statistics

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Mining [dot] Com website report the following FIFO relationship statistics and impacts of FIFO workers and their families –

  • Main concerns for FIFO partners are burn out, psychological distress, suicidal intent, perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belonging
  • FIFO partners experience psychological distress (32.7%) compared to non FIFO partners (13.6%)
  • One third of FIFO partners reported high burnout
  • Younger FIFO partners from 25-34 years (41.3%) and 35-44 years (32%) reported experiencing significant (high to very high) levels of psychological distress. In comparison, the female population norms for these levels of psychological distress for these age groups are 11.7% and 13.7% respectively

5 Common Themes Relating to the Effects of FIFO Employment

  1. Family functioning
  2. Wellbeing (worker/partner/family)
  3. Relationship
  4. Parenting
  5. Effects on children

FIFO Relationship Tips

Here are some tips to overcome problems with FIFO relationships –

1. Communication is the key!

While it’s common for all relationships to go through certain obstacles and bumps, when it comes to FIFO relationships, communication, intimacy and how they spend time are the top causes of concern.

Effective communication with your partner involves a keen awareness of the hot topics you and your partner argue about. Instead of sweeping them under the rug, focus on how you can avoid going over the same issues.

Moreover, while away from work, try your best to stay connected with each other.

Instead of limiting yourself to phone calls and text messaging, be creative and incorporate other ways of communication such as video calls and notes left in suitcases for the partner travelling and in different parts of the house for the one staying back.

Also, keep the expectation bar low without expecting long, meaningful conversations.

When you return home, avoid being emotionally disconnected. Instead, try and talk about things like each other’s intimacy needs and understand what makes your partner feel the most loved.

2. Putting your relationship first

Whilst family time is important, it’s crucial to put you and your partner first and take time for another without involving the kids.

From planning date nights to curling up on the patio sofa, try and find ways to give each other the time to keep the relationship alive.

Moreover, try considering each other’s needs and figure out what you are prepared to do for one another to meet them halfway.

Alternatively, knowing when you need to give your partner some space or downtime so they can reflect on important matters is also extremely important for the relationship.

3. The subtle art of giving personal time

It is no secret that holding on to a FIFO relationship involves a lot of juggling. This can often lead to both partners, FIFO girlfriends and FIFO boyfriends thinking that they have the tougher deal and are always stuck as the one who has to act maturely or make sacrifices. While this may not be true, such negative thinking can often lead to anger, frustration and resentment.

To avoid doing so, try having your priorities clear so that you can give priority to your partner and family when you are finally home.

Make plans with them and cherish every single moment of the time spent together, all while giving your partner their personal space and allowing them some “ME” time.

By promoting personal downtime, you will enjoy the rest and have the recovery you need to thrive.

4. When the going gets tough 

No matter your relationship, there will always be a number of difficult or stressful issues that you and your partner will encounter, which will require you both to sit down and discuss. These may include tricky conversations seeking solutions regarding children, intimacy, finances, and even planning important milestones.

If not addressed properly, these conversations can result in conflict, especially if you have a job like that of a FIFO worker, thus keeping you physically apart from your loved ones and limiting your time together on mere virtual plains.

When this happens, you should try and limit your conversations to lighter topics while apart and shelve any triggering conversations until you and your partner are together face to face.

By doing so, you end up leaving all the important conversations when you are face to face with your partner and avoiding any chances of resentment while you are away. 

5. Establishing rituals for returning home

Another great way to succeed in FIFO workers relationships is by ensuring that you and your partner are on the same page. From domestic dynamics to parenting and even smaller decisions regarding how to decorate your home, discussing all these issues, no matter how big or small, helps both partners stay in sync and allows very little room for arguments or disagreements.

To further promote this harmony, try and establish some homecoming rituals together. These may be as simple as planning a family dinner on the eve of your return or a no unloading of emotional baggage as soon as the travelling partner returns home. Remember to leave difficult conversations to a set number of days after your return if possible, thus giving you time to settle in.

The main objective here is to establish rules to avoid any heated arguments the moment you return. Instead, focus on the joys of reuniting with the love of your life and slowly transitioning back to your life back at home.

If your still struggling…

If you are still struggling to revive your relationship or experiencing a FIFO relationship breakdown, perhaps it is time to seek professional help.

Vision Counselling has a team of expert relationship counsellors near you that can help provide insight and strategies to help you work through problems with FIFO relationships.

So book online or call now to book an appointment. Remember! There is no shame in doing something that will lead you and your family to be happier together.

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