FIFO relationships – the good, the bad and the ugly

Saying goodbye is hard on everyone

Many families are living the FIFO (fly in, fly out) life style these days, and it presents numerous challenges, often taking a toll on all family members. But there are some ways it can be made easier too.

The good

Some couples talk about the rush associated with seeing each other after a period of time, and the thrill of reconnecting. Others say it helps them to still feel attracted to their partner, as they don’t see them every day and there is less risk of taking them for granted.

Financially, some people talk about FIFO work allowing a good lifestyle, where they have the freedom to choose for their children to attend private schooling, for example.

The bad

The FIFO worker often feels a bit disconnected and unnecessary when they come back to the family fold, as the family has its own routine which has been running perfectly well in their absence.

The at home person often reports feeling more like a single parent, feeling overwhelmed with the demands of children, work and general life without their partner there to support them.

Sometimes it can be hard to reach the FIFO worker due to poor phone or internet coverage and due to the length of their shifts, meaning both parties suffer from the lack of contact.

The ugly

FIFO workers often report feelings of anxiety and depression, due to the nature and culture of the work and being away from their families for extended periods of time.

It can be challenging for children involved too, coping without one parent for extended periods of time and then readjusting when they come back. This in turn often brings up different ideas that parents have around discipline, parenting, conflict etc.

Couples can tend to start to work “against” each other, as each one’s feelings of isolation creep in. This is particularly destructive in most relationships, let alone those with the added challenge of the FIFO lifestyle.

Some tips:
  • Find out each other’s love language, what do they need to feel loved? Often some of these things can be achieved, despite the distance.
  • Make sure you are both on the same page about FIFO work – what is the purpose, is there a goal you are hoping to reach, such as paying off a house? Is there a time limit on this type of work, for the family?
  • Is it a necessity for the person at home to work and is this feasible if they are running a home, looking after children etc?
  • Have you looked at “rules” for when the FIFO person is home – you both need time to relax, perhaps one person would like some time away from the children, however the other person may also need some rest after working hard. How can you both get what you need?

Above all, keep revisiting what is working and what isn’t, to avoid resentment creeping in. FIFO workers often ask for phone or online counselling, which is available. No GP referral is necessary.

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