Q: I have a FIFO fiancé and I work full time, running my own successful business and earning the same wage. This has put us in a very fortunate position, but also causes complexities. Every month we have the same argument around who works harder and who gets and deserves time off. We both work hard yet have completely different lifestyles and most times we have to agree to disagree. I would like to see a counsellor to help us sort out the recurring issues and determine the rules that will prevent the arguments. Perhaps I don't cope as well because I'm so busy, but sometimes I do feel isolated and slightly crazy but I swear all of my frustrations are real but don't know how to get over it.
A: Hi and thanks for your email.
One of the great things about FIFO work is that it makes it possible for the non-FIFO partner to continue to pursue their own career or business goals in a way that is simply not possible if you live in many mining towns.
So FIFO could work well for you and your partner, but I agree that establishing some ‘rules’ would be a great idea to try to prevent some of the arguments that keep recurring. It’s good that you can agree to disagree, but obviously this only goes so far and doesn't actually get at any longer term solutions to the issues.
One of the first thoughts I have on reading your email is about shared goals – what are you both working so hard for? Do you have shared goals that you’re both working to achieve? Do you have holidays (or weekends) booked in advance so that you can both have well deserved time off together? I think it’s important to talk with your fiancé about your shared future and develop some shared goals if you don’t already have some. This can help you focus on why you are both working so hard and bring the focus back to you two as a couple, rather than as two individuals with your own separate goals.
Secondly, what sort of jobs are you arguing about? Make a list of the jobs or tasks that you regularly argue about and then sit down together and work out which ones can be outsourced. If this isn't possible, allocate the jobs according to skill sets and degree of dislike. In other words, help each other out by offering to take on jobs that the other really dislikes. This is good team work.
Which brings me to my next point: try to work on thinking of you two as a team and use the term "we" as much as possible. For example, if you’re talking about jobs that need doing, say "How are WE going to get that done while you’re away?"
If you’re talking about being tired or busy, try saying "We’re both busy and tired at the moment". Using 'we language' goes a long way to taking the competition and sting out of interactions about who does what and when.
And finally, have a look at this previous column (How to make time work in a busy FIFO relationship) and consider doing the exercise with your partner. Looking at how you both prioritize different areas of your lives can shed some light on regular disagreements about how time is spent.
Mining Family Matters aims to break down the barriers of isolation and the stresses of living away from family and friends. Although this website provides general advice from a psychologist, the content should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. Always speak to your doctor or specialist provider for advice on a specific medical condition. If you are depressed and require urgent assistance, call 9-1-1 or visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at www.cmha.ca.