It’s been said that a FIFO relationship is one of the hardest kinds to handle.
It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you’re on; whether you’re the one working away or missing your loved one from home, the stress on the relationship is experienced by both parties. Special family events are harder to coordinate, communication levels tend to break down and even the most organised families can struggle to stick to household routines. But all hope isn’t lost!
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and for many, this ‘space’ provides a healthy outcome for some couples. But FIFO lifestyle does have a strong tendency to take its toll on even the strongest, happiest of relationships. Whilst there’s no such things as the perfect couple or relationship, working through the FIFO lifestyle and the ups and downs that come with it is essential. Here’s a few tips to negotiate past the tricky issues in FIFO relationships.
Recognise the top issues
Despite all relationships having their own individual problems, FIFO couples in particular, experience the three top issues – communication, how time is spent and intimacy. For the relationship to be healthy, you both need to take action in recognising these issues and avoid sweeping them under the rug. Dealing with the ‘big’ things whilst the spouse is away will eliminate any shock factor when they return home too.
Communication levels should always be open. Know what the hot topics are that you argue about and plan how you can avoid going over the same grounds. Use unique ways to stay connected whilst your partner is away working. Phone calls and texts can be tedious at times. Be creative and use video call, letters and notes left in their suitcase as communication surprises. Don’t expect to have long, deep and meaningful conversations every day and avoid criticising each other.
Be realistic about how time is spent when your spouse returns. It’s hard, but important to not take it personally if they are riddled with fatigue from work and unable to participate in family activities. Instead, allow them some down time coming home from work to recoup prior. Sex and intimacy should still stay connected whilst they’re away. Discuss your intimacy needs and understand what it is that makes your other half feel the most loved. Avoid emotionally disconnecting yourself from each other whilst away and think of creative ideas to spice things up.
Set a timeline and specific goals
Many couples commit to the FIFO lifestyle to set themselves up. Regardless of the reason for needing to work away though, it can be helpful to have a timeline in mind. This sheds some light at the end of the tunnel if it’s just a temporary commitment and keeps you both looking forward and working towards the end goal.
Keep your joint goals specific so you can see the value in the decision to work away. Creating goals and a timeline as a couple or family is one of the best ways to see how the hard work is paying off. Maybe you’re saving for a house and committing to the lifestyle for 2 years to make it happen. Whatever the reason, keeping to an agreed upon arrangement and having an exit plan can add a positive approach to the mix. Write out the biggest challenges your facing as a couple through the FIFO lifestyle and what goals can help break them.
Become a passionate planner
One of the biggest issues FIFO couples face is how time is spent when they come home from work. Special family events won’t always fall on a day when the one working away can be there – and they miss this event for a number of years. Discuss as a family how you’re going to plan these events and utilise video calls to make everyone feel like they’re home.
FIFO relationships make you become a passionate planner. You need to be organised about special events and find different ways to make it work. If they’re away for their birthday, send them a surprise package or hide gifts and notes in their suitcase before they leave. Planning is the key to successful FIFO relationships. Be ready for your spouse to fly out early or have to stay on site later, cutting into valuable plans you’ve both made together. Keeping communication open and understanding it’s hard on both of you will ease the pressure. Don’t make each other feel guilty for not making a special event, working as team is essential. And when all else fails, go back to your goals and plans to remind yourself why you’re both doing what you’re doing.
Be on the same page with discipline as your children grow older
Children are resilient beings, but will still find it hard to handle mum or dad leaving for long periods of time going to work – especially when it comes to discipline. Take time to draw up some family rules and involve the kids if they’re old enough, so they feel like they have a say too. Be as open and upfront with them to help them cope and express their worries.
Both you and your spouse need to have the space to be a parent. Be on the same page as each other when it comes to how your children are disciplined. Having different rules when one parent is home to when both are living in the house only confuses them and creates more stress in the household.
Put the relationship first
Whilst family time is vital, it’s essential you make time for each other without the kids too. Plan date nights and find ways that work for you both to keep the relationship alive. Consider each other’s needs and what you’re prepared to do for each other to meet them (away and at home). Know when to give your partner down time after working away but always make time for the relationship too.
FIFO relationships aren’t all stress and exhaustion. Once healthy boundaries and plans are set, it’s an opportunity to learn how strong your relationship is and discover a new appreciation for one another. With a FIFO relationship comes powerful rewards; not just financially but for you both as a couple and individuals too.
Are you a FIFO spouse? Share some tips with us in the comments.
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