Fifty Shades of Sandy - sex and the 'experienced' FIFO couple

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Hi! I'm Sandy (although lots of people call me 'Auntie') and my husband works offshore in oil/gas. We've been together for 30years, many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time we've raised two daughters (both now at uni) and moved more than 19 times! I wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.

I had one of those awkward moments recently when you think "Did I actually say that or was I just thinking it?" Bugger, by the look on the faces around me I did actually say it.

I was at a BBQ and we were talking about the book of the moment, Fifty Shades of Grey. There was a general assumption that because my man does FIFO, I must have read it. My comment that led to the slow-motion moment was: "I don't have to read the book because I live the life of the book!"

In a way this is true. With the man being away there is still the spark, the missed heartbeat when I see him at the airport. I know this didn't happen when he worked 9 to 5. There was always the feeling of regret back then when he walked through the door - well, not so much regret, more like where did that last 8 hours go??

 If your mining relationship has lost its lustre, read our expert advice on changing your sex cycles by psychologist Angie Willcocks

Then again, I heard a husband complaining recently about the lack of bedroom activity in his house, and he does FIFO. There was always something in the way: the dishes, the kids, the in-laws staying. I might have used those excuses over the
years, but certainly not now. I think with age comes a sense of comfort in yourself and then in your relationship. That extra wrinkle or gained centimetre is there for all of us. Whether you are male or female. It is a matter of accepting yourself for
who you are and feeling good. This sense of ease then flows onto other areas.

I'm also lucky in that we have an understanding in our relationship about celebrations. We don't celebrate them. Without expectations you don't get the disappointments. I have been with my husband for 30 years and married 24 and have no idea of the date we got married. I can remember the year but that's only because it was marked by another significant event.

We also have an agreement that he is not to send me flowers - if he does I will wonder what he is up to. To me it doesn't make sense to have something that lasts only a short period of time. I would rather have a plant that flowers each year, so I can pick them as a constant reminder. Cold hearted maybe, but works for us!

Special occasions aren't the only time to celebrate your love for each other. My man is very generous when we are together. He listens and files away things I have said until a later date. Once I had a desire to go to a luxury resort. I had dreamed of this and thought it would never happen. But he surprised me with a very special weekend away. It came at a wonderful time, when things were a little strained. It was like a refresher. It gave us time to reflect, assess things and set new goals. A truly amazing experience that I hope everyone gets to experience at least once in their life. His special gestures are few but very memorable.

I was asked recently how we manage to remain intimate and connected after all these years of FIFO. Funny thing is I can't point out what works for us. I honestly don't know exactly why we have lasted all these years. I suppose it is a balance and a comfort in each other. Sure, he works long hours and there is the distance. But we have worked this out. We both enjoy simple pleasures: fishing down the beach with a bottle of red wine; picnic with the kids. We've put a lot more hours into our family rather than ourselves. But now we spend it on us. We go for lunch, coffee, walks. So to those of you out there with children, there is a light at the end of tunnel! It is a matter of finding the balance.

We've also learnt not to take each other for granted. We both have roles in the relationship and both need to offer input. This includes sex. It is a way of expressing love for one another, so it shouldn't be left for one person to do all the work. It shouldn't be a chore or obligation. Try and woo your man. I'm sure a few of you out there have heard stories of wives meeting their husbands at the airport, dressed in nothing more than a coat.

If you are feeling the frumpy housewife with no desire, let your man know. Between the two of you, work it out. Make time for each other. Hire a babysitter, family member to help out with the children. Then take him out on a date. It could be a trip to the local botancial gardens, a museum, or if you are lucky enough then off to dinner. Or how about when the kids are in bed you just sit down and relax? Lower the lights, turn on some nice music and catch up with each other. We have chatted like this into the small hours of the morning.

If your kids are at school, use the time to indulge in each other. The dishes and windows will still be there the next day. Maybe there could be a division of the household duties if this is a real issue. Ask your partner to help lighten the load.

My man is due home soon, so here's what I do for his return: off to the hairdresser to paint away those 'odd-coloured' hairs that keep appearing; personal grooming (you know, eyebrows etc); housework up to date; clean sheets on the bed, room tidied and aired out. Dinner the first night is generally something in the slow cooker - it doesn't require my attention.

Then the trip to airport, the missed heart beat. But wait, maybe I need to stop at the bookshop and pick a copy of ... 


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