Q&A: my FIFO fiancé and I constantly argue about who works harder
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: Life with my FIFO fiancé seems different to the usual, stay-at-home wife situation. I work full time, running my own successful business and earn 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.
The situation you describe with your fiancé is different to many of our readers who have children, but it’s not so unusual for couples who don’t have children.
Very often, women do have their own careers or businesses that they work hard in, and earn good money. 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 residentially in a mining town.
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 have a chat 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: and consider doing the exercise with your partner. Having a look at how you both prioritise different areas of your lives can shed some light on regular disagreements about how time is spent.
I hope that's helpful. If you’re still considering counselling, the Australian Psychology Service offers a free Find a Psychologist service on their website and it's a good place to start. You don't need a GP referral to call and make an appointment.
To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.