Q&A: Is infidelity more common in the mining industry?

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MiningFM's resident psychologist Angie Willcocks recently received a request for information about infidelity in the mining industry. To ensure we do not identify the author, MiningFM is withholding a number of details about the family. However, it's fair to say they've been through some incredibly traumatic times in recent years. Below is an edited version of the original email, followed by Angie's advice.

Q: "In 2010 my husband started saying he wanted out of the marriage and that he did not love me, I found this behaviour odd and suspected something more. Subsequently I found out he was texting another woman who works at the same mine, when I confronted him about it he said they were just 'friends' nothing more. He was away working for New Years at the mine site, rang us all for new years and commented he was having a quiet one at work. I found out through phone records he flew to where she lives and spent new years with her. I felt extremely angry and betrayed, things have got worse as we have now 'separated'. My question to you is this quite a common thing to happen whilst married men work at the mines? Being away from home in isolated areas, is there more suseptibility for a double life? Is this condoned in the mining industry? Are there rules/regulations against relationships with co-workers? I feel if he wasn't working in the mines there would be less likelihood of this happening as he would be home more and not exposed so much to single women who have affairs with married men who have children, not entirely blaming it on her, however she should take some responsibility! Where do I go from here? I feel like contacting the mine site and advising them, even taking it to the media to prevent this sort of thing happening. We have gone through enough ... this affair has all but destroyed me."

A: It must seem so unfair to you that you have just been through a shocking ordeal and now find yourself faced with another terrible situation: your husband's betrayal. Coincidentally, I had already written a column about infidelity for MiningFM when I received your note. I mention in that column that marital infidelity is one of the worst things that can happen in our adult lives. I can hear from your letter that this is true for you and I am sincerely sorry that things have been so hard for you.

Now to get to your questions: I can honestly say that I don't know if affairs are more common when men (or women) work away. I couldn't find any research or statistics to help me. This is probably  because researching infidelity is very difficult. Obviously, people don't often tell the truth, even to researchers, when it comes to affairs. My personal thoughts are that it's possible that the rates of infidelity are higher for people who have to travel for work. It seems likely that there is more opportunity to "lead a double life" if you don't have to go home every night, and it's true that some people might take advantage of that. As far as the mining industry condoning it - I very much doubt it. Employers tend not to be happy about relationships in the workplace because they complicate work matters and distract people away from what they're meant to be concentrating on - work. I imagine that this would be even more so for affairs, which are frowned upon in most sections of society and life.

With regards to where to from here, it depends on what you and your husband decide to do. It might be too early to make any firm decisions. Please read my column for this month - it's aimed at couples who choose to stay together after an affair (yes it does happen, more often that most people would realise!) If you and your husband choose not to stay together, the next step is formalising the separation. If you do decide to go down this path, I'm happy to provide you with more specific information as needed.

It's also very important to look after your self physically and psychologically. Check in with your GP, make sure he/she is aware of what is going on so they can keep an eye on your overall health, mood, sleep and coping.

On a final note, I recommend a book called After the Affair. It is a great book when you are ready to read it. I can't help but think that your husband's affair might have something to do with his reaction to your family's trauma. Perhaps he is still struggling to make sense of it and his affair somehow fits into the equation for him. This by no means excuses his behaviour, of course, but it might help you both to sit down and explore all contributing factors. Even if your husband can't or won't particpate in this process, it is something that will benefit you.

Take care of yourself. Angie.

More expert advice from Angie:

Please click here to ask Angie a question, or to offer any comments or ideas for topics that you think might benefit mining families.


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.