Q&A: FIFO husband making me feel unloved and worthless

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: Hello, I am a FIFO wife, my husband is on a long roster. I have been having some self issues lately. He never hugs or kisses me anymore, and when I go to kiss him lots he’s always moving away, more interested in his phone or laptop. I don’t work as I am studying and looking after the kids, so when he is home he makes me feel like what I do is nothing. I feel worthless, and at times unloved. Is it a FIFO thing? Please help with any advice you might have. Desperate situation.

A: Thanks for your email. I’m really sorry that things have been so difficult with your husband lately. No, I don’t think that what is happening with your husband at the moment is a ‘FIFO thing’, but I do think that the FIFO lifestyle can make already tough things worse.

Working away can make it easier for someone to disconnect from their partner, because they just don’t have to face the problems while they’re away. So working away can certainly be part of a negative relationship cycle.

The first thing I wonder is whether you and/or your husband are experiencing depression at the moment. Disconnection from others, negative thinking and feeling unloved and worthless can all be signs of depression, and you mention these symptoms in both you and your partner. Have a look at Beyond Blue website for symptom checklists for more information. If one or both of you is experiencing depression, the first step is to get this treated.

Have you tried talking to your husband about how you’re feeling? Reviewing how things are going in terms of your individual and family goals is an important part of FIFO, so if you haven’t done this in a while, then perhaps take the time to revisit this together.

It sounds as though your husband is feeling unhappy and resentful about being ‘the one that works’, so it’s important to check in with him about what is contributing to his unhappiness, rather than just assuming it’s you. Having an open conversation about how you’re both coping with the demands of having children with one of your working away is a good place to start. Here are some tips of how to communicate well

While you’re talking, ask your husband directly why he pulls away when you try to kiss him. I know this is a really tough thing to ask, and that you might be afraid of the answer, but sometimes the answer is not what you would expect. I recently had a couple in my office who had this very conversation during counselling. It turned out that a new medication had led to very bad breath – and this was the reason the partner was pulling away – not because he didn’t love his wife, but because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her that a necessary medication had yet another bad side effect. Strangely enough, this was a relief for her, because she had made up a story in her mind that was much worse than bad breath!

Another example of this is when someone is depressed and not fun to live with. This is a hard topic to talk about with someone you love, but pretending it’s not an issue will lead to disconnection and unhappiness for both partners. Tough conversations can save marriages.

It sounds like you are, understandably, very worried about what is happening in your marriage at the moment. It is important to remember that all long-term relationships go through hard times, and it’s not uncommon for one or both partners to feel as though they have fallen out of love with their partner at times. This doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship. With some effort, love can certainly come back around. Its’ the commitment to staying connected that matters. 

Finally, if you can’t bring yourself to have the necessary conversations with your husband, please consider going along for some relationship counselling.

I hope this helps. Please get back in touch if you’d like any further information or advice.

Angie


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.


Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.