Q&A: How can I spice up the sex in my FIFO relationship?
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: My partner has been working FIFO interstate for a while now and a result our sex life has really suffered. I have become resigned to the fact that we can’t maintain a sustainable sex life with such breaks, so tend to switch off when he is back in town. Can you give me some tips on how to spice things up in the bedroom and also help me get over me being paranoid about him reading copious amounts of pornographic material and wanking himself stupid?
A: Hi! Thanks for your question. As you might have read in a previous column of mine, your problem is quite common in relationships where one partner works FIFO. In fact, differing libidos are an issue in lots of relationships and FIFO can act like a bit of a pressure cooker to intensify problems that might have been there anyway. There are a few important points in your email so I'll take each in turn.
Firstly, the last thing you need to be is "resigned to the fact" of not being able to maintain a sustainable sex life. You've done a great job in noticing the thoughts and attitudes that are getting in the way, and now the task is to readjust your thoughts about it. I know it sounds simple, but one of the most important factors in coping well with any aspect of FIFO is not using the lifestyle as an excuse. So the first step in "spicing things up in the bedroom" is to notice the thoughts that tell you a healthy and satisfying sex life is not possible when you have a partner who works FIFO – and then trying to either ignore those thoughts or change them.
You've also done a great job of noticing what you actually DO in terms of "switching off". I guess this means that you withdraw from your partner physically. Some people, especially those with a history of upsetting separations in their life, try to cope by emotionally and physically withdrawing themselves in an effort to reduce the pain of separation. While all of this is completely understandable, it's not the way forward to a healthy and satisfying sex life!
As hard as it is, remaining emotionally connected to your partner is a very important part of maintaining a healthy sex life. Notes, letters, texts, phone calls and gifts are all good ways of feeling connected while he's away (let him know that too!) Unfortunately, these special touches are much more likely to happen in relationships where couples feel physically connected as well ... so you can see how the cycle can start and continue.
Finally, when you talk about being "paranoid about him reading copious amounts of pornographic material and wanking himself stupid", I don't know if your partner is actually doing those things, or if you are just thinking he is. What you do about it depends on which of these is true. If your partner actually is reading a lot of porn and wanking a lot, it's worthwhile thinking through your values about these things and perhaps having a chat with your partner if his actions are not consistent with your values. If he's not actually doing those things, then it's up to you to have a look at your thoughts about it all.
- Notice the thoughts that create barriers to a healthy sex life (such as "It's not possible to have a good sex life when my partner works FIFO"). Ignore or challenge these thoughts.
- Notice the actions that create barriers to a healthy sex life (withdrawing from your partner while he's home or away). Work on changing these, even if it's not initially comfortable for you to do so.
- If changing your thoughts/actions is particularly difficult or upsetting, seek some counselling to better understand why this is so (and work through the issues with professional guidance).
Good luck with it all.
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.