Q&A: My partner left when I started FIFO. How can I get her back?

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Hi, I'm from the east coast and due to not being able to secure a new job there, I had to take a 3/1 FIFO job. I was in a close relationship prior to taking the job but did not live with my partner as we both maintained separate homes. I have been doing my FIFO job now for three months and have not seen my partner since I first hopped on the plane back in April, and it has been particularly hard for me, especially coming home for the week off. The sense of loneliness is overwhelming. I'd walk away from my FIFIO tomorrow if I could, but I'd be back to not having a job and not being able to pay my mortgage. I am happy in my new job and I enjoy the location, and focus on my fitness. I avoid the wet mess and watch my food, and the warm climate is soothing and helps a lot with my emotional state. I know at the end of the day I cannot do anything and it is so hard to come to terms with what's happened.

Hi and thanks for your email.

Firstly, well done for continuing to look after yourself by focussing on fitness, avoiding the wet mess and watching your food. I can understand how the warm climate is soothing and I think it's wonderful that you have noticed this and appreciated it.

It's hard for me to get a clear understanding about what has happened from your email.  I'm assuming your partner distanced herself from you because she was/is unhappy about your decision to work away? I hope I have understood that correctly. Of course when one person in a relationship works away, both partners need to be committed to making it work. If they're not both on board, then the relationship is pretty unlikely to survive the FIFO lifestyle.

I really feel for you because it sounds as though you were between a rock and a hard place in making the decision to take the job interstate. Would your partner be willing to go along to some relationship counselling with you? It would be good if you two had a chance to talk things through with the support of a counsellor, even it if meant you went your own separate ways at the end of the day. It might help each of you to understand the other’s position.

One person cannot make a relationship work even if they want it more than anything in the world. So, if she doesn't want counselling and continues to distance herself, I'm afraid you have no choice other than to come to terms with what has happened, as you say. This will mean wading through the grief (a very normal emotional reaction to loss) and rebuilding your life a day at a time. Looking after yourself physically is vital, so you're on the right track with that.

It's also important to keep busy and watch your thinking. It's OK to miss her, but please don't dwell on thoughts of what might have been, or replay the good times over and over again.

Sit down and work out some short-term goals and focus on these. Stay busy with things that keep your mind occupied and keep moving forward.

I hope this helps and I wish you all the very best.


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.