Q&A: Help! How do I cope with a clingy FIFO hubby, teenager daughter and full-time job?

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Any advice please! My hubby is FIFO with extended time away. I work full time and am raising a teenage daughter. I'm getting really tired juggling a new job, running a house and then when hubby’s home he is clingy. I have less than a day to myself a week and he wants all my time when I'm home. He doesn't see the extra work he makes (his washing etc) that I have to do. He seems to want to do fun things for himself when he's home while I seem to spend all my weekends cleaning, shopping and all the normal house chores. We don't sleep together as he snores and has health issues which keep him awake so we don't even have any intimacy. Just hoping you can suggest a few ways to find a bit more balance.

Hi,

Thanks for your email and I'm sorry to hear things have been so tough lately. Working full time when your partner works FIFO is no easy feat that's for sure, especially when there are also children (or teenagers) to look after and support. I agree that it sounds as though you need some more balance.

There are a few issues in your question and I will try to address each one.

Firstly, has your hubby always been 'clingy' or is this a new thing? Also, is he 'clingy' when he's away (texting or calling a lot) or is this just when he's home? If the clinginess is new, it could be that your husband is noticing how tired and fed up you are, and perhaps he's worrying about the state of the relationship. If this is true, it's a good starting point for a conversation about possible improvements. I always suggest that couples have a 'we' conversation rather than a 'you' or 'I' conversation, if possible. For example, “We haven't got a very good work/life balance at the moment.” And then shift into problem solving thinking.

Problem solving thinking is basically identifying the problem, and then coming up with possible solutions.

It's also worth thinking about how the two of you stay connected while hubby is away. Perhaps he would be less clingy and demanding when he's home if he feels connected while he's away? Most of us tend to pull away when we sense someone 'clinging' to us, and this of course makes the clingy person even more clingy ... and so it goes on!  Try talking to your husband about this, and see if you can come to an agreement about how much (and what sort of) time you'll spend together while he's home, so you both know what to expect. 

It sounds as though you have recently started working full time.  It usually takes a while to adjust, and I think women tend to try to be superhuman and do everything themselves. I don't think it's possible or wise to keep up this pace. Can you allocate some tasks to your daughter (and your hubby when he is home)? What about shopping online, paying a cleaner or getting a gardener?

Carve out some time for yourself every week.

No-one will offer it to you! Also, remember to bring some fun and pleasure to your life. Think about four or five simple things that make you feel good and make sure you do at least two of these a day. Suggestions are:

  • watching a TV show
  • watching a movie
  • buying a nice coffee
  • reading a magazine or book
  • browsing on the internet
  • buying some flowers
  • going for a walk
  • listening to music
  • buying a healthy lunch

And finally, I'm not sure from your email if the intimacy issues between you and your husband are new, or if they've been around for some time. It sounds as though the lack of intimacy stems largely from your hubby's health issues rather than FIFO or your tiredness. This is quite common (sadly!) as we age, and I always think it's worth another trip to the doctor or other health professional to see if there is anything else that can be done, or new medications that might help. I know it's embarrassing but it's definitely worth your husband mentioning to the doctor that the health issues are interfering with his love life – this is something that GPs do take seriously. I find that when people have lived with an illness or health issue for some time (like insomnia) they just sort of accept it and stop trying to work out ways to get on top of it.

I hope these tips help.

Take care, 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.