Q&A: My FIFO partner wants to spend all R&R with his kids. What about me?
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: My partner does FIFO and has children from a previous marriage. I would like to do some things together as a couple on weekends but he has very clearly said that he wants to spend every weekend with his kids. I know he wants to see his children as much as possible but what about my needs? I feel very lonely and depressed as I have moved countries to be closer to him and I haven’t established firm friendships yet to share my feelings with anyone. I try to focus on my business but that is only helping when I am busy. I have tried talking to him about how I feel but he has brushed me off by saying I am just imagining all of this and he needs this job to make enough money to keep up with child support payments. Help please!
A: I'm really sorry to hear things have been so tough with your partner. I think there are three main issues here.
Firstly, how time off is spent is one of the big areas of disagreement for FIFO families. I often talk with couples who argue about how the FIFO worker chooses to spend his R&R time. This area is even trickier where there are kids from a previous relationship involved – you’re facing the 'normal' issues of FIFO plus the 'normal' issues of blended families.
Families who work well at this do two things:
- Accept that there is no 'perfect' solution to how time is spent, and that a lot of compromise (on all sides) is needed; and
- Keep working through the issue, regularly evaluating and problem solving how things are going for all of you.
It's very useful to understand your own priorities, and your partner's priorities, here. To do this, sit down and work out which areas of your life are most important to you, and which areas you're happy or unhappy with. This exercise can be found in our book Mining Families Rock, and I included a version of it in a previous column (Making time work in busy relationships). Ask your partner to do the same, and hopefully you two will have the starting ground for some productive conversations on how his time is spent.
Secondly, I'm concerned that your partner is not listening to you when you tell him how tough things have been for you. If you’re comfortable doing so, you could show him the email you've sent me, and that might help him to understand what things have been like for you. I hope that the exercise above will help you two to get talking about the issues you're facing in a different way. However, it is possible that the exercise will highlight that you two currently have quite different priorities, and this might be quite difficult to work through if he's not good is listening to your point of view. If this is the case, I think it would be a good idea to seek some relationship counselling to work together towards finding some shared priorities and goals.
Finally, it's really important that you establish some interests and support outside of the relationship with your partner. It's a big stress to move somewhere new, and it can feel like a challenge to meet new people, but it is important that you start to make your own life there.
If you feel unable to do this because of low mood or motivation, please seek some support. You could see your GP, or have a look at www.beyondblue.org.au for information on depression and support.
Good luck with everything.
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.