Q&A: My FIFO boyfriend won't stick up for me against his parents

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: My partner works away in a FIFO role, I moved here a year ago to be with him and left all my family and friends back home. I'm getting very lonely. To make things worse his parents have been causing heaps of trouble - we live nearby and rent off them! I feel like my partner hasn't stuck up for me well enough. I really struggle when he is away, I get very lonely and depressed. I want to get a job with him on the same roster so we can spend some more time together, as when he is home he is very busy. We've almost broken up a number of times and it's all just a big mess.

A: Thank you for getting in touch. I'm sorry things have been so hard for you. You raise two main issues in your email so I will answer each one in turn:

Firstly, it can be very difficult dealing with in-laws at the best of times, but even more so when your partner works away and the in-laws live so close by! It sounds like your partner's family are over-involved in his life, and by association, yours too. There is no easy answer to this, but I think it's important that you know (you probably already do!) that having over involved in-laws, on either side, is not good for long-term relationships.

One thing you and your partner could do is to start thinking of ways that you two can become more separate from his parents. An example of this is renting a house independently from them. I know this is much easier said than done, and I'm not talking about making these changes overnight - just thinking and talking about them is a start. It's possible that your partner wants his parents to be as involved as they are in his (and your) life, and I guess that's important for you to know. If he does, then it's vitally important that he learns to stand up to his parents on your behalf. There are many reasons why this might not be happening now, but if your partner can't defend you to his parents at least some of the time, then please consider going along to some relationship counselling sooner rather than later to get some tips and strategies on how to support him to do this, or how to manage if he can't or won't in the longer term.

Secondly, you say you are lonely and depressed when he's away. I usually encourage people to get out and join groups or sporting clubs if they're lonely, but I know that this is super hard if you're feeling low and unmotivated because of depression. Please have a look at the Beyond Blue website for a symptom checklist to try to determine if you are experiencing depression at the moment (www.beyondblue.org.au) and arrange to see your doctor for a referral to a psychologist if you think you might be depressed. If you're not depressed then it's time to start getting out and about and joining in with activities that you think you might enjoy. Think back on the sorts of things you liked to do back home, and see if you can do some of those in your new town. Check out the local paper for things to do, and start asking around about courses or groups that might interest you.

I hope this information helps.

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.