Q&A: My FIFO husband doesn't care about my priorities
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: Hi Angie, My issue is in relation to my husband and his outlook on FIFO. I totally understand how he has very limited time while he is working and I know that it's strenuous and exhausting. I try to understand him fully but I feel as if he doesn't understand what I go through as a FIFO wife/mother. In the limited time that we get to spend with my husband when he is at home, he spends a lot of time working on the other side of town. We only have one vehicle and it can be difficult organising the pick-ups from school etc. I have spoken to my husband about this and have said that it’s impacting on family time but he is angry and does not want to listen. He says this hobby is his passion and that we could make it a family affair. I don't think this is quality family time and I am a little fed up and have booked in a couple's counselling session next week. He earns above-average earnings and I work too so we don't need the money. Our priorities don't meet up at the moment and it’s causing some tension and a lot of arguments. What can I do?
A: I totally agree. It goes both ways and the FIFO workers should also take the time to know what life is like for their partner while they are away. If you have young kids, the stay-at-home partner works at least 13 hours a day! It's really important to know what is happening for each other, as well as working together towards the same goals. This is hard when priorities differ, as it sounds like they do in your case. It's really great that your husband has something to be passionate about, but it's unfair and unrealistic of him to think that you should also be passionate about it! And I agree, this is not family time!
I'm really glad that you have decided to go ahead with some counselling because this is the best way forward when you've tried talking to your partner and it hasn't got you anywhere. I hope that works out well for you. In the meantime, you could try:
- Explaining your priorities to him as fully and calmly as you can, without even mentioning his priorities. Sometimes when one person's priorities are pitched against the others (“mine” versus “yours”) the repeated result is a defensive and argumentative conversation. If you can, just state: “this is what is important to me...” and leave it at that. This is obviously not the be all and end all, but it can help to start a different sort of conversation. By the way, if he then starts talking about his priorities try your hardest just to listen with genuine interest rather than jumping in (I know that's hard!)
- Can you stop talking about this issue altogether until the counselling session? If possible think of something you could do as a family, even for a couple of hours, and do that. If tension is really high, go to the movies because that way you're 'together' but you don't need to talk!
- Focus on the things that are going well in your own life, and the things that you do like and appreciate about your husband. When we're annoyed with our partner it's very easy to think that everything they do is wrong or annoying, but this is rarely the case. Come back to thinking about the good bits. This is not to ignore the bad bits because they need to be dealt with, but the bad bits are easier to manage together if there is some acknowledgement of the good.
- It might not be possible, but an easy way to solve the transport issue might be to get another car so you can at least avoid the tension that goes with that aspect.
I hope at least some of this helps and best of luck with the counselling.
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.