Q&A: How to deal with 'sexpectations'

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: How do you deal with a FIFO partner who works away for much of the time and demands sex when he's home, especially when he arrives and departs? It makes sex a chore and expected. How do you get a balance of life when there are kids involved? I feel like I have to drop everything to revolve around him for the week.

A: Sex (how much, what and when) is a topic that lots and lots of couples struggle with, and it can definitely become a bigger issue when one partner works away. In my experience, FIFO rosters with much more time away than at home are particularly difficult for couples to get the balance right in this area.

Differing libidos, tiredness, practicalities of day-to-day life, illness or injury, and hormones are all factors in this one and, honestly, there is no easy answer! This is one of those issues that is managed but never really solved (and that’s OK: not all issues in relationship are resolvable). 

Here are some basic tips to help in this area:

  • Stay connected with your partner sexually while he’s away. Try thinking about sex with him regularly and consider having sexy phone calls or texts if possible. 
  • Encourage your partner to know our love language (Read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) and to use this information to make sure you feel loved by him even when he’s away.
  • Keep your own sexual self awake while he’s gone by reading erotic fiction (think 50 Shades of Grey) and generally looking after your physical health and wellbeing (exercise, eating well etc) and appearance (for yourself, not for anyone else).
  • Try to agree on a number of times you’ll be intimate (this is not necessarily intercourse) when he’s home. This number will likely be somewhere between what you and he thinks is reasonable.
  • For both of you, focus on what is going well in the relationship, not on this bit that is not. This doesn’t mean not talking about this issue (you need to keep trying to find a way to make this work) but it does mean remembering the good stuff as well.
  • Get out and about and have some fun together physically when he’s home. Go swimming, walking, running, surfing, ice skating, bowling, whatever takes your fancy.

Also, here are some suggestions for our Mining Family Matters followers on Facebook:

  • Have a scheduled date night, to reconnect as couple.
  • Put a lock on the bedroom door, to keep the kids out!
  • Lunch dates
  • Use symbols on a calendar to indicate days and times that sex can happen
  • Engage in lots of hand holding, cuddles and kisses*

*sometimes the partner who wants less sex is reluctant to show physical affection, like holding hands, hugging in bed, and kissing etc, for fear of giving their partner the idea that they want to have sex. This is a negative relationship cycle common in relationships where the partners have differing libidos, and it means that both partners end up missing out on physical affection. When I’m working with couples like this I ask the partner with the higher libido to accept that physical touch might not lead to sex, and to learn to appreciate non-sexual physical touch; and I ask the low libido partner to start to initiate sex sometimes. This takes some time, but it does work.

And finally, I’m a little worried about the idea that your partner "demands sex" from you. I wonder if he really does, and if so how? Demanding sex isn’t great for any relationship, and is likely to cause damage in the long run. Of course, it is possible that your partner wouldn’t say that he "demands" sex, and it might be your sense of it because you feel pressured, rather than his intention. I hope this is the case. If he does in fact demand sex from you, then I would suggest that you two should consider some relationship counselling sooner rather than later.

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.