Q&A: worried for ex-partner who seems lost to the mines

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: Thank you for providing the information on FIFO relationships, unfortunately I’ve only realised the problems now it’s too late. My partner and I had the perfect relationship, with both of us feeling we had found the "one". A year went by and we decided to buy a house, a couple of months after this my partner went into the mines to earn money to fast-track the renovations. She was on a 4:1 roster and over the next couple of years she became vacant, stopped being intimate and said she had lost who she was. Of course I was concerned and told her it’s just money, quit that lifestyle, but she didn’t. She ended the relationship recently. I still love and care for her unconditionally and I’m saddened that she wasn’t prepared to work on the relationship. I’m also concerned about her long-term health; she says her life is in the mines now, but I think this will bring her long-term pain and dissatisfaction. I feel that she is using the mining lifestyle as a sanctuary, to escape and not deal with the normal world. The hard part is that we still both share the same house, both wanting to see it finished. Am I stupid thinking that there is hope for us to reconnect? Regardless, I will always be concerned for her wellbeing. Any advice or links to similar stories/articles would be greatly appreciated.

A: Thanks for your email, and I’m very sorry to hear about the end of your relationship. It sounds like you are grieving at the moment, and struggling to make sense of what has happened to what seemed like a perfect relationship.

Making sense of the end of a relationship is very important, and it can take some time. It’s a tricky time because we’re trying to make some logical sense of something when our emotions are all over the place. Confiding in a good friend or trusted family member about how you’re feeling can really help.

Obviously, I don’t know the details, but I don’t think that you are stupid for hoping that you two can reconnect. You both still share a goal of wanting to finish the house, so it’s possible that you two could connect again through this, if there is still friendship and respect between the two of you.

It’s very confusing and heart breaking when the person you love doesn’t seem to want to work on the relationship. It’s also heart breaking when someone you love seems to be struggling with their own life. I’m not sure why you think that life in the mines will bring your ex-partner pain and dissatisfaction, but that must be hard for you.

Perhaps one way through this is to try to see the parts of the industry that your ex-partner likes, because it sounds like there are some good parts for her. Only seeing the bad parts (and raising this in conversation regularly) could further isolate her from you. If you two are having conversations about this, try to take a position of open curiosity about how things are for your ex partner.

Finally, grief about the end of a relationship is intense and can feel quite debilitating. How are you coping? It’s very normal for sleep and appetite to be affected, and of course you’ll feel confused and sad a lot of the time. It’s important to keep looking after yourself well, even if you don’t really feel like it. Getting some exercise, plenty of sleep and eating well will help you get through this tough time. Also, make sure you do some activities that bring you at least a little bit of joy each day if you can. Simple things like cooking, reading, listening to music, gardening, running, walking, and watching TV shows or movies can all help people get through tough times.
I wish you all the best.


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.