Q&A: is it common for FIFO workers to become attached to colleagues?

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: Do you think it’s common for FIFO workers to become attached to work colleagues? My husband of many years came home from work physically and emotionally devastated that his female colleague was changing mines. He told me his feelings for her were so strong that he "loved me but wasn't in love with me anymore". I suggested he contact her and see if the feelings were mutual. She said they weren't, but he continued to text her knowing it was breaking my heart and she didn't want him. I’m still confused how it gets to that point. If she had wanted him, he would have left me and our children. After four days of being supportive and understanding, I couldn't take any more and ended our marriage. He had numerous affairs and I didn't think it was fair to be second choice. Since then I've found a male friend who’s wonderfully supportive. I wonder if you've ever dealt or heard of such thing in FIFO?

A: Thanks for your email and I’m really sorry to hear that things in your marriage have been so tough recently.

In all honesty it’s quite normal for workers in lots of different areas to become emotionally attached to their colleagues – it doesn’t just happen to FIFO workers. The reality is that even 9-5 workers often spend more time in any given day with work colleagues than they do with their family, and people in similar work environments can have similar life goals and experiences. So, strong feelings can come up and workplace affairs do happen, in the FIFO world as well the 9-5 world.

Sometimes affairs happen even if the partner is actually happy in their marriage. It’s possible that your husband did still love you, but allowed himself to develop feelings for someone else at the same time. Sometimes people can mistake feelings for the other person as 'love' and think that these feelings must mean they are no longer 'in love' with their partner. This then becomes justification for an affair.

People who have multiple affairs often don’t understand that long-term committed relationships take a lot of energy and attention to keep them alive and interesting – this doesn’t just happen. So "falling out of love" is a bit of a cop-out really. It’s not unusual for people to experience feelings of attraction and connection to colleagues, but most people don’t let these feelings lead to affairs.

It sounds like you have been pretty amazing in suggesting that your husband contact his colleague to see if his feelings were reciprocated. What a tough thing for you to do! I understand that it would have taken a lot out of you to be supportive and understanding of this situation, even for four days.

It also sounds like you have been working hard at pulling your life together after a series of devastating events. It’s obviously really important for you to remain positive and to keep moving forward for yourself and your children. 

I hope you are receiving some support as you move on. If you aren’t already, please consider getting some professional counselling to help you as you rebuild your life.

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.