Why I'm sick of 'cheating miner' stories

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Sarah Long arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met her Mr Miner soon after. They're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) to Orange in country NSW. Sarah came out to Oz as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!

On a night out recently I was introduced to a friend of a friend. On hearing that my boyfriend works in mining, she was quick to tell me the story of a 'friend' whose wife cheated on him when he went to work away in the mines. She finished by saying, 'but you must know all about that?'

After more than four years of drive-in, drive-out, her story didn't shock me. It’s not something I haven’t heard before. I nodded and smiled along (what else was I going to do, start a bar fight?) as she gleefully told me how awful it was for her friend. But when she came to that final question, something inside me got a bit cocky (possibly the Sauvignon Blanc) and so I asked her what her partner does for a living.

It turned out he works in banking, so I decided to reciprocate with a story of a 'friend's' husband who also works in banking and got caught snorting lines of cocaine from his secretary's naked backside. She looked at me as if I’d gone insane. Why would I tell her this story?

I came clean and admitted that, by friend, I obviously meant Margo Robbie’s character in the Wolf of Wall Street, but pointed out that it was interesting how these stereotypes were occasionally true. Needless to say she hastily finished her cocktail, made her excuses and headed to the bar.

When I hear that someone’s partner works in IT, I don’t question their nerdiness and whether they chat up other women over online Xbox games. If they’re a personal trainer, I don’t make lewd innuendos about late-night training sessions. And if they work in an office I don't ask if they are concerned about attractive, young admin staff. But when I tell people my partner works in the mines, some will always go straight to the fidelity question.

I’m not being so naïve as to say that cheating doesn’t happen. But it feels like it’s focused on so much more than any other industry. It's part of a general negativity around mining. Miners and their families seem to be the baddies when it comes to a lot of things (environment, tax, social decline, Australia not winning the soccer world cup – just you wait!) and because we’ve become the pantomime villains, it’s apparently OK to judge us.

People can be so quick to comment when your relationship or lifestyle is not 'conventional' or like theirs.

There are so many couples living this lifestyle who don’t have trust issues, but the insistence of outsiders on focusing on the negatives does nothing to support those trying their best to make it work for them.

Personally I don’t believe that Mr Miner would cheat on me. Why? Well I have joked before that he’s shy and works long hours and wouldn’t have time, etc, etc, and these are all valid reasons. But to put it bluntly – I trust him.

If we look at it logically and as per the example above, I would have much more opportunity to cheat than he would. While he is working 12-hour shifts, mainly with other men, in a small country town, I work in the city, go for after-work drinks and have a fair amount of spare time to fill with whatever (or whoever) I want.

But the thing is, I think he trusts me too. It’s not something we talk about, it’s just something felt, a known thing between us that what we have is special, not worth the risk, to be kept safe and not to be spoilt. It’s the reason he comes home every week, the reason we’re both working hard to build a good life together, and the thing (glue, spark, whatever you want to call it) that keeps us together.

For me, trust is like faith: it is special, important and bonding. Please feel free to ask questions, but as with someone’s faith, ask sensitive, inquiring questions that will help you understand. Faith is not something to be destroyed by an outsider who does not have first-hand experience of what they are talking about, and it is the same with trust.

So to the woman in the bar and outsiders like her I would say, next time, think before you judge. What would your stereotype be and how would you feel if you were judged in that way?

And for those of us on the inside? Next time someone pulls out a 'cheating miner' story, ask what their partner does for a living. Then stop. Take a moment. Imagine the last time your partner came home and how excited you were for that hour before he walked through the door. Now take a big deep breath, smile, nod knowingly and walk away, because nobody wants to feel judged.

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