FIFO Focus’ Dr John Forbes joins Big Al as part of the REDFM series FIFO Life.
In part 11, John talks about managing the challenges of maintaining relationships when working FIFO.
One of the biggest aspects of the FIFO lifestyle is relationships. They can be one of the biggest reasons why we make the sacrifices we do, but they can also be the source of much stress and many challenges.
People have different expectations about FIFO life. Very often, we initially see nothing but the benefits. We’ll have lots of money, and we’ll have lots of time together in between swings. The reality is often very different, however. You come back, absolutely exhausted, and need some time off – but your partner has been a single parent while you’ve been away, and needs a break as much as you do. Very often, there are also lots of appointments to attend, and your wider family and friends want to see you as well! All of these things make it difficult to connect and, very often, the relationship is sacrificed.
So, how can you do your best to support your relationship? We use the SUPPORT model: Strengths, being Unconditional, having a Purpose, Praise and positivity, Open communication, Respect, and Trust.
- Look for your partner’s Strengths. Be positive toward them and let them know that you know what they’re good at. And play to those strengths, because in a relationship it’s supposed to be a partnership. While it’s supposed to be equal it doesn’t have to be the same. You each contribute different things. So acknowledge that your partner does some things better than you do, and you do some things better than they do.
- The next aspect is Unconditional and that’s really the old principle of ‘love them no matter what’. It’s something that we routinely apply to our kids: “Even though I’m angry with you, I still love you.” That’s how it needs to be with your partner. Let them know that nothing else matters. Make sure that they know you’re there for them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even if the two of you aren’t always agreeing.
- It’s best to be clear about what your Purpose together is. That might be surprising, but many people enter into a relationship and just think that it’s going to take care of itself. Love will certainly take you a long way, but it won’t be as good as it can be unless you work at it. It doesn’t have to be hard work. It can be as simple as, “What are we going to do this year?” “What are we going to try and achieve as a couple?” “How are we going to maintain our happiness?”
- The next part is, Praise and positivity. Again, it’s important to look for opportunities to demonstrate that you care for your partner; to let them know that you love them. Say it out loud. Don’t make them guess. Don’t make them work for it.
- Next is Open communication. That’s essentially sharing your life. Tell your partner what you did today: what went well, what didn’t go so well. If you think back to when you were first falling in love, you were probably talking a lot. It would have become natural to share what you were thinking and the various aspects of your day. For some reason that tends to fall away when we become really familiar with each other. It’s important to reinstate and maintain that, however. It was obviously a tactic that worked well enough when it came to falling in love with each other, so put it back in there.
- The R is Respect. It’s perhaps the most important facet of a relationship, and if respect is gone that’s the biggest indicator that the relationship is in trouble. There will, of course, be times when you get upset, but even if you have to argue, do it as respectfully as you can.
- The last one is Trust. The truth about this can be surprising, because a lot of people think that trust has to be earned. It’s never earned. It’s always your choice, and you have to give it away. If something happens, you shouldn’t make your partner work to earn your trust back. You have to make a decision about whether this relationship is going to go ahead and, if it is, you need to say “Alright, I’ll trust you.” You may not give them another chance, but don’t make them walk over hot coals to get there.
I hope you can see that this is a pretty straight-forward approach that you can both apply to maintaining a good relationship. It will also help you both to get as much as you can out of the FIFO lifestyle.