FIFO Focus Director Sandra Lam joins Matt Layton as part of the REDFM series FIFO Life.
In part 69, Sandra talks to Matt about how selflessness could actually be harming your FIFO relationship.
Is selflessness good for your FIFO relationship?
One of the biggest fears of the FIFO lifestyle is a relationship breakdown. When we speak with FIFO workers or partners, we often hear about how the partnership just drifted apart and they all wish they knew how to prevent that from happening.
We don’t have one simple answer because all relationships are unique but there is one thing we are certain about, FIFO relationships DO NOT fall apart because of BIG things. The things that break down FIFO relationships is the accumulation of a LOT of LITTLE things.
How selflessness can harm your relationship
One of these small things we want to make you aware of is selflessness. Yes, the act of putting your partner’s needs ahead of your own. Of course, the basis of love includes selflessness and without this, it’s a pretty uncomfortable relationship to have but what we are talking about here is how often it happens and whether there is a balance of needs being met. We are not talking here about the sacrifice of working away for the love of the family or the general sacrifice that results from motherhood but about the selfless interactions where one half of the couple, constantly puts the other person’s needs first.
If you have one of those relationships were selflessness dominates, the risk you are facing is that the selfless person starts to lose who they are and the recipient knows them less and less. Essentially, the love from which the continual selflessness is built, brick by brick, turns into a wall that divides the couple. In a FIFO relationship, where the couple do not see the new things that the partner is starting to enjoy, or the gradual disinterest in what used to make them happy, means they only learn about their partner through what is said on the phone or text when they are on site, or what they do on R & R.
Selflessness in your partner isn’t all good
Let’s use a very generalised example of a male FIFO worker coming home to his wife who makes his favourite meal, plans his favourite things to do and arranges things she knows he enjoys because she loves him. But what’s happening in this scenario is he will gradually know less and less about what SHE likes because she’s not putting her needs forward due to the limited time they have together. Before you know it, she starts to lose a big part of herself in this FIFO relationship and the intimacy in their relationship dissipates. The strongest part of intimacy isn’t actually the physical closeness but knowing each other’s hopes, dreams and fears like no-one else does.
Finding the right balance
So this is what we recommend, when you are both together for R and R, take note of the interaction and what you are doing. Is there a balance of meeting each other’s needs and wants? Or is it very one way? Perhaps have a sit-down and think about some new things you each want to try. Talk about this. Don’t go home and ask your wife what she wants and get agro because she says “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” because if they’ve been selfless for a long time, it’s very hard to think about what they want in this situation. They have habitually done what matters to you. So I hope you create a safe space that allows both of you to reflect on what you want as individuals, and then develop a ways to spend time with each other that works for both of you.