FIFO Relationships – Lighting the Fire, Not Fuelling It

So I was chatting to a buddy and colleague of mine over the past weekend; just shooting the breeze after another week down and one day closer to going home. He is in a similar position to me as far as family and relationships go; a single Dad on a FIFO gig. He also separated from his partner while in the midst of working in the resources sector and his kids are also the centre of his world.

The conversation took an interesting direction with us discussing the challenges of FIFO relationships.

“Interesting…how? This is a topic that is close to the top of all FIFO wellbeing discussions / forums / articles…blah blah blah”, you are probably thinking to yourself. And you would be spot on.

But our chat was not around maintaining a relationship while FIFO but about the challenges in starting one. This is a challenge close to my heart and one that I have had plenty of trouble over coming. I have brushed over this a few times in conversations, never really in depth but chatting to ol’ mate, we really seemed to be up against the same issues…well perceived ones anyways.

Of course there are the obvious hurdles of being away. Meeting someone at home and then going on swing…or vice versa with someone from work. I’ve had a couple of false starts in my FIFO dating career, from column A and column B and from experience; neither is preferable. Then for good measure, throw in meeting someone who neither works or lives near you (yep, common problem when the job ends).

Anyways, then there are the not so obvious, more mental hurdles and again from experience these seem like Everest when you face them. Well actually, more like the Himalayas…once you’ve conquered Everest, there’s still a whole range to go.

My Everest has always been the perception that my kids would have of me spending my off time with someone else other than them, our family and our friends. I spend so much time away from home I kind of have a thought process that when I am there, I am theirs.

I’ve run this past a few people over the last little while and although the heads nod, I guess the relatability is just not there. I was so surprised and quite joyed when my chat buddy totally agreed and we continued to talk about how this was a major mental barrier for us.

The chat also revealed that a close second for us both was the obstacle of the perceived value you hold in someone else’s life. I have, and continue to struggle with this as well….yeh, I have some issues alright.

Value to my own existence and that of my family…no issue at all but the question I ask and inevitably always answer in the negative is “why would an attractive, intelligent, successful and independent women want to have a relationship with some FIFO guy who’s never home and when back spends all his time with his kids??”

My wise beyond her years sister always tells me that this is a question I am in no position to answer but in my head, it’s constantly there and I’ve always just accepted it. But after this conversation I really started to think about this.

Given my colleague is a handsome rooster with quite an engaging, charismatic disposition (both traits I aspire to), and shares similar hurdles to me…it got me thinking. Two things popped into my head.

The first; the situation of an ex-work mate and still friend whose circumstances were similar to mine, but with ex issues a mile long. He and his now fiancée (who is amazing) met while he was working a FIFO construction roster and in the midst of a very messy and heated separation.

I see the two of them now, their relationship and family has blossomed to become an amazing FIFO success story.

The second thought was of a note I received some time ago. At the time I think I’d posted maybe 1 or 2 blogs, OMC app had yet to come onto the market and was just venturing into the FIFO social media space. It was a very random but most welcome message at the time and on reflection one I should have shared much sooner….. (names of work sites removed for obvious reasons)

I’ve had NO experience with FIFO. Zero!! Last year while I was emerging from the lowest point in my life, I was completely blindsided…..  I fell in love with a FIFO worker. 

Having been widowed only 12 months earlier & struggling for years in a marriage to support a husband with a terminal mental illness, I had completely forgotten what it was like to feel genuinely excited to be in the presence of another human. I met someone who made me laugh, who shared the same values, enjoyed the simple things in life and simply made me want to be a better person.  

I knew he did FIFO work but didn’t really know what that meant. A few months after we met he took a new FIFO role with a longer roster at a place far away. He again tried to explain that he couldn’t commit to a relationship for many reasons that came with being a FIFO worker. Having had no experience with FIFO I said that I understood, but really, I had no clue!!

I told myself that he can’t really be interested in me or he would find a way to make it work. The difficulty with limited cross country communications, limited access to phones & Internet, I didn’t fully appreciate. It wasn’t until I read your blog on the communication frustrations of your sister (who you seem to adore) and the difficulties she faces with her beloved brother working away that it started to sink in. 

Do I understand now? No, not fully, but I am trying to understand. 

On the flip side, what he wouldn’t fully understand is that over the past year that I’ve known him….

1/ I have googled and read all I could find on the Project he now works on to try to learn about what exactly he does. 

2/ I’ve read articles on FIFO workers & how it affects families & relationships. 

3/ I count down the days until he is back & then hope that I bump into him or that he will squeeze in time for a quick coffee & chat. 

4/ I’ve read all about how to improve communications and relationships with FIFO workers and their families, friends & stakeholders, including the app you are working to produce in an effort to try and fix these issues.

To me, relationships are about having an unspoken understanding.  Supporting each other’s’ dreams, desires & passions, even if that means trying to understand why someone would choose FIFO. Relationships are about being present emotionally, not just physically. 

Just because someone is physically coming home to you day in day out, it doesn’t mean they are present and doesn’t guarantee a successful relationship. Of course physical & emotional connectedness is the ideal but is it always a reality? No. 

What he does (or at least what I think he does!!) fulfills him & contributes to the sustainability of our country. Isn’t that what life is about? Doing things that you are passionate about?

I believe you can have it all if you work hard enough. Sure it’s not easy, but nothing good in life comes easy. That’s the challenge. 

When I first received this…probably even up until very recently, I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind to really understand it, or take meaning from it. But after the last few months, maybe that big mental barrier is starting to fall….maybe.

What I do know is that dreams can come true; they just take time, effort and belief. The dream relationship is no different and whether that dream is to prosper, or to germinate / grow through a FIFO life, you have to believe it is possible. Not only belief in yourself to make it work but ,as so beautifully illustrated above, belief that your person is 100% in your corner, which is a tough concept for me.

But who knows right. Maybe that seemingly insignificant conversation will help lift me to the top of my Everest…where the rest of the mountain range will seem like speed bumps on my road to that pot of gold at the end of the FIFO relationship rainbow….maybe.

Until the next instalment; Keep Safe and #StayConnected!!!

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