If you are a person who regularly works away from home for long periods, you will have some special challenges when it comes to maintaining long term, loving personal relationships with your partner.
Fly In-Fly Out (FIFO) is a method of working that has some great benefits. If you aren’t familiar with FIFO, the practice involves flying to a remote location, such as off-shore oil rig or a mining port, and then flying home every month or so for rest and relaxation. The main attractions to this style of working are relatively high rates of pay and the fact that when you do get time off, they fly you home for a week or two at a time.
Whilst FIFO may seem like a good option compared with other jobs that take people away every week (such as long haul truck driving), studies have shown that relationship breakdowns are significantly higher in the FIFO workforce than in the general population due to these frequent long periods apart.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding the decision to take on this type of employment, unfortunately which ever way you look at it, there is going to be increased pressure on your relationships.
Whilst the odds may be stacked against you, all is not lost. But in order for you to make a great romantic relationship work (and work well) you will both need to make your relationship a priority and be prepared to put in the appropriate effort.
Everything worthwhile requires effort. Here are a few tips that you may like to consider:
Keep romance alive by building a strong bond with your partner
It may sound obvious, but you need to pay this more than lip service. There is a well known saying we have all heard; ‘absence makes the heart grown fonder’. And whilst this may be true for occasional periods of separation, regular and prolonged absences can easily do exactly the opposite. Both people in the relationship need to work at keeping the romance alive.
One of the more obvious ways to help keep the romance alive is to maintain regular, genuine communication (this is not something you should automate!) Sending a text message or a voice message to your partner whenever you are thinking of them can come as a timely and unexpected reminder that you are thinking of them, particularly if you put some thought into it.
A quick voicemail or text just to let them know you love and miss them can make a world of difference and usually carries a lot more weight than simply waiting for the customary pre-arranged phone calls. This works both ways.
If something happens during the day that reminds you of her or him, let them know. Record a love message or even send a good old fashioned love letter or package from home by post. Little things like these don’t take much effort to carry out, but can mean the world to someone who is missing you – or to a partner who may have even forgotten you!
Make use of social media and other online tools
It could be argued that social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, have done a lot to ruin modern relationships. For example; it is often argued that social media draws people’s attention away from experiencing ‘the moment’ because people are frequently so busy looking at their phones than they miss what is going on around them. But for the remote worker, social media can be a family and relationship life saver as a means of regularly keeping in touch with family and friends through photos, videos and suitable shared content.
Another great way to maintain your connection is to consider playing online games. Even if you are in a remote area with minimal data connection, you can still play simple online games such as ‘Words with Friends’. Online games can provide a shared interactive experience that can go a long way toward helping to keep the connection alive.
Simple games like ‘Words with Friends’ are great because they are not time-bound. You can simply make your move when you have a spare few minutes and they don’t require strong data connections. If you can send a text, you can play games like this.
Your partner is likely to be at home wondering what you are doing. If you are the one at home, you might be trying to imagine what your partner’s life is like. Separation has a way of firing up our imaginations and often, if there isn’t a sound relationship base, imaginations are likely to run wild – and that is often not a good idea. Let your partner into your work or home lifestyle. Tell him or her exactly what it is like while you’re away and what your typical day looks like. Your partner or your kids will be grateful you shared your experience with and will feel more involved in your life.
The more your partner knows about your life while you are separated by distance, the more peace of mind and assurance you will both feel when it’s time to head away again.
‘Love is persistent thoughtfulness’
Persistent, thoughtful interactions also work in reverse. Partners left at home will often find ways to ease the loneliness while you are gone. They may take up a hobby or join a local group and build a strong personal network. Ask your partner at home about their life and consciously look for insights into their challenges. All this will help build and maintain a stronger relationship.
Even though you can’t be together at every moment does not mean you can’t experience a very happy and fulfilling personal relationship. In fact, in some ways, not living in each other’s pockets can lead to a strengthening of relationships where distance from problems can enable you to not get too caught up in the emotion of the moment and so enable you to make more rational suggestions or helpful decisions.
Make the most of time at home
If you are a FIFO worker, making the most of blocks of time at home can go a long way toward keeping the romance alive. When you finally get home, you can be 100% present for your partner and others. This enables real ‘quality time’. It would be a fool who wasted these precious opportunities to really connect and enjoy each other’s company.
You could try putting in an extra effort to keep romance alive by having a good old fashioned date at least once each time you are home. For example, flowers and chocolates can go along way to showing how much you love and appreciate your wife or partner. (As corny as this may sound to some people, it may be worth considering, whether you’ve been away or not!)
Commit to honesty
Probably the most important aspect of any relationship is to commit to being open and honest with each other about the affects the lifestyle is having on your health and wellbeing. An open agreement to make changes to your lifestyle, if or when the FIFO lifestyle becomes too much for either party, can really help to build a strong and loving bond.
Keep this top of mind
For anyone working away from home for extended periods of time, whether a FIFO arrangement or something similar, the real message you should keep top of mind is this: The work is temporary, but your relationships will have an impact on the rest of your life.
Remember why you took the job on in the first place and keep life and romance in perspective. You only live once – make the most of it.