Relationships are different for rotational shift-workers and their partners. The long-distance, limited communication opportunities and time being absent from everyday life at home can be challenging. The older people get, the more they get used to a ‘mobile relationship’ and fewer break-ups occur.
It is really a matter of partners and families getting acquainted to the specific circumstances of the mobile lifestyle.
When divorces and break-ups do occur, many times the shift work is not the real or sole reason why people split up. Many people actually enjoy the freedom and independence it gives both partners.
Sometimes jealousy is involved, either on part of the mobile partner, who does not trust the spouse back home, or the person at home thinking that he or she might fool around with someone in the camp. Of course these things can happen, but they are not the rule.
Freddie, an electrician, argues, “Having a trustful relationship and staying away from paranoia and jealousy is key for making a good FIFO relationship happen. Most of what drives you crazy is only in your head anyway. You cannot concentrate on your job and you end up in silly fights for nothing. I trust and love my wife and she does the same. You can never predict things, but we are both committed to our relationship.”
He adds, “Sometimes it is just a myth that hook-ups happen on site in the camp. The company for sure does not like to see that because it just creates troubles. I think you should just work together and stay out of trouble, that’s what I do. And I’m tired after a 12-hour shift anyway. So these things are rare.”
Carrie, a stay-at-home mom, says, “It's actually excellent for us because we miss each other and when he gets home we value the time together like a honeymoon. Of course it is hard sometimes. But on the plus side we remain independent and loving each other at the same time.”
We heard throughout our research that most break-ups occur amongst those who are not yet used to this mobile life-style, but other aspects come into play too.
Mistrust, violence or simply not caring about things going on at home as well as not being engaged in the relationship during off-shift can have a harmful impact.
Finding a partner can be difficult for a mobile worker. Shania recounts, “It is hard because I am only at home for one week. How am I supposed to find someone in that limited time and build a trustful relationship?”
It seems that the most successful relationships are those with mutual trust, care and understanding – even during break-ups.
My first marriage did not work out. My wife felt lonely when I was not around. This has changed in my current relationship. We are happy. My new partner knew before what she was getting into. I explained to her what my job and the life in the camp is about. The second time it worked out well! Marius
If you are having a lot of drama back home, your camp life is going to be really miserable. Trust me. You’ll have more injuries because your mind is somewhere else. If your home is stable, it is much easier and safer. You like the job, you also like your family. Both go together. Brady
I’ve seen so many ‘Dear-John’ calls and texts when girlfriends break up over the phone. This has tremendous effects. The guy gets nervous and stressed-out and it affects everybody in camp. This can create real troubles. It is also dangerous at work not to be concentrated. They should wait and talk with them face-to-face. Beverly
Yeah, I think we are learning to let go of each other and give up that control while we don’t see each other. It is hard for me sometimes. Also she has lots of responsibilities. Roles are interchangeable. At home she is in charge. David
It is hard for me when he is away but I manage anyway. I do all the other things I like during that time, like volunteering, I do artwork, hanging out with my friends and so on. I am adjusting my schedule to his, so we can have more time together. It is important for me that he knows that. He shouldn’t take me for granted when he’s at home. Jennifer