Q&A: What to do when friends don’t understand the FIFO lifestyle

By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: Hi. I’m wondering if you can help me. My partner used to be in defence (I’m very proud of him for that) but now that he’s doing FIFO for mining, a lot of our friends seem to just see it as money making and not the lifestyle that comes with it. They see us getting ahead financially, paying for things quickly … we are far from extravagant, to hubby a dollar is still a dollar. But of late it seems there is jealousy coming into play and I am losing friends because of it. I try to see beyond this and know that it is showing me who my true friends are, but at the same time it just hurts. Thank you and if for nothing else I enjoy knowing that I am not alone in this.

A: Thanks for your email and congratulations to you and your husband for successfully making FIFO work for your family. Lots of FIFO families tell me that others simply don’t understand why they chose the lifestyle – others are sometimes critical of the decision or think it’s all about money. Many FIFO families find that the lifestyle works really well for them – and the money is a bonus. It sounds like you are sensible with the money too, which is great to hear!

It is true that one of the downfalls of doing FIFO in the mining industry is that there is no formalised physical support (as there is in defence). Basically, this is because people can live anywhere, so long as they’re near an airport. This means that FIFO families usually live in ‘normal’ communities and mix with other families who don’t necessarily understand the lifestyle. Many FIFO families in this position (particularly those with kids) feel under pressure to defend their lifestyle to others. So, you’re not alone!

I wonder how you know that people are becoming jealous? Has someone said something, or is it just a feeling you get? Is it everyone, or just a couple of people? When did you start to become aware of people treating you differently? Thinking about these sorts of questions can help you sort through what is going on and whether or not jealousy is playing a role. It might be jealousy, but it’s worth considering that something else could be going on (particularly in the lives of your friends).

I also think there is something to be said for just ignoring other people’s bad behaviour (and jealously is bad behaviour!) and pretending you don’t notice it, or care. At the end of the day, jealousy is their problem, not yours.

It sounds as though you are not over-the-top with displays of wealth, and you’re sensitive to other’s feelings. So my advice is not to dwell too much on how other people feel.

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