Resource

How a Traumatic Brain Injury Can Affect Relationships

Silhouette of a angry woman and man on each other.

Silhouette of a angry woman and man on each other.
A TBI can greatly impact personal relationships. Find help here.

In the midst of the myriad of life changes after a traumatic brain injury (TBI), intimate relationships are affected in a number of ways as a result of:

  • Adjustments in responsibilities
  • Adjustments in relationship roles
  • Problems with communicating
  • Managing emotions and mood swings

Becoming used to these changes often brings about feelings of uncertainty in the relationship, which can produce further stress, anxiety, and frustration.

RESPONSIBILITIES

Considering the traumatic brain injury survivor needs to concentrate on healing, many everyday tasks are shifted to the person’s partner. The partner also is required to provide assistance with managing the survivor’s recovery while maintaining his or her own normal commitments, which can lead to ignoring self-care and personal interests.

At the same time, the TBI survivor might be seeking more attention, which can cause feelings of frustration and sadness on both sides. Realizing that these are common feelings following a traumatic brain injury and keeping open lines of communication with each other can help.

RELATIONSHIP ROLES

In many instances after a traumatic brain injury, relationship roles are switched. The partner might now be making decisions that the TBI survivor used to make, such as spending or child care choices. The survivor may then differ with the partner’s choices, which can result in even more stress and frustration.

Acquire a better insight of each other’s new roles through:

  • Altering your point of view to observe things through the other person’s eyes
  • Serving as a mentor/consultant for each other in your new duties, versus being critical

COMMUNICATION

After a TBI, relationships can struggle because of a lack of communication, due to a fear that asking questions or sharing feelings might produce misunderstandings.

Reduced communication can cause:

  • Feelings of isolation or disconnectedness
  • Pent up feelings
  • Problems adapting to a new normal

To promote open and truthful communication:

  • Avoid talking about difficult issues when the other person is feeling angry or irritated.
  • If broaching a sensitive topic, make sure there is enough time available for the conversation.
  • Arrange for an entertaining date with each other such as watching a movie on TV, playing a game, dining at a favorite restaurant or taking a walk to lower tension.
  • For especially sensitive subjects, try writing a letter to your partner, summarizing your position and feelings.
  • Devote time to simply talking, to get to know each other again.

EMOTIONS

Common emotional transformations for a traumatic brain injury survivor might include difficulties managing anger, decreased empathy, mood swings and depression. It’s important for partners to realize that these emotional challenges are a representation of the injury, not the relationship.

Approaches to help include:

  • Having a conversation about what makes the survivor sad, worried or angry.
  • Being attentive to when mood changes occur in order to help find out why they occur.
  • Remaining patient, but setting firm boundaries that threatening, insults or injuring others is not acceptable.

Understand that there may be grief and disappointment involved with missing the “pre-injury” person. Nonetheless, with a combination of knowledge, support and compassion, it is possible to maintain healthy, loving relationships. It’s just as important to accept care support to allow each other more time to really concentrate on the relationship apart from care needs.

Contact CareFor by calling us at (512) 338-4533 to learn more about our specialized care for those with TBI from our highly skilled caregivers in San Antonio and surrounding areas or visit our services page.