If either you or your significant other experiences a traumatic brain injury, the relationship can undergo permanent changes. This does not necessarily mean that the relationship is over, but it means that you and your partner must adapt to the new situation you find yourselves in post-injury.
The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center describes some of the changes that may take place in your relationship and how you can adapt to preserve it.
Communication is the biggest change that couples report after a brain injury according to studies on these relationships. Since communication is so foundational for a relationship, it affects other aspects as well. A TBI may affect your significant other’s ability to express himself or herself or to interpret verbal and non-verbal communication. This may put you under stress and cause you to change your communication style in a way that may not be helpful.
You should not be afraid to express negative thoughts and feelings to one another, although it may be helpful to write these down before saying them out loud. You should both make a commitment to improving communication so you do not end up feeling isolated from one another.
Members of every family take on certain relationship roles that influence their behavior. Sometimes these roles shift gradually, but a TBI may necessitate a rapid shift. After your partner’s injury, you may have to step outside your comfort zone to take on new responsibilities. While you may hope that your partner recovers sufficiently to take on his or her old role, in many cases the change turns out to be permanent.
The main responsibility of the injured person is to recover from the injury and learn new skills as needed. This requires everyone else in your family to take on new jobs, which also requires learning new skills.