How Brain Injury Affects Marriage

>>Dr. Jeff Kreutzer: Changes in marriage
after brain injury is, is a very broad topic because there are already lots of changes.
What people tell us about a lot is that they different roles so the breadwinner often becomes
someone who is cared for by their partner, often their
partner isn’t anticipating that happening and the spouse of the uninjured person becomes
a caregiver as well as friend and partner and the role changes
are one of the biggest things that we see.>>Dr. Taryn Stejskal: Yeah I think in terms
of what changes most for marriages as Jeff and I often say what doesn’t change. Often times when people have a brain injury
it can be so difficult because the things that were most
valued in that relationship whether that was a you know being able to spend leisure time
activities together, like going boating or being able to go to
museums or overseas travel. All of a sudden those things that people had
counted on doing together aren’t possible anymore
and so that really changes the quality and the tone of the relationship altogether.>>Dr. Jeff Kreutzer: What happens in the
long term marriage is, it’s interesting because psychologists have
developed models of adaptation and adjustment to catastrophic events and some of those models
apply to what happens to marriages after brain injury.
We find that for the first three or six months after the injury there is a lot of confusion
on the part of the injured person and the spouse, how has the
person been injured, how are they different, how are they the same,
what’s life going to be like in 6 to 12 months, there’s a lot of doubt, uncertainty, confusion.
This person looks the same, but their personality is very different and their abilities and
the roles are very different. So we find that there is a, it’s very hard,
there’s a, there’s a period of what I call difficult adjustment which is
recognizing the changes and recognizing that some of these changes are, are unpleasant,
may be permanent and so there is an adjustment process and
for some families, some families seem really good at handling that adjustment,
maybe their marriages were very strong before, may be they have extended family that’s very
understanding living in same community. Some families are great, they go to websites
like and they look up and they try to find out
what the most current information is and they find the best help they can find and understand
and probably get educated. Perhaps that’s why some families adjust more
quickly. But there is a period of adjustment and what
we tell our families when we see them as we say,
we know that your lives will get back to normal, we don’t know we hope that it’s going to be
a short period of time, it may be three years, it may be five years.
It takes some people longer, but we know that if you try hard,
you get information and you do things you focus on doing things that seem to work and
stop doing things that don’t work, we know that the future can be a good one
for you.>>Dr. Jeff Kreutzer: We’ve actually done
some research on marriages after brain injury and what’s interesting is that there’s a myth
out there that says that and it may be true only in the
United Kingdom is that 56% of marriages end up in divorce or separation within six years
of injury, what we found at least in looking do research
in Richmond is that about 25% of marriages of people with brain injury end in
divorce in the first six to eight years and that rate of divorce is actually lower than
the US rate of divorce and, and one of the things is that Taryn and I
are concerned in that, there isn’t a whole lot of research
and we have a sense of what happens, but there isn’t whole lot of research of what happens
to marriages after brain injury. We think that there are a lot of people who
are staying together, but may be very unhappy. What we found is that people who are married
for a longer period of time of 15 or 20 years tend to do much better
than newly married couples, part of that we think is that when people are married for
a long period of time they know each other better, they appreciate
each other both the good and sometimes bad, they appreciate each other more
and they’re more understanding and more flexible and people who are married for a long period
of time. because of the way life works is one person
is having a hard time then after a while the other person is having hard time,
people tend to appreciate their own personal limitations and the fact that there’s going
to be good and bad perhaps better when they’ve been
married for a longer period of time.>>Dr. Taryn Stejskal: In addition to what
Jeff mentioned, which was understanding and flexibility,
not expecting that things are going to be the way they were before, I would also mention
empathy, having empathy for what’s happened in the
relationship and also for the other partner whether your partner is the person who is
injured or whether you are injured yourself and in terms of specific examples
we’ve worked with a number of couples and one thing that we’ve found is the couples
that do best don’t take things personally. They say you know what he or she can’t do
that anymore because of the brain injury, not if he or she would only try harder,
they could do, he or she could do that or he’s just not interested in going with me
to the theater anymore, it’s not that you know the crowds jostle him
or he has difficulty with attention. One couple in particular that stands out for
us that we’ve worked with together is a couple that said to us
one of the ways that we’re dealing with this is by taking a new picture and so anytime
we think about our future and what we imagined and we feel sad about
what we’ve lost and not being able to do the things that we thought we’d do.
We take a new picture and we imagine what our future together is going to be like now.

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  1. My husband does rather well for someone who experienced a moderate TBI. However, he seems identical to someone with Alzheimer's disease on some days. He doesn't even remember our wedding. At all. Thank you for this video and for your work in this field which is not studied nearly enough!!

  2. Fascinating discussion on how brain injury affects marriage. I am especially intrigued by how the divorce rate of those marriages affected by brain injury is actually lower than the national norm. Of course, they also commented how many of those marriages may have been strong before the injury occurred. It still intriguing nonetheless.

  3. I've not found a lot of information on couples affected by TBI that are unmarried and without children. My partner and I are only kids ourselves practically (he's 22 and I'm 19) and all I've seen so far are horrible people telling me that his accident has doomed our relationship. I refuse to believe that. What has your charity observed in young couples affected with TBI? I can imagine a lot of people especially in new relationships would run away, but we've been together quite a long time now and an engagement was not off the table for the near future prior to the accident. I don't know where we stand now as I've not been able to see him yet (despite it happening a month ago as the accident was in another country he was visiting) but he's projected to recover well and his personality doesn't seem changed. I'll continue to love him even if he has – I could never stop loving him. I'm just terrified that maybe his opinion of ME will have changed.

  4. The comment about empathy is absolutely correct. I am married to someone with an anoxic brain injury and I need his empathy as much as he needs mine. We were married only 3 months before his cardiac arrest and brain injury.

  5. What about riding the D? So let's say your husband becomes a vegetable and you are horny and you ride him? Would that be considered rape or disturbing but yet you're married and if you're going to continue to be married wouldn't that be part of what couples still do? I would love my husband I would be there for my husband but I do have needs that need to be met especially my Peak is going to be hitting soon I can't just sit back and wipe someone's butt all day I'm with my I might have to put his ass in a nursing home because I don't know how long my body could handle that

  6. I have 2 frontal lobe tbi's and my wife my friends and even my parents have abandon me – I would have rather died after the first accident

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