The Truth About Divorce After Traumatic Brain Injury

Jeffrey Kreutzer, Jenny Marwitz, Virginia Commonwealth Model Systems of Care
The Truth About Divorce After Traumatic Brain Injury

Have you heard that the divorce rate after brain injury is really high? Have you read that the divorce rate for couples after brain injury is higher than the divorce rate for the general population? If you are a spouse or survivor of brain injury, you may be wondering whether your marriage is at risk.

Media reports suggest that as many as one half of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce. In fact, recent census data indicates that nearly half of all marriages will end in divorce. Believing that the divorce rate after brain injury is higher than the general divorce rate could be very frightening.

Research has given a mixed picture of divorce rates after brain injury. In the 1970s, researchers began to study post-injury divorce rates and found that 40% of couples were either separated or divorced seven years after injury. A review of studies published after 1980 shows alarmingly high post-injury divorce rates ranging from 48% to 78%.

There is little doubt that brain injury can strain marriages. Spouses often take on many of the injured person’s responsibilities, though they may have little experience with their new responsibilities. Unemployment rates after brain injury are relatively high and many insurance companies do not cover the costs of therapy, adding to financial stresses. Brain injury often brings on drastic personality changes which may include irritability, depression, limited awareness of injury-related changes, and argumentativeness. Some spouses have reported, “I’m married, but have no husband” and/or “I’m married to a stranger.”

Knowing the importance of marriage and the need to provide families with valid information, Traumatic Brain Injury Model System (TBIMS) researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) looked more closely at research on marriage after brain injury. They found that many of the earlier studies were carried out in Europe where the social and legal system is different than the United States. Furthermore, many of the studies relied on small sample sizes which may not accurately reflect the larger population.

In 2007, Virginia Commonwealth University TBI Model Systems researchers published one of the first comprehensive investigations of marriage after brain injury. The researchers gathered information from 120 people with mild, moderate, and severe injuries who were married at the time of their injury. Survivors three to eight years post-injury, averaging 41 years of age, were asked about their marital status. Results showed that 3 out of 4 (90/120) remained married at the time of follow-up.

As a result of their research, the VCU investigators became concerned that past studies may have produced misleading negative information. In their published research paper, the authors stated, “The present investigation does not [support] the notion that divorce rates for persons with brain injury are higher than those for the general population.”

In 2008, VCU investigators led a multicenter research team which investigated marital stability after brain injury. Information on marital status was collected at 16 NIDRR-funded TBI Model Systems around the country. This study was the largest scale study on marriage after brain injury to date and included 977 persons from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The research team found that 85% of survivors remained married for at least two years post injury.

In summary, recent research suggests the rate of divorce after brain injury may, in fact, be much lower than divorce rates for the general population. The news is encouraging. While some spouses report more stresses and marital troubles post-injury, some report connecting with each other in new, positive ways as they face injury-related challenges together.

Marriage is clearly an important part of our culture and a major element of many people’s lives. Still, more research is needed to better understand how injury affects marriages and what can be done to preserve and enrich relationships. First, we need to better understand how the quality of relationships is affected in good and bad ways. Second, we must develop strategies to strengthen marriages so that both partners describe the relationship as positive and fulfilling. There is good reason to be hopeful.

Here are more findings:

  • 17% of survivors were divorced and 8% were separated, an overall
  • marital breakdown rate of 25%
  • male and female survivors had similar marital breakdown rates the more serious the injury, the greater likelihood of divorce; for example, on average, people who were divorced had been unconscious three times as long as people who were still married
  • age mattered; people who were older at the time of injury were much more likely to stay
  • married; no participant 60 years old or older was separated or divorced
  • length of marriage was important; people who had been married for longer periods of time before the injury were more likely to stay married after the injury; none of the couples married 30 years or more before the injury got separated or divorced.

Other important study results:

  • only 15% of subjects were separated or divorced
  • age was a very important predictor of marital stability with older persons less likely to divorce
  • male survivors were more likely to have an unstable marriage (i.e. to be separated or divorced) than female survivors
  • cause of injury was an important factor; persons who were injured as a result of violence were less likely to be married at follow-up
  • for minority group members, persons with more severe injuries were more likely to remain married
Posted on BrainLine January 30, 2009. Reviewed July 27, 2018.

References

  • Arango, J., Ketchum, J., Dezfulian, T., Kreutzer, J., O’Neil-Pirozzi, Hammond, F., & Jha, A. (2008). Predictors of marital stability two years following brain injury. Brain Injury, 22(7-8), 565-574.
  • Kreutzer, J., Marwitz, J., Hsu, N., Williams, J., & Riddick, A. (2007). Marital stability after brain injury: An investigation and analysis. NeuroRehabilitation, 22(1), 53-59.

This article was written by the staff of the Virginia Commonwealth Traumatic Brain Injury Model System. Article used with permission. Updated September 2010.

Comments (81)

My husband is 75 and I am 65. 12 years ago he refused to get a second opinion, and had brain surgery to remove 2 large non-cancerous tumors. He was left with frontal lobe brain damage. He also has only 10% of his hearing left, not due to the surgery. The man I married 39 years ago died on the table. This man is mean, cruel, argumentative, aggressive, completely self-centered, selfish, and gets in fights easily with anyone who he thinks is doing something he doesn't like or doesn't want them to do, like risky driving (doctors said no driving, but he won't stop), road rage, fights in restaurants, almost getting arrested for causing disturbances in airports...refusing to eat what I cook (I am a good cook) because he wants fast food. He is a raging diabetic too, and will not adjust his food. I could go on and on. I know his triggers and try to manage life around them, have tried numerous doctors who really haven't been able to find meds that will help manage his behaviors. I am still trying to work full time, but I am his caretaker. He doesn't understand what's said to him, and he blows up frequently. He has a fit if he doesn't know where I am every minute of the day. I have no friends left. I am totally spent, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. My advice is get the heck out if and while you can. I wish I had.

I survived a 50mm brain aneurysm rupture in 2010. My symptoms started well before that summer day in July, I became someone that I don't even know, I act out and can't understand how to control it. My wife has always been difficult, but I love her nonetheless, and she has taken great care of me and our children. I dont think she knows what I go through everyday and its hard having her go to work while I sit in an empty house with nothing but my thoughts. Truly I am at a loss, I feel that the man I used to be died over 10 years ago. What's life without your identity? I wouldn't wish this life on my worst enemy.

My folks have been married sense they were 18 years old. My father suffered two bleeding cots on his brain at one point he did not now who I was. Today they are in their late 70's and getting a divorce my mother has put my father in a nursing home and divided the properties, so I am told. This is hard on me for two reasons, one I am daddies girl, and two my partner suffered a massive stroke this Feb 2018 and he is not the same and we are having problems in our relationship. I am so overwhelmed.

What I experienced the other day absolutely had to feel like what it feels like when a spouse dies. When I woke up, I realized that my best friend, my strong, unselfish, helpful, resourceful, loving husband of 12 years was gone. It hurt so bad, and it was surreal. It's plain shocking. I'm sooo very grateful he is not dead! My husband had a stroke January 2017. He had some paralysis for a few months and lost his job and health insurance during the rehab time allotted. He was denied social security which was not the overall goal of course. He continued to rehab on his on refusing to go to a doctor and get rated for low income. During March of the same year, I became ill and continued to progress. I am a colon cancer survivor now plagued with gastroparesis and neuropathy of the stomach. I also am a veteran with PTSD. My health quickly deteriorates in June of this year. I am seeing my primary doctor to discuss feeding tube just to make it through winter to handle m' own end life affairs. My husband behaviors range from 10 yrs to 17 yrs old. He is 50 and I am 57. I tried to tell his family about his behavior and they attacked me, The saddest part of all of this is my husband doesn't remember me as his awesome loving wife whose been there for him and with him being everything a wife is suppose to be. He sees me as someone who doesn't like him. He doesn't understand that he's different. I had to get honest with myself real quick today. I did everything I could to get my husband to go to the doctor! He refused. At this time I'm too ill to deal with someone who ranges from 10-17yrs in behavior. My husband is in God's hands and so am I. God knows all about this and wipes my tears. I was able to convince him that bankruptcy was best, which will happen Monday and he started a new job recently. I only want the best for him. I am going for a divorce ASAP!!!! No room for counseling. My condition is too fragile. I feel for all of you and glad I found you. I hope later on my husband will remember that we were sooo happy together and we both just got sick and were incompatible. Maybe we could have a conversation one day :(

It’s destroying me and my family, Thankyou for sharing Xxx

I don't know if anyone still reads these but this is a real need to me... I'm 28 and my husband is 32 we have been married for 12 years and we have 3 young boys 7, 6, and 1 we had another child but he passed away in 2016 (we made it thru that tragedy together). Last month my husband was hit by a car while he was on a bicycle. He has severe traumatic brain injury and he was in a small coma from two weeks. He came out of it and at first was confused and sweet and kind but now he's still confused but mean, hateful and cruel. I love him with all my heart and he's the father of my children and I don't want to divorce him but he scares our children and he's mostly mean and cruel to me but sometimes he can be towards them. I don't know really what to do or if he will ever be my husband again. When I look at him I see and hear my husband but when I look at his eyes I see a complete stranger that only wants to hurt me and cause me pain and sorrow. I'm not the try to jump and divorce my husband just because of hard times but for the first time in my life he really scares me and I'm afraid to be alone with him... What should I do? Do I wait and give him time? Do I walk away now while I still can? My heart is saying one thing while my head says different. All I can do is cry I can't sleep I can't eat the only thing keeping me going is our boys and the thought that maybe he will come back to us if not for me then for our boys all they do is cry and want their Daddy's... I'm so lost please someone give me some advice... Please

First off, I’m so sorry for the tragedy you and your family have experienced, and will continue to experience. I see you and I’m with you and I’m sending love, wherever you are.

What you are feeling is all very realistic, rational, and (dare I say it) normal. I am not a medical professional, so the only advice I can offer is from a place of understanding: my husband experienced a severe TBI three years ago and was also in a coma (GCS of 3) for two weeks. Even with so much time having passed after my husband’s injury, he is still overcoming, re-learning, and compensating for the damage. At the beginning, what you describe in your husband also happened with mine - he was sweet at first, and then slipped into behavior that was aggressive, angry, and combative. But it wasn’t permanent, and through months of inpatient rehabilitation, and years of community care, that frightening behavior has mostly faded away. He is still impulsive, and argumentative sometimes, and in some ways the person whom I married will never return. I miss the old him everyday. But he’s a new version of himself, and there are many joys and (good) surprises with him. He’s a good man.

Your husband has age on his side. As he was injured riding his bike, I’m assuming he also has good physical health in his favor. One month post-injury is not a long time. There is a long road ahead but he’s got a few things in his corner already. What do his neurointensivists abd physiatrists say? Has he started physio yet? Even just a few minutes (more each day) of gentle physical activity, like squeezing a stress ball or sitting up in a wheelchair, might help stimulate his brain. But again, I stress: I am not a doctor.

Brain injury affects each person uniquely. To my understanding, there is no normal path of recovery - what happened with my husband over years may not be what happens with yours. Yours may improve even more! But I understand that you have kids to protect. It’s a traumatic situation for your entire family. My advice would be to wait to make any big decisions, like divorce, for two years post-injury. I was told that the timeline for understanding an individual’s TBI is 2-5 years, so I say wait the two years. With your support and patience, and with rehab and community care, your husband may be able to re-learn the way you and your family need to be shown love.

Do you have someone that you can turn to for support in all of this? A grief counselor, social worker, psychologist, etc? I’m sure I don’t need to say that your mental health is important to preserve and protect. What you have gone through and will continue to go through is traumatic and heartbreaking and you need someone to care about you too.

These days, my husband says the only reason he has recovered as much as he has (back to work, officially released from the hospital five months ago) is because I stuck by him and encouraged him, and sometimes pushed him with some tough love, every step of the way. The man you fell in love with and the devoted father to your kids is still in there: give him some time to come back to you.

Have you talked to your neurologist or a neuropsychiatrist that deals with TBI? My husband had a stroke 3 yrs ago and his personality changed and he used to use vulgar language, was mean and basically impossible. He is going to a psychologist now and they put him on some medication and he is doing quite a bit better.

Hi. My issue is my husbands symptoms showed up 8 1/2 years later. My husband had a brain injury about 13 1/2 years ago. A tree limb fell and hit him. He was in an a coma for about a week. He was nice and sweet and took a few months to get back to the way he was. It was about 8 years later I started seeing signs of depression and arguing about everything. I tried to talk to his neurologist and they wouldn’t listen. Privacy act. He started to get emotionally, verbal and mentally abusive to me and my 4 kids I’m still with him. It has gotten really bad. My kids are older now but they have changed because of it. You don’t want to walk away because you love them-husband but you have children. They need to be in a healthy environment. I have grown to resent my husband. I feel for you and please talk to someone professionally.

Can I get my marriage annuals because I had a crash and wasn't competent but 2 yrs , I'm competent and didn't realize I would never marry her and now she threatens me to take my money that has supported her and our 2 children, but marriage was never going to happen before my brain injury. I want an annulment

Hire a proven attorney with experience in TBI.

Can I get my marriage annuals because I had a crash and wasn't competent but 2 yrs , I'm competent and didn't realize I would never marry her and now she threatens me to take my money that has supported her and our 2 children, but marriage was never going to happen before my brain injury. I want an annulment

I am a caregiver to my husband. We were married 3 years when he had Encephalitis which causes an aquired brain injury. He is physically ok, but has short and long term memory issues, cognitive issues, emotional issues, as well as many other issues due to the brain injury. He is on disability because he can't work due to cognitive/memory problems. I work full time, an hour away from home, and he sits home watching tv and going on the internet all day. He can't really figure out the computer very well so is always asking me things (confused about his email and facebook). He has Erectile Dysfunction due to the brain injury but is obsessed with wanting to have sex. He joins dating sites, buys "free" - soon to be billed $79/month pills that he hopes will help. He is not really abusive, but basically acts like he's a kid. I FEEL like he's one of my kids, not my husband and I have no desire to have sex with him even if it worked!!!!! He is like a leach and when I get home from work, he sits right next to me on the couch, almost on top of me... lays his head on me like he's a child, has to ALWAYS be sitting right next to me so that I have NO personal space!!! I know he's craving attention from me but I just can't give it to him in that way... we hold hands, I hug and kiss him but I am not "in love" with him any longer. He also does NOT shower, because he forgets so sometimes he goes almost two weeks and I can't stand him laying his head on my shoulder because he smells!

He does the following around the house. Makes coffee, feeds the dog and brings him out, mows the lawn and snow blows the driveway. He has broken the lawn mower and snowblower SO many times it seems like any time he touches them something is broken and it causes SO much money to fix everything.

I am only 53 and he's 54. I am just so depressed with the thought of spending the next 10-20-30 years with him... I can't divorce him or leave him, because he always tells me "he wouldn't be able to live without me" and he sometimes thinks he would be better dead because he has lost the "old me".

I feel like i'm a horrible person because I should be happy that he survived the illness...

I wish there was a place to talk with others in the same situation... but everyone on here seems to be anonymous.

:( I am just so unhappy!

Are you still on here. Your story is very similar to my own.

I’m here as well...I haven’t posted on here before but I do read postings daily. I’m in the same shoes...my husband was 47 and I was 45 when he suffered a major stroke about 3yrs ago. I feel like so many others in the same situation...”wife...now defined as his caretaker”...please respond back if you would like to talk and that goes for anyone on this site...most of us could probably never imagine being where we are in our lives right now...but we are. Talking, venting, listening and exchanging information could help all of us. If anyone would like to talk then reply back and I will figure out a way to get you my contact info! Blessings to everyone!

I'm here as well...I actually could have wrote the story before yours, by "anonymous". Not easy to feel like this everyday! Would be great to share, and learn to deal with what has been dealt to all of us. Not getting any younger here, and nothing is going to ever get any better...as it has already been about 5 years. Not fair to "him" either to feel this way, but I do...and I can't change that. Does it make any sense to love someone, but not be in love with them....it's sad. Feeling obligated, and guilty for wishing I was not in this...Don't like who I am when I'm mean, say something mean, or frustrated with him...Not healthy for anyone!

I'm here if you want to talk?

I understand exactly how you feel, for a great deal of what you wrote it could have been me writing the story. My wife came down with Encephilitis almost 12 years ago now and she has came a long way from where she started but she is still not or never will be the person I married. Her craving for attention and being another one of my kids is exactly the way I feel and now my kids are all getting older and can all drive so they need me a lot less and are gone most of the time so that just leaves the two of us and unless I am sitting there beside her or at work she does her best to make me feel bad for not being right there beside her and sometimes it doesn't even matter that it's work. Like yourself I am 53 and she is 52 and to think that there is 20-30 more years of this or more is to say the least overwhelming in many ways!! Funny I still love her but not in love with her once you go into Caregiver mode the relationship changes and I'm not sure it can ever be the same again even if the Caregiver wanted it to. Wish I had answers for you because I have the same questions and the same feelings, I just want to be happy and I'm not sure that will ever be the case again other than for moments here and there. Thing is I really don't think there are any "good" answers and I will be the first to tell you NO ONE can judge whatever decision you make about staying or going unless they have lived it they can NEVER understand!!! Good luck and I hop nothing but the best for you and ALL of us here.....

Hi there I need to reply to ur story. I'm 42 years old my husband is 49 we have been together for 19 years married 10, back in February he suffered a stroke, it was a bad one that has effected him in so many ways. I came home a couple months after the stroke, I took care of him for a few weeks but I couldn't anymore, he's incontinent, can't walk well, it effected his cognitives, he can talk but stutters a lot, so I decided to put him in a nursing home. He's still there, I visit him everyday, stay with him an hour or two at a time, try and encourage him to get up and do more than watching TV, but he refuses. We have 4 children, two older ones that live outside the house and 2 that are still home, I've decided to go back to work which he wasn't happy about, but I need to. I've lost 45lbs, I'm independent now, raising the kids, feeling really good about how my life is going. I've come to the conclusion I'm not in love with him anymore, I feel horrible but that's how I truly feel, and don't want to do this anymore, my mom n older daughter are so angry with me, but why can't I be happy...

When you were married did you get married in the church?
Also if so did you take the vows for better or for worse in sickness and in health. ?

Read your blog really sorry for you, my husband had a stage 4 aneurysm has come back fairly well.but he has some kind of dislike for me he always tells everyone I hurt him. I am on pension and have one adult son . Husband is living in a beautiful facility 4 minutes away. I live in our home but I want to change my life. I know he will not try return home. We can still have a life together but I find hard to be married to someone who is vacant. That sounds harsh , I have no friends and I resent being alone. However when I hear where you are at. I feel so badly for you. I guess feeling sorry for ourselves does no good.he left me with a mess I am slowly digging out . My life is good with my son but I look forward to him finding someone so he can enjoy his life. Why does a person have to live in such an unhappy state. The internet is. Quoting how things get better it does not sound like it.i am even scared to find some one else I do not want anyone else's problems. I was married 40 years worked hard now I have nothing to look forward to. I am so sorry for both of us but as I'm told by perfectly happy people that I am a pity party and get a life. Where does a person start. My husband thinks he is perfectly fine.

I am so sorry. I am going through the same thing and nobody understands.
I think about suicide a lot.
I can't just leave.
I might have to though.
I can't live like this.
He is emotionally empty.
This is not who I fell in love with.
I don't even know who this person is. I feel like I am a caregiver and roommate. That is all.
The man I fell in lobe with was a hard worker who helped pay the bills, he was a leader, very spontaneous and fun.
I am not attracted to this person.

Hi... I am in the same boat, husband had a stroke 8 years ago, I am his caregiver and am subject to his hostility on a daily basis. The thought of doing this for another ten years crushes me. Like you husband, mine thinks we should still be having sex but I absolutely can not, he is like a child to me, and he makes me feel guilty saying things like "you should be doing your wifely duty", etc. I cant go out the door without him saying I'm having an affair, (at this point, I would welcome the distraction).
We cant do vacations or anything like that because of his severe cardiomyopathy so I am starting to go by myself... He's somewhat independent and I really want out of this prison but the guilt of leaving a disabled man weighs heavy on me...what to do?

I'm sorry about your loss. I have been struggling with exact issues with my wife. She was injured in a car accident in 2000. Would love to chat. We live in Oregon. And I'm thinking about trying to dissolve the marriage.

My husband and I have been married for 15 years. He had TBI 4 years into our marriage, it’s not been 11 years since his injury and it’s been a rough ride. His loyalty, appreciation and all the love he gives me are the 3 things that keep me going every day. Unfortunately, they are not enough to be happy on the inside. Since his injury I’ve had to take on so many roles, I live my life and his. He is physically ok but can’t function accurately if he was to work so I work with him. He is a very smart man and has established our own business for us but he thinks of what needs to be done and I carry out the tasks since he can’t. So basically I do everything hands on except he gives the orders. My main problem is he forgets that I have 3 kids and they need me, only because he is trying so hard to make a living for our family. He is a great guy so please don’t misunderstand me. It’s just he’s because I am puke din many different directions. I hate that it’s always about him and he feels bad for himself but he doesn’t realize that his injury affected both of our lives. Our business isn’t doing well so we are now about to be out of business but the sad part is he can’t go get a job so I will have to. I have been having bad thoughts about our marriage and it makes me feel guilty but I am scared and I don’t want to think those thoughts. To the individuals who had TBI please remember you are not suffering alone, your spouse is suffering too. I suffer inside and I never show him but it’s eating me up and I am always stressed.

I experienced my TBI over a decade ago. I went through the usual: lost job, lost career, divorced, lost MUCH time with my son ..... and on. The ex-wife left at the four year post TBI point, after giving me a one day notice that she would be leaving. I admittedly had problems with memory, starting tasks, but my reasoning was still good, actually better than hers on many levels. PTSD from childhood emotional trauma started to control me after ex-wife left. I received EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) and it worked very well. The memory issues were much improved. I was unable to read books for the first 10 years after my TBI ..... as I would even forget that I was reading a book. Now I am reading Tolstoy, complicated historical books, economics and on. But I lost some 15 years of my life, my son said he cares, but I never hear from him, and it is so hard to recover my social life as I had such a long period of recovery, and now I am in my mid 60s. I have friends that I have know for over 50 years, and I feel accepted, but I miss being being in a close relationship, and doubt it will happen. I have gratitude for what I have, but i feel soooooo lonely. I am not going to hurt myself, but many nights, I just wish I won't wake up. I just can't go on living like this. Of course, it doesn't help that my financial situation, though not desperate, is not what I planned, as I didn't work for 15 years, and not even sure what I can do anyway, Plus, even though I have a graduate degree, having a 15 year hole in the resume pretty much eliminates anything meaningful.

I wanted to post this in support of all the spouses on this comment thread. I was with my husband for 14 years, married for 3. He was a heavy drinker with DUI history. But what we had worked and I loved him. Then he rode his ATV drunk off a cliff and life changed forever. After months in ICU and therapy, insurance sent him home far too early. He was wild and uncontrollable with a mean temper and no patience to speak of. He eventually got back to work, was driving and doing great, besides the emotional and verbal abuse I sufferers daily. I put up with it for a while, knowing it would get better, but as he got better he saw less need for any therapy or medication, stopped going completely and eventually started drinking again. He stopped going to work, totaled his new truck and racked up multiple charges. When the threats turned physical and violent I got a restraining order and left. One year later and we are divorced. Just one year and a day since the accident and we were in court. It's hard because you feel like you are giving up. Or that people will judge you and think you are a monster (which they actually will). But I write this here today because lots of therapy helped me come to terms that my happiness and quality of life is just as important as his. He has family to support him. I don't have to put up with daily abuse. That wasn't in the vows. I know he can't help a lot of it, but there are things he could be doing which he just refuses to. He just got into another ATV accident one week after he got it back. I refused to sit around and wait for that next call. Please value your happiness and quality of life km as much as you do your spouses. You deserve some happiness too.

Thank you all for your comments. It can be so lonely caring for a spouse with a TBI. My husband's happened 5 years ago. Since then - he hasn't worked, he doesn't prepare his own food or meds, he doesn't clean or even pick up after himself. He won't go outside unless it's for a doctors appointment - which also means he won't take care of our two dogs. He can seem like a complete lunatic and somehow everything is my fault. If I buy him easy to prepare foods - he doesn't like them. If I cook extra at night for him to reheat - he can't find them in the fridge. Then he just starves himself and blames his "eating disorder" on me. Lately he tells me he's had several strokes. He hasn't. I feel guilty about not taking him to the ER (he does have a drs appt in a day) but he only wants to go at 10 PM at night or at 8 AM in the morning (when I need to go to work). I was recently hospitalized for concern about my heart. Everything was really fine - but he blew it up into this huge issue. Then he tried to make me feel guilty for being in the hospital and not taking care of him! I work 2 jobs, take care of EVERYTHING. I have to leave work to take him to doctors - and that has put my job (and our health insurance) in jeopardy. It is so very hard to not react to the manipulations, the guilt, the sorrow. I love this man. I still see glimmers of my husband from time to time. But - sometimes - I just want out. And then I feel guilty about THAT!. It's life - sometimes it hands you rotten lemons that you can do nothing with. The hardest part for me really: I lost my partner. The person I confided in, trusted, counted on. That man is gone. Now I have a 7 foot, 45 year old pre-teen that is argumentative about everything - and not a single soul to help me.

I feel for all of you, my story is much the same, my husband had a bad fall whilst working 700 miles away from home 2 years ago in our 19th year of marriage. He had a severe TBI (48 days PTA) we have 2 kids 9 and 11 at the time and living in NZ having emigrated 6 years prior from the UK. Already homesick and begging to go back he will not talk of it but carries on as if all is fine. I get no affection, thanks or appreciation for working 60 hours a week, to support our financially overstretched situation. I am so angry, his life insurance would not pay out as he had been drinking prior to his fall. My resentment and loneliness overwhelms me. I have my own medical issues and had to have surgery in November to remove a 4cm benign tumour from my thyroid which had been robbing me of energy for 12 years. But according to him I'm okay because I don't have a brain injury. Others do not realise how desperately awful this situation is, I take my vows seriously but I'm only 47 and really don't know if I can live the rest of my life in a sexless emotion free marriage. This 24/7 reality of him thinking inside a smaller square than everyone else's yet displaying an air of total arrogance is hard to bear.

My wife and I have been married for 25 years this coming August. In 2005 my wife had an SAH which left her suffering from hypersexuality, disinhibition, poor memory, poor higher executive skills and a number of other 'deficits'. As you can imagine her combination of problems has put immense stress and pressure on our relationship and we have had some incredibly difficult times. There have been many times during which I have wanted to leave. I didn't though and I would never judge anyone for doing so. For those in the early stages of recovery, say the first 6 years, I can only say that things will change, things will settle down. Things will never be the same but if you're able to accept the changes and be patient, it can get easier. I've been fortunate, over time I've been able to see more of the woman I married return to the fore. In that I've been truly lucky! Brain injury takes a long time to recover from and everyone close to the sufferer takes just as long to recover from the event. Be patient, be kind to yourself and remember, you can only do what you can do.

My wife and I were married for 25 years and never fought. She fell a couple years ago. I knew as soon as I saw her everything had changed. She was no longer loving or kind. Wanted to argue when she hadn't all those years before. I love you Darling. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. Sorry I couldn't figure out how to keep you from divorcing me.

I am a survivor of an industrial accident. I'm an Ironworker, I was operating a 80ft manlift when a 2500lbs steel beam fell from a crane landing on my head while I was wearing a hard hat, sending me crashing to the manlift floor, then causing the manlift to catapult me out of the manlift until my harnesses engaged sending me crashing back into the manlift floor. I have been diagnosed with post concussion syndrome, whiplash. There are times when I wish I was dead instead of surviving, because of all the stress I have caused in my marriage of 18yrs, I have a son who's 15 and testing his limits, and a 11 yr old daughter who is so sweet and kind, it makes me cry just thinking about her. My wife has become so judgmental of my actions and attitude. She doesn't even trust me in parenting issues. There is no reasoning with her, its "no, that's not right." The yelling only starts when I tell her something that our son did and she doesn't believe. Why would I lie about our son?! Sometimes the pain is uncontrollable I can't sleep, Dr has tried different meds, but I just get side effects, and Hulk like mode swings, so far Tylenol 3 seems to take the edge off but not entirely. I hate seeing the tears roll down my wife's face when we argue, but I also hate how I'm not trusted or believed. Its seems like there's no end or relief of this pain.

Hang in there and try to be understanding. My husband had an injury 3 years into our marriage, it’s been 11 since his injury. It’s hard because I as a woman had to take on so many roles. It can be very frustrating because the injury doesn’t only affect you but also affects her. Try to be patient with her, if she is still around then it means she loves you.

I'm sitting here at 6 am in the dark trying to be alone. My husband with TBI keeps coming out sure I'm up to no good and refuses to go to bed unless I do. He just stares at me confused and I hate him. I feel so guilty but I truly do. Hugs everyone I'm going to cry for us all

It's impossibly hard. The survivors are masters of disguise. Us spouses are left looking like we're crazy. Everything is our fault. Nothing we do is enough. If we suggest things to help them, we're horrible and judgmental. The agony of everyday and the pain of trying to make things normal for the kids is exhausting. It reminds me of my constant failures. Everything I say is wrong, nothing I do is right. His weight gain and lack of anything other than the tv and his iPad are my fault too. I miss feeling cherished. I miss feeling important. Now I run the house alone and am judged by how I do it - while he does nothing. I miss who he was, which is becoming harder and harder to remember who that was. He's no longer kind. Or loving. He seems to cherish being mean to me. And I made a vow, which is hard to keep on the rare occasion an attractive man pays kind attention to me.

My boyfriend has TBI. We have been together 28 years and he had a brain haemorrhage 5 years ago. I have him but I don't. He is here but he is not. I love him and sometimes I just can't stand him! I feel horrible saying this. It is sooooooo hard. I am 44 years old and I really don't feel like I have a life or am living. It is all about him and how he wants things. There is no flexibility, no seeing or feeling what his behavior is like for me. I listen to him and think this is so NOT the man I had. I am tired and currently am working so little because mentally and physically I'm exhausted. I can't handle much but have to keep on going. I don't see a way out as we have been together for so long and the guilt the guilt.... I don't think I can handle that on top of how I feel now. He tries his best to be caring and loving and then all of a sudden I have done something wrong! Again..... I always do, say, am, look, etc wrong! This happens when he is tired or irritated about something and he takes it out on me. If things don't go his way, how he wants it or how he thought then I have done it again. I have always done it. It makes me miserable, lonely, hurt and so angry. I want a life and a man that is at the same level I am! There is no girl/boy man/woman relationship here. I take care of as best I can which is only the necessary. I feel that that is all I am needed for and all I am here for. I hate writing this as I hide my feelings and am not someone to do this but after 5 years and yet another argument about yet nothing I am miserable, yet again!! I hate my life as is and just don't have the guts to leave him...

I am posting this for people who been posting comments and feeling discouraged, maybe thinking you are alone or you are doing something wrong-- As a psychologist who works with TBI patients and their families I find this article to be sorely misleading and lacking in providing a "truth" about marriages after TBI. This is a summarization of the recent research, so perhaps there is more information to glean from the actual articles. However, as it is here it looks like they only considered black-and-white evidence: still married or not. For those who are still married I would like to see data on the rated level of satisfaction with the marriage. If satisfaction is high or acceptable what factors contributed to that? If the satisfaction is low or unacceptable why are they choosing to stay married? Of the marriages that ended in divorce, even those that are intact for that matter--to what degree did they have family and marital counseling and education about learning to cope with life after brain injury?
I would like to pose the interpretation that another reason we may be seeing a decrease in divorce rates after brain injury as compared to the past is that of simple time and advances in our understanding of what to expect and how to cope with it coupled with families having access to that knowledge and outside support from the medical and behavioral health community.

I'm the one with the TBI and my husband has been so emotionally abusive through this all. It's been 6 months so far and he is impatient, condescending and mean. We're trying to work through it but he wants me to give him the emotional support he needs to deal with a wife that isn't running at full speed but I can't. I can't even support myself. After my injury, I became severely depressed and suicidal. I'm in therapy to handle it so I'm not in danger but during the worst of it, I couldn't lean on him for support because he was too busy yelling at me for everything I do wrong. I'm so tired and defeated everyday because everything I say and think is wrong because of the TBI and it's so hard to have someone that expects you to be right as rain. I know it's hard to understand it from the survivors side but trust me that they can't totally understand it from the other side either.

I am going through the same thing as a survival of a tbi. My husband is the most wonderful person in the world to me however he is the biggest a** there is!! His patience with me is ridiculously annoying!! All he does is judge me and yells at me. He is so mean and everything is my fault. Our children even sees the unfairness of everything. Throughought all my tbi dysfunctions (can't drive) I am the best wife and mother I can be. My children love me and will do anything for me because they see my struggle and they also see my drive to be the best mother and wife I can be!! I cook, clean, work, handle my kids, satisfy him and a bunch more but it's like something is always wrong!! What I do is never enough in his eye sight!! And we had a remedial argument this morning and his threatened me with leaving me!! Oh my how tired I am of hearing that!! Help!!!!

My husband had a TBI a little over 4 years ago I thought reading other's comments would help me - it just validates what I feel. At first when he would take his meds he was easier to deal with but he said it just made him want to sleep and maybe that was how it was easier – less waking hours of him yelling at me or my oldest child about how worthless we both are.  When he doesn't take his meds then he is a horrible person to me. We go out with friends -he laughs has fun is the life of the party - the drive home I am told of all the things I did that embarrassed him - such as I laughed loudly and I did it to embarrass him and prove I could do anything I wanted. Well two fold one I was just laughing with my friends the only relief I ever get and then I get told that I made a fool out of myself that all of my friends think I am crazy. I keep his TBI to myself - I don't want to burden my friends with my life - it’s just too hard. He is not the person I married and if he were this way before the TBI I would have divorced him. I feel obligated - for better or for worse - for the children and the family - to death do we part - but my life is miserable. I am made to feel like I am horrible - tonight we were playing cards with our children and he just went on and on about me - how stupid I am - do I really think this or that - blah blah blah - I am seriously tired, I work 60 hours a week to support us, and come home and the house looks like someone spent all day just making a mess - so I clean the house - and then it's finally time for bed - with a little more cruising about me and my bad attributes. I don't know why he has to hate me - I have tried everything I can - I have been patience - kind – supportive tried to get him all the help I can find. I don’t talk back when he starts in on me in hopes that it won’t last long – but it just goes on and on and then he will finally stop. I sit there and think are you really going to live the rest of your life like this – we had a good life – but this is not the life I want – this is not the man I married – do I just divorce him and move on – I know if I leave then he will be sad and depressed we did that for the first two years – but this is really not fair and after 4 years I can’t make it any better – it is starting to make me a miserable person. Do you think I can leave him – and be happy – he has talked me down that sometimes I truly question if I am wrong  - at least people who live with someone with a TBI understand the hatred that they give their spouse. 

I had a six inch brain tumor removed three years ago. The tumor came back a year ago. My husband says I am not the same person I was before the tumor/surgery. What he fails to understand is I have no way of knowing how I am different. I just try my best to do the things I feel I should do as a wife. Whether it is the same or not.. How would I know... I am who I am. I don't feel different other than debilitating migraines..vomiting, vertigo etc... I can say that no matter how much it would hurt him....you can't live your life to make him happy. You certainly deserve to be happy. You can't live a miserable life for fear of hurting him. That only makes you resentful and miserable together. He will have to grow and find out what makes him happy...he may be better off alone. Whatever the case, you are only responsible for your own happiness. Once you are gone he will not have anyone to blame and may realize how he has changed. You have to let some people go..it is not selfish. It is self preservation. God Bless you for trying..that is all that can be expected. You can't trade your happiness for his...that being said...he doesn't sound happy anyways. Save yourself from years of misery.

After my husband had his brain injury, he has been so hateful. Demeaning to me emotionally and mentally abusive. I been suffering for 3 years now and I don't know what to do. Someone PLEASE HELP!!!

i know how you feel it is now 12 years after my husbands traumatic brain injury and i have never been so unhappy!! he is always angry and i just don't want to live like this anymore

Well I'm weighing in here after 1 and a half years post stroke. We have been married five years, second marriage for both. No children together. I have two teens living with us. He was 49 when he had the stroke, 45 when he had the heart attack. He was good for 2 years exercising and eating right and not smoking. Then he slipped gained weight, started smoking again and had a stroke. At first I was mad at him for making bad choices about his health. Now I have come to accept what has happened to my "new husband". Well he is not the man I said "I do" to. I feel more sad than guilty however because perhaps this could've been avoided. I will never know. But I ask you all why should I be condemned (and I mean this) to a sexless life of caregiving to someone who watches TV all day because he's too exhausted to do his therapy? You get what you give and I have no guilt because he gave up on his health and our marriage the day he started smoking again. Selfish choice but he was and is all about him. So I am going to be all about me. And so should you, because no one else is going to look out for you. Who wants to die a martyr anyhow?

My husband had colloid cyst removed December 2014. Finding this and reading everyone's stories I finally don't feel alone in how I'm feeling. 17 years together and I don't want to be here anymore. He's just miserable and won't help himself, sits around like hes 80. I'm wasting away hating my life.

My heart and prayers go out to all the Brain Injury Survivors and their spouses on this page and I want to encourage all of you with my story!  My husband and I were married for 19 months when we had our tragic car accident.  We were on our way to Disney World in Florida and never made it out of our state due to the van hydroplaning on a curvy highway.  There was 5 of us in the car which included myself, my husband, our 14 month old son, our 7 year old daughter, and my mother-in-law who died at the scene of the accident.  We all were injured but my husband sustained the worst of all which was a severe brain injury!  As many of you have stated there are major changes that take place which takes a heart of steel and a mindset of forgiveness, grace and mercy at all times!  Well to add to my incredible testimony we have 5 children, the two oldest being my step-children but I don't consider them step, they are mine as well.  We have three children together and 2 years after the accident I found out our first son is diagnosed with Autism/Sensory Integration. Two years after that our second son in diagnosed with Autism/Sensory Integration. Our daughter has been tested because she too showed signs on the emotional end but highly intellectual!  I have been a homeschool mom for 8 years now and between my husbands uniqueness and my children uniqueness, God has given me strength to keep my "Joy" through the extremely challenging circumstances I have lived with for years now.  As of this September 7, 2016 we will reach 19 years of marriage with only 19 months of him being able body!  For those of you struggling with the changes in personality the brain is no match for God's power through the Word!  Faith has been a strong foundation of our marriage, as well as reading books, laughing, and listening to CD's that penetrate all of their minds to help them understand the pain involved on both ends of the spectrum.  Inspirational music also penetrates the soul but I know everyone has to find what works best for them.  Support groups are also good even if the survivor doesn't want to go I would advise the caregiver to go because you can receive valuable information and friendships with those who can relate.  I thank God everyday for His love and now instead of complaining I thank Him for my family and ask Him to take all of our pain.... and use it for His Glory!!!  I am now trying to birth a Special Needs Art and Social Ministry at my church and my husband and I went through training to become Brain Injury Peer Visitors Support for the Hospital in our area!  For us as caregivers, the most important thing is for us to get a break to rejuvenate in all areas.  I am still looking to do this myself and will probably start a non-profit group to help all caregivers who are suffering in their brains as well as it is just as traumatic for us because of the responsibilities.  May God Bless all of you and may you find purpose in this pain!  

Favor-full of Blessings,

Kimberly Brown (k-g-brown@att.net)

Thank you so much for this positive post. Living with tbi enables one to feel for others and become a better person. A positive approach to tbi will make society a better place. Investing in road safety can help too. Best wishes to you.

My husband had a TBI a little over 5 yrs. ago. We have been married 21 years. He was in the hospital for 6 months. I never knew if he would recover or if he would be able to be home. He eventually came home & went through so many different therapist. Im happy he is doing better but at the same time I never been so miserable. Like so many others have said "I'm living with a stranger." His personality is so different & he just sits on the couch all day watching tv. He never has any incentive to do anything but watch TV & eat. He will go with me to do grocery shopping but never suggests what we should buy or eat or what to do. He is verbally abusive & when I try to confront him about things he says to people that is embarrassing & rude he acts like he doesn't do anything wrong & gets furious with me. I can never have a decent conversation with him. He can hurt my feelings & he acts like he's mr. wonderful. I know he can't help having a brain injury but I feel depressed & guilty that at my age I'm insecure in the relationship & don't feel like I'm in love anymore with him. I feel totally helpless.

To the woman who's husband can have conversations with others but not her without fighting: I am a wife and the TBI and also seem to have conversations with others just fine and yet argue with my husband terrifically. I don't understand exactly what is happening, although I know it's usually that I am severely overstimulated and looking to him to help me vs to be a spouse for me. He has given me sound proof headphones which helps and I try to have a brain break before heading about his day so that I'm fresh for his and my relationship time. Also I find driving helps us as I sit in the passenger seat and can listen to him without taking in all the nonverbal information when sitting face to face. Maybe things like that could help you and your husband. Also I asked my husband to ask me questions to help me think like: do you think you need a brain break? Is this store environment overstimulating you? Do you need to go shut our light and sound for sheiks and then listen to me talk about my day? Things like this seem to help us. I hope that helps. Hang in there, he loves you and needs you and it will get better. Brain breaks are key! Also has he looked into yoked prism glasses and vision therapy? It's been the ONLY things after 4-5 years that has started my husband telling me he sees his wife coming back. Something called the MIT device or 'fixation' has been a huge success with me and you might look into it with your vision therapy Doctor. Good luck and find things that aren't stimulating that you can do together. Best! ~JK=)

My husband had a TBI in 2010. He is rude. Can't handle crowds or traffic. He is ocd about everything. Physically he is fine. They did surgery on the left frontal lobe. He is so impatient and everything that happens is my fault in his eyes. He is controlling and verbally abusive. As long as his daily routine goes uninterrupted life is fine. He can't have a normal conversation with me without yelling..but he can manage to work with others without yelling. I have felt bad because I want to leave and I know he can't help the state he is in.. But he believes he is fine and says I am the one with the problem... Help me ..to make him see he needs help

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