Ever since his TBI, my husband is sometimes a little inappropriate with his jokes and conversations. I can tell others feel embarrassed. And frankly, I'm embarrassed, too. How do I deal with this, especially with the added pressure of holiday gatherings?
The holidays can definitely come with more stress and more social challenges. As you probably know, when the part of the brain that controls a person's ability to self-monitor and inhibit inappropriate behavior is damaged, it can lead to difficulty managing social interactions. Your husband may also lack the ability to use feedback, such as reading other people’s facial expressions.
Rehearsing or role playing before attending a party or holiday gathering can be helpful. Practice some cueing strategies to use if your husband starts to say or do something that could become embarrassing to you or others. For example, you could use a gesture such as a raised palm to alert him to stop.
It also helps to discuss, well in advance, what your expectations are and act out a scene you might encounter. For example, New Year’s Eve parties can be fun, but they usually include alcohol and the expectation of a midnight kiss. You may want to rehearse your husband’s response if he’s offered a cocktail — "No, thank you. Since I was injured, I’m using medications that don't mix with alcohol." As for the midnight kiss, explaining and rehearsing proper etiquette before the party will help, especially since other party guests may be jovially hugging and kissing others. Unless he fully realizes that it is customary to kiss and be kissed "like a friend" on New Year's Eve, he may take offense. Rehearsal and reminders during the evening will hopefully lead to a Happy New Year.
Carolyn Rocchio is a nationally recognized advocate, author, and speaker in the field of brain injury. Her expertise in brain injury developed as a result of a 1982 auto crash in which her son sustained a severe traumatic brain injury.