Starting or Nourishing Romantic Relationships After Brain Injury

Question: 

Could a person with TBI start and have a healthy romantic relationship? My friend/boyfriend (who has a TBI) can go from bringing me flowers and telling me he loves me to other times thanking me for dinner like I’m just any friend of the family.

Answer: 

The answer to this question is — yes. Following brain injury, individuals can — and do — start and maintain healthy, loving, committed relationships. In fact, in studies investigating the stability of romantic relationships after brain injury, results have shown couples have less of a likelihood of separating than do couples in the general population¹,². However, this answer also comes with an asterisk.

In order for people with a TBI to maintain healthy, loving, romantic relationships, they will need support, encouragement, and understanding from their partner. While this sounds like a recipe for the success of any romantic relationship, there are specific ways in which people with brain injury will need to be supported. There are also commitments the people with brain injury will need to make to themselves, their partner, and the relationship, in order to sustain relational happiness and security over the long term.

The partners of people who has a TBI must first educate themselves about how brain injury impacts an individual. In addition to the frequently cited TBI challenges related to thinking such as memory, attention and concentration, and problem-solving, individuals with brain injury often experience changes in behavioral, social, and emotional functioning. In a relationship, partners often read the emotional and social cues of their partner in order to gauge the stability of the relationship. However, after TBI, some disruption in emotions and challenges with communication are to be expected. People who understand brain injury can learn to interpret changes in their partner’s mood and their partner’s willingness to interact socially in new, more accurate ways. Education can also help partners not to personalize behaviors that may be more related to brain injury than a reaction to or reflection of the relationship.

In addition to building a knowledge base about common symptoms of TBI, partners can learn strategies for new ways to de-escalate an argument, identify early signs of their partner’s stress or anger, and share their own needs for emotional response or connection with their partner. Again, while these may be important skills for any romantic relationship, the way in which a partner de-escalates an argument when their spouse has a TBI will be different from the approach used by couples where brain injury is not a concern. Reading information written for caregivers, attending family member support groups, and meeting with a therapist who has familiarity with brain injury are all solid ways to build an effective skill set.

Of course, maintenance of a healthy relationship always requires the dedication of both partners. People with brain injury can improve the likelihood that their relationship will succeed by attending therapy focused on emotional regulation and compensatory strategy development. Additionally, by focusing on building communication skills, asking for help, and focusing on the positive, survivors can enhance the emotional connection they have with their partner.

Finally, when a couple enters into a relationship after one person has had a brain injury, they may want to consider taking a proactive stance by attending counseling with a couples’ therapist who is familiar with TBI. Both emotional and physical intimacy can be impacted by brain injury. Couples counseling can assist both partners in developing strategies and coping skills that can enhance the intimate connection both individuals feel with one another.

Posted on BrainLine April 12, 2013. Reviewed July 26, 2018.

Emilie Godwin

Emilie Godwin, PhD, LPC, MFT is a faculty member and licensed clinician at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a specialty focus on couples and family counseling after brain injury. Currently, she serves as the Family Support Program Coordinator for the VCU TBI Model System projects.

Comments (85)

This is an eye-opening realization for me. I've had a TBI since 1990, when I was 15. Many of my gfs have told me that I wasn't happy with them, but I was happy with them. In 28 years my zero affect has set in more, I guess. I was smiling, but looked in the mirror and saw that I looked annoyed. What can I do?

My boyfriend and I have been together for six months. He recently was in a car accident and diagnosed with severe TBI. I guess my question is will he remember me when he wakes up? Will we be able to have the relationship we once did? Will he know that we loved each other and were in a relationship. We lived together and I love him very much. I just feel so lost and have never been in theis situation before.

April 26, 2009 my TBI occurred I was with the same girl since February 08 my relationship with that individual did not work out not saying that yours won’t but I changed as a person apparently she says I’m not the same she doesn’t know who I am anymore and I’m the reason relationship Didn’t work out I hope that’s not the case in your situation if you haven’t left him and you truly love him stand by him when I open my eyes after a 3 1/2 week coma and saw her standing there I remembered who she was I never forgot her I couldn’t speak but I knew who she was I hope he remembers you but it’s gonna take a lot of work for you and him to continue your relationship but if you love him you will make it through it

I am a TBI survivor so this is where I’m speaking from.
He may or may not remember you. Depending on the injury. He may remember things different as they were.. he may not remember anything.. or just pockets in his life (this is me). Due to injury of the brain he will probably be different in many ways. For example I was always very organized etc.. when I had my injury I couldn’t cook, talk properly, I relearned my daily routines, relearned to shower etc. Everything takes such a long time and understanding! If u can get counseling it would be best. For you and for your bf as well as for together when he can handle it. (But u should get it soon!). Hope that helps

I was dating my boyfriend for six months and we fell madly in love and moved in together. He recently had a car accident and was diagnosed with severe TBI. I guess my question is what happens if he doesn't remember me? Will he eventually remember me? Can we get back something of what we had? I'm just so lost and dont know how to support him through this.

The man I have been dating suffered a TBI over 5 years ago. We have been together 3 years. So much of what has been written is true, except the missing piece is lack of emotion. My boyfriend can function, has a job, drives, and suffers the common short term memory loss, brain fatigue, and the lost feeling. But it is the lack of emotion that has torn us apart. He no longer can feel. Whether happy or sad, the actual feeling can not be felt inside of him. He has told me he loves me, but that is from knowing what love felt like prior to his injury. His feelings are dead. He no longer has the zeal for life, and basically goes through the motions. I have tried, but this past Sunday I asked him to move out because I felt more like a roommate then someone wanted and loved. It is very sad, because, he will move on and exist, but never really live, and we had a wonderful first year together, but year after year he continues to spiral into a world where being alone is his real comfort.

My boyfriend of 5 years was injured in a blast force in Iraq in 2007. We have gone through it ALL and come out of it until we had a baby.  My son is now eight months old and because my boyfriend doesn’t know how to express any emotions, doesn’t talk to me, acknowledge him, and sleeps a lot or studies, we recently stopped our living arrangements.

It’s very hard. I understand and feel for you! I get through it by not taking his actions (mostly lack of actions) personally. I’ve learned that even though they may shut down, they're still capable of getting help. People treat us the way we allow them to. Not to sound crude, but his TBI is not a blanket excuse to allow ourselves to put up with someone who doesn’t put in the work. They will get help when they’re ready. Until then, I’ll love him from afar while doing what’s best for our child and me. He also rarely leaves our home, personal hygiene has decreased and he feels better when he’s alone and we’re not living together.

It’s heartbreaking and you’re not alone! My unsolicited advice: Lead by example and move forward with your life. Being productive and content with our lives will encourage them to do the same if they want to continue the relationship. Best of wishes!

Hello,
My wife and I have been married for 10 years, we have 4 children. Just over 2 years ago we were in a car accident. She suffered a concussion that was missed by everyone in the medical system. This turned into PCS and mTBI. She has a lot of symptoms when she doesn't get her brain rest. I didn't understand it at first but i have done a lot of reading and research. I relied heavily on the medical system, which was a mistake. She has brain fog, hemidystonia (hands), tinnitus, eye problems, walking problems, balance problems, memory problems, neural fatigue, neuropathic pain in arms and legs, neck problems, muscle problems and so much more. It is heartbreaking watching her go through this. We have recently found a NUCCA trained functional neurologist who has been helping in so many ways. In the last few months she has been talking about the new person that she is. I understand that the injury has changed her, i am very supportive. She has told me a few times recently......"i don't want to be here with her family (referring to the wife/mom before the accident), these are her kids not mine. She started this family life, i don't want it".....
She goes on about leaving sometimes. I know and understand that this is injury talking but it doesn't hurt me any less to hear these words come from my wife.

Has anyone had to deal with this? Does it get better? I don't know what i would do if she left us.

Thank you.

Hello,
Speaking from having a spouse with TBI whom l live with 24/7 and also have became the main and only caretaker ❤ we are 2 & 1/2 years in and its been rocky and it feels like its gotten worse but in reality my spouse has healed and recovered drastically in that and can in my opinion make a full recovery to a Level 10 based of the TBI Levels 0 - 10 the only problem is the hardship of dealing with the emotional side of what goes on towards me because of my spouses TBI limitations and be patient and not personalize thei actions towards me to re-teach my spouse almost like I have to love and re-parent my spouse from infant to adulthood to re-connect my spouse dots so my spouse can re-learn EVERY thing again and have that knowledge again in my spouses own head. Its hard, tiring and draining mentally, emotionally and spiritually when I have no support. I educated myself a lot about TBI to understand it and get strategies. It does get better if you put the work in to help your spouse get better and progress because this injury takes away their ability to help themselves and their ability to know any better since they literally don't know anything.

My spouse is a survivor of TBI and has been healing for 8 years now and now WE recovering and overcoming the limitation and effects of TBI together their: the most powerful first love to show and re-teach emotions, honesty to re-teach morals, kindness to re-teach compassion, patience to re-teach listening, compassion to re-teach empathy, understanding to re-teach thinking of others, respect for one another to re-teach standards and the most influential knowledge to help and guide us on the right path AND faith to re-learn core beliefs of right and wrong we together begun reading the bible to re-teach FAITH AND BELIEF again! It's a burden to carry this load especially alone but it does have the great gift once a TBI SURVIVOR recovers and they do recover in time up to 10 years depending on the encouragement around, support and willingness!!

Help it gives you some light to an almost hopeless situation because their is hope and love around you guy's!!

Hi, not sure if you'll see this, but it's worth a shot. I'm someone who is currently recovering from a TBI and it sounds like I've gone through a lot of what your wife is experiencing. I'm at the point where things are looking up, but it's a long bumpy road to getting there. Is your wife seeing a neuropsychologist as well as the neurologist? I don't know how much they overlap.What about using anti-depressants? I was on Prozac for a while and it really helped me, though I initially was wary of it. Diet can be important as well. Working with a traditional chiropractor in addition to NUCCA can help too. Something also that could really, really help is vision therapy, if you can find someone near you. As I said, it's a long road and I still go through mood swings, but they get fewer and farther between as I have started to adjust, heal, and accept what has happened. Wish you all the best.

Has any had success in finding an online Post Concussion Syndrome spouse support group?

Is it healthy for relationships to allow your significant other to freely use their cell phone for hours? With TBI, the format is easier to communicate

If anybody else does this beside my wife who was ODed on topomax- I give her room/ she needs it, it's different. It feels insulting to be unwanted

Cell phones?

My fiance has TBI. Sometimes out of nowhere he cusses me and hurts me (mentally) How do I handle this

Run for the hills. Not worth it.

I know this sounds crazy but he doesn't mean it. He is frustrated because either things did not go the way he wanted. or he knows he was able to do that task before and can't now. I suffer from a TBI from 1989 I was 19 years old. I get mad at a drop of the hat. I am 48 years old and things have changed for me but it took a long time. Be patient just know you are a good person and it's not your fault and it's not his. The TBI changed him and there is no going back.

I am rn for a pt, tbi. He tells me to go home...frustrated. He used to really smile and be happy when i was there. Stress? Cant deal w it!
Just sad... what to do...

Talk it through with him almost child like since its is a hard pill to swallow for a TBI person to realize they have to be somewhat raised again in an adult form its humiliating, embarrassing, and scary because of the vulnerabilities they realize people can take advantage of.

I have had a severe tbi, and with it I was diagnosed with something called PBA (pseudo bulbar syndrome). We can have damage done to the centers of the brain that control emotions and reactions. Talk to him about the issue. If this isn't the man he was before or isn't a part of him, talk to a doctor. It is most likely part of the brain injury. They have medicines to help, as they helped me very much.

I have been dating someone for 3 months who had a accident 13 years ago.
The first month was loving and spontaneous and he would show lots of affection.
But for the last two months he rarely shows any affection or instigates physical contact.
Jbhbe spoken to him about this and he said that he did not even realise.
I honestly thought that something was wrong with me and it's made me feel very self conscious.

I have been in a 6 month relationship with a man that had a Subarachnoid hemorrhage 3 years ago. He told me how it effected his memory and gave him bouts of E.D. I honestly thought the E.D. might be the biggest issue (and I really wasn't that concerned if it was) but to me that isn't even a problem (to him it is a reminder of what he lost) because it rarely happens. His emotional swings and memory issues are the biggest issues. He was cheated on by his ex wife (prior to the stoke) and has major trust issues. I have always been an independent person and he takes my independence (or what appears as of lack of need to him) as me having someone else in my life. No matter what I say or do it turns into an argument that ends up becoming escalated and confusing. Things I said are either not remembered at all and I am "cold" because I ignored his feelings or if they are remembered then the whole conversation is twisted and not at all received correctly. I get frustrated trying to explain because it seems no matter how I try to carefully phrase things to be honest yet as positive as possible it is rarely received as either. If I tell him that he doesn't remember something I said he gets angry and accuses me of picking on him for his memory issues. I feel like I am spinning my wheels. Finding this blog has definitely helped me "feel" better but I still don't know how I should handle things differently. I was seriously considering never telling him the truth about how I am really feeling and putting on a happy face all the time....even if I don't feel that way. I am not sure I can do that, but is that what is required to keep the peace? I've been searching online for a support group. How do I find one?

Hi Julie,
If you want to talk I'm going through the same thing. I looked a little bit for an online support group but didn't find the right one.

Hi Julie,

I am in a very similar situation. I have been with my boyfriend nearly a year. He is wonderful and can be very loving in a way I have never experienced before, but he is very inconsistent and can be rather cold and distant at times with mood swings and burts of anger that are usually - in my opinion - due to some sort of misunderstanding. His short term memory is terrible and even with me constantly reminding him of things he drops the ball on a lot of different promises. I have been very frustrated that he cannot remember basic things like my work schedule which is the same every week. He still doesn't know the date of my birthday. He knows the month but can't seem to remember the day which is the 1st. He is chronically late usually by 3 or more hours and sometimes - though rarely - doesn't even show up whether its something he planned with me, a friend, or a family member - nobody gets any special treatment. We all see his tardiness as a lack of consideration for our time, but its very confusing because to know him one realizes that he truly has a heart of gold and he seems to mean what he says and intends to do as he says - he just can't keep track of the time and genuinely does not realize how much time has passed. If he promised to do something 3 weeks ago but still hasn't followed through when i bring it up he swears its only been a few days until i show him a calendar and then he becomes angry at himself. I have had such a hard time understanding this until I finally began putting together the pieces. He is an incredibly intelligent man and very creative, but he cannot hold a job and I'm beginning to realize - at least for the time being - he cannot take care of himself independently. He is also very impulsive and makes poor choices when it comes to money. He cannot plan ahead or manage the mundane tasks of life effectively. What's been bothering me a lot lately is the complete lack of sex. The entire relationship we have had very little sex, but it was somewhat regular for the first month or two perhaps but suddenly he "lost his sex drive" entirely and at this point its been about 7 months...I have had such a hard time not taking this personally and its such a delicate subject to being up because he feels poorly about it as the issue is physiological - ED and of this I am sure. I think that was an issue in the beginning as well but because it had been a while and it was all new and exciting that gave him some extra steam for a bit. What concerns me in his case is that his TBI happened when he was a baby...he was dropped on his head on cement and it actually happened two times. That was over 30 years ago. I didn't think much of it when he first told me, but lately I began to wonder if there could be something going on in his brain to account for his frustrating behaviors and talking with my own therapist he believes his symptoms sound like brain malfunction. Talking with my boyfriend's family I have also learned that he struggled in school due to severe difficulty reading and he needed a school plan to accommodate this. He has always had difficulty with organization when though his parents tried so hard to get him to keep his room straight - they eventually gave up. He is on the verge of what one would consider hoarding behavior. Reading remains a challenge for him yet interestingly he is very good with words and has an excellent vocabulary bank, however, often times - almost always - he does not speak clearly - I have to have him respeat himself very often (at this point I'm much better at understanding his speech than anyone else though). His family gets frustrated with him and assumes he is just lazy and mumbling, but now I'm beginning to think this is a much deeper issue. Occasionally, usually if he is very tired, he will slur and that is VERY difficult - nearly impossible - to understand. Because he does have a history of drug abuse on top of it all (but he has been clean a while now) his family accuses him of using again if they catch him slurring. At first I was concerned of the same, but because we now spend so much time together I know that is not the case. I have been crying all morning with the realization that my love most likely has brain damage and has been living misunderstood his entire life and it breaks my heart that nobody in his family thought about this over all these years. He is 34 and essentially hasn't left home because he can't take care of himself and would end up living on the streets. Everyone blames him of being lazy and unmotivated, but I'm seeing it very differently now. Reading about TBI and hearing other people's experiences with it has been immensely helpful and reassuring. It is much harder for me to be upset knowing this. Did you ever find a support group?

Hi .I so am in same position. However some people with acute brain injury. Play .on certain things.I have found this .with my partner.he is also alcoholic.and abuses his meds. He uses his brain injury .to push me away and be verbally abusive. He holds his do called mates in higher esteem to me. I have put my life on hold for him.I do everything. Washing cleaning. Driving. Cooking.and hold a job down( nursing).yesterday he proposed to me.and was lovely. Today.he's drinking. And its all gone out the window..of course I know the triggers.But.I feel I have lost.him..in the abyss of his elf consumed brain injury. He won't help himself..His bad influence so called mates. He taxes.and phones them..Then.I'm forgotten..I work hard to keep body and soul together. I am not going .to come second. To his.so called. Bad influence mates.He says I'm first. But I don't feel it.when yesterday I was going to get engaged .ThenToday.I'm bottom of the shit heap..Its beyond all exasperation. And frustration. But he knows.what's right and wrong..And quite frankly.I'm over it.I can't.take much more.I told him to leave I'm so .hurt.and.tired out with.my being pushed aside like an old sock..I am mental health nurse.and know.about.acute brain injury. Yet.this is. Beyond all my comprehension.As I know.it will just flare again. In another couple of weeks.I have to throw the towel .in for my. Own sanity. And live my life .with someone who respects.me.And this .is not. Going to be easy. For me.as I love him dearly.yet.May be this is necessary. For him to realise.what he's lost.But.having had a break. six months ago for same thing..I warned him.if he.screws up again. I can't take it. It will be over.As I honestly.have had enough..I guess I have had the Realization. That. If someone is permantly broken..And refuses the help. That's been given.And keeps repeating same.old patterns. In the relationship. And puts his friends above me.Then.He needs to. Be alone.I'm angry and hurt.but.want Respect..He threatens suicide.if I leave him.or ask him to leave. Its..like living .on a hamsters.wheel.mental health.and his phycologist.have told him.to Respect me.And his family But. He takes no notice. Its all been a waste of my time and energy.I'm not wasting any more.I hope people read this.And Realise.that The partners.families. etc.Are going through there own hell.Its a shame.but you never hear of support for people..like us. Who are on the receiving.side.of it all.Respect.and love.is what every body deserves.But.they say to get Respect you have to demand it.Well I've.certainly had to demand it.Yo the point of not knowing..which way to turn.he wraps mental health proffesionals round. His finger.I can see right through his strategies.And I have turned myself inside out.cried.to the point. Where I have no more. Tears now..I just. Carryon with life. I'm done with.it all..Good luck.to everyone.supporting a partner.etc with brain injury.because your. Sure as hell going to need lots of it..my patience and Luck ran out.

These posts break my heart. I fell down the steps when I was 20 (12 years ago) and was in the hospital for a month with a severe TBI. I show no physical evidence and am treated as such in society and by family/friends.

Internally I am sometimes on top of the world, cocky, arrogant, just crushing life and feel great. And within minutes can be hiding under the covers for months, scared of my next thought. I relate to a lot of the comments above and feel disgusted at the way I have treated people. I've done my best attempting to get help, and fall off track often. The struggle to find help again gives me so much anxiety that I usually don't get very far.

Regarding Steve's comment from Feb 2018:
Your post broke my heart. I don't have a TBI myself, but have fallen in love with someone who was in a wreck 17 yrs ago (age 20). I have two things to share:
1) I have bipolar disorder and your mood swings and anxiety sound very much like your own. Perhaps you could get a psychiatric consultation about these emotions and inability to get out in the world-class is Soo similar to the way people with bipolar experience life. Just because you have had
A TBI does not mean counseling andl/or medication couldn't help you heal your heart. That's my own personal opinion, of course. I did just end a 25yr career working with disabled people. Two years ago I suffered cns damage due to a medication/kidney problem. Now I realize the changes in my brain and lifestyle aren't very different from the people like you who I have met.
2) have you found another source of support? I understand what it feels like to be So Lonely and sad about your life. You're not alone! Me, my boyfriend, and others have suffered, too.
(Sorry this is so long..I just wanted to help a little).

This site is helping me so much. I am reading things that sound just like my situation, when I thought it was just me.

Dating a man with a TBI he suffered 20 years ago. We are just at 5 months now. He was charming, a dream come true. This all lasted for about 3 months. He told me about the injury at the beginningbut said other than some short term memory issues, there was nothing to really know. He wanted to plan a future with me. He joined me at several Christmas invites. It was so wonderful. All of a sudden, he changed. I didn't understand. Looking at it now, I think I overwhelmed him and I had no idea I was doing it. He even has accused me of controlling him at Christmas ... but I invited him and he said yes to all of it ... but now he will say things like I was trying to control him.

He has wanted to break up a couple of times, but then was texing the next day that he loved me. The last two months have been a rollercoaster. We will spend some time together and it's wonderful... two days later, he gets frustrated out of the blue and says he wants to break up. Says he is'nt fit to have a relationship - Will even block me from his phone. Then a few days later, be back telling me he loves me. He is in really dark place. I'm trying to get him to concentrate on our friendship. we love each other but I am learning a lot from this.

Thank you so much to all of you who are posting, those with TBIs, you are making this easier to understand. I want to understand. I am starting to think that he maybe is afraid that I will see a side that I won't love so he is in this mood. I know most of it has nothing to do with me but it's so confusing sometimes.
Will I ever get that wonderful man I loved so much at the beginning back, even for a while?

Having TBI is difficult, I've been bailed on cuz of it. You're with someone you love and things are going great but they don't want to put in the effort to understand and walk away for a downgrade in everyone's eyes. It's gotten to the point that I'm not meant to be with anyone, females don't want to put in the effort in my experiences

I have recently met a guy that I can say have fell in love with very much. He has a TBI and I agree he is the most loving and caring person .He has issues where he thinks i am hiding men and cheating on him while he is in my home. We have broken up a few times now and he will do the same by blaming me for everything, will block me and then tell me he loves me and wants to work things out with me. Our 2nd breakup I realized he had a TBI and felt awful , because I definitely did not handle our arguments appropriately or to even know how to say I am not lying or cheating. We currently are broken up again and is the same issue of cheating and dishonesty and I am currently blocked. I have told him I would be there for him through all of this and I want to be with him forever. I want to learn how I can help him feel happy again because he makes me happy

My husband had an accident 7 years ago and now left with TBI. Although very difficult to live with him but I managed to stay strong and stand tall be proud for 7 years. Not easy, very challenging, lots tears and sacrifices but have to do it for the sake of my children (we have 2 beautiful smart children). The hardest bit is to make our children understand the situation. Whenever he had mood swings, shouted with temper kids will be scare and upset. Things that I never wanted to see. The only thing made me giving up but also the main reason I am staying.

I have never been apart of online support. I love my partner very much. He has both PTSD and TBI. We have been together over a year and currently live with one another. I haven't thought one time of leaving him but have been having a hard time supporting myself alongside him through the hard times. I constantly reassure him im here when hes ready to let me be. Sometimes i talk to him and he doesnt say a word back. He wont look at me, he wont speak to me. I feel like im a burden to him instead of a support system. He has opened up to be a few times in the past about his injury and allowed me to have his back. This time its different, and has almost been a month since this has all been going on. My son is noticing a difference in his whole demeanor as well and takes it personal, like hes done something wrong...Do you have any advice for me??

My husband suffered a TBI in 2008. He was successful physician which after the accident his license was taken away. Our lives have been turned upside down. He was in a day program for 16 months. Learning how to speak, write and walk correctly. Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday that this all happened. We have good days and we have bad days. And the days that are bad I just have to keep telling myself that this day will pass and hopefully tomorrow will be better. My husband and I have written a book that is called “The Real Deal”. We wrote this book hoping it would help one person. When my husband’s accident happened I searched for books to read. I was so afraid of the future and so was he. There was not many books out that I thought could help me. This book shows you a lot about what a brain injury survivor goes through and also the caregiver. I hope somebody reading this will find some part of the missing puzzle in the book. It is available on Amazon.

I am 1.5yrs into my relationship with a man with a TBI. He was hit by a car in 2015. I found this site in a desperate attempt to find others who go through the experiences of having a partner with TBI. I feel broken. I get very confused with my partner and some of the things he says. He will often contradict himself and his temper is dreadful. He often uses the wrong words for the context. I feel very suffocated in my relationship. I often walk on eggshells, in an attempt to avoid his anger bursts. I don't feel like I can feel any normal human emotional with him because he blows it out of proportion and it ends up being about him. Our entire life is based around dealing with his TBI. We have 5 children between us. I am the provider and then I organize the house etc. I get so tired overseeing everything. Today he told me that nothing he does is good enough and that I keep asking for more and more. I've come to learn that as a partner of someone with a TBI it is so important to do things in life that make you happy. Your TBI partner generally hates who they have turned into and the last thing they want is to see you restricting your life in order to align with their limitations. A TBI partner cannot give you the normal relationship life. They are simply unable to. Being with a TBI survivor means temper bursts, unstable emotions, contradicting their words, fatigue, inability to participate in some physical activity. If you are going to stay with a TBI survivor, you do need something for yourself. You need to have something that rejuvenates you. There will be an emotional gap with a TBI. It's not that they don't love you. They are brain damaged and their altered emotional state and often poor ability to communicate can cloud what that looks like. It's hard. It's so hard.

The comment under "Anonymous replied on Wed, 02/07/2018 " was very heartwarming and can provide hope for lonely TBI survivors.

I am a 31 y/o Army combat veteran who fell about 40 feet seven years ago, sustaining a significant & totally life changing TBI. After the coma, there were extremely frustrating years of therapy learning how to walk, read, reason and perform basic independent living functions again. It was torture needing help having to ask a stranger which bathroom said "Men" after leading men in combat for years.

Although my girlfriend was by my side for the first year of my post TBI life, she eventually got tired and bored, so she left. In the years since then, all of my relationships have ended like clockwork after about 3 months.

I don't mean to always be tired; I don't want to have to cancel dates; I hate that I get headaches which overwhelm & suppress my libido; I'm sorry I forget your friend's name; I'm sorry I can no longer "act normal".

I've given up on the chance that I'd ever find someone who would love me enough to see beyond my difficulties and just appreciate the loyalty, humor, passion, and love I have to offer. It feels like either contemporary singles are too fickle to prioritize the heart... or perhaps by not being capable of offer a "normal" relationship, I forfeit my right to be loved.

I don't know, but reading these posts shows me that it is possible that someone may at least want to try one day. Thanks to all you women & men who have tried. And sorry for writing a Novela here, but this is my first time sharing in any forum where I feel like someone might be able to understand. The world doesn't feel so suffocating right now.

Don't give up. But also, just do the things you enjoy and find a way to appreciate what you do have, no matter what happens. I hope she's out there for you.

I was so sad to read how much you are struggling in your relationship. I would just caution about making generalizations about all persons with TBI

I have been living with a TBI survivor for just over a year. She has thus far moved out three times because of disagreements and she uses moving out as a weapon because she knows how much I love her and how it will hurt me. She just presently moved out three days ago, took what furniture was hers, etc. I am at a loss here and am frazed. I love her and want to be with her as I think she does with me. Another thing she does is manipulate a disagreement to make it seem like I am the bad guy and never sees her actions as causing the argument. She also has very explosive anger issues and is very controlling but she turns it around as if I am the controlling one. She's also very antagonistic and has absolutely no empathy when it comes to my feeling. I am at a loss here. I don't know if its even worth continuing in a relationship any longer with her. I feel there's absolutely no stability in her actions. One minute she lives here, a few weeks later she leaves and repeats the cycle... She also goes from hot to cold in that she's so in love with me to then breaking up.

Hi Terence
I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through, but also a bit assured that I am not alone. I met an amazing woman who suffers from and abi after a mva. Initially, she was loving and would say how much she loved me and many other things. However, her decision making needed assistance and just two days ago, she had a massive arguement with me out of the blue. Called me names and said I was controlling, manipulative and have traumatised her. I can honestly say, I have never tried to control her (or any of the other things) ... I love her so much that I want to protect her. She appears incapable of empathising with my point of view. Or having a rational conversation in those abi moments.It’s really difficult. Unfortunately, she has left me after proclaiming her love, discussing having children and moving in together just days ago. She has made limited contact and made it known that she is drinking and partying. Absolutely heartbroken and have no idea what to do. She won’t listen to any explanations stating ‘if you don’t know what you’ve done, then I’m not going to tell you’.
I wish you all the best with your partner.

Same exact situation here with my American boyfriend who also has a TBI. I love him so much that I can't just give up even though I do get often.

I'm so glad you posted this. I just came across this thread today and am sitting at my desk at work trying not to cry. I knew my husband was in an accident many years ago, I knew what happened, but I did not realize it was classified as a TBI. I never researched his injury, did not know that his unexplained behaviors, (most likely) cheating, lying, temper, strange stories, unable to hold a job, hatred for me at times, etc was not because of me. I left an abusive marriage and fell right back into another. I love him dearly when things are good, but never understood what happened when they are not. It's way too much to type and probably things I'm not ready to share. Does anyone know if there is a support number to call?

I met my boyfriend in 2016. He was my Prince Charming - successful, handsome, smart, funny, educated, RICH and with a wild side. I was the happiest woman on earth. I was sure he would be my husband one day. 5 weeks after our relationship started he suffered a car accident and got a TBI. I did not understand anything about TBI's, thought he would be better after a week or 2.

It is now 15 months later and he is still as bad (if not worse) than the first week. He has nausea, dizziness, headaches, irritability, loss of motivation, fatigue, negativity, ALWAYS wants to be alone. He became a different man. Despite this, I (have been trying to) stay with him because I know the real him is in there somewhere. It's so confusing because one minute he is planning his life with me and the next he is acting like I do not even know him. The biggest problem is that he does not think, admit or talk about how this has impacted our relationship. He claims that he is the same person he always was, that he just has headaches and can't handle loud places/sounds.

It is extremely difficult to talk to him about how I feel because he makes me feel guilty. Like my feelings of sadness, disappointment, frustration should not matter because HE IS THE ONE going through the pain, NOT me.

Can someone please tell me if this gets better? I don't know if I can take much more.

He needs peace, quiet, lots of sleep, and help from a neurologist. He might improve, but he'll never be the same.

I m reading all the comments but I can’t find someone who share a good treatment .. anyone knows a good place to treat a brain injury with success?

Thanks for the article
Been with my bf a year this Halloween and I know he has his brain problems. He used to play rugby and has had around 14 concussions. He is 36 and works 17 hour days and never gets rest. We are an amazing couple and I love this man. When he triggers it’s bad. Work triggers him immensely and sometimes I do
I can say something wrong one day or we have an disagreement and he will take it out of perspective and flip and say I don’t love him. He will say he’s not good enough etc and make it sound like our relationship is bad
The next day we always talk and he cries and holds me and says he can’t live without me and he’s sorry his brain is whack. It is scary even he says he’s scared he will be like these nfl players and kill someone or him self.hes an amazing man. He is hardworking and loves me. This past Thursday I could sense it and he did start drinking after his 17 hour day and we did fight over something I had said. I kept on fighting and I tried stopping but he was in his head and it gets to yours too. The next day after this fight which was 2 days ago we did talk and we r fine now. I’m learning as a partner to not keep fighting after he says mean things and it’s hard. I’m a crazy Italian and I spout out the mouth. I have gotten so much better. I love him and I’m trying to be there and let him know that I am here for him. It’s tough and he gets insecure and he even had suicidal thoughts And it’s happened every argument we have when he triggers. We have had probably six bad arguments when he’s having a bad day with is mind. Sorry I’m rambling I don’t really talk to anyone about this. We r great and it’s a learning process and I know it’s probably going to get worse as well but I’m trying and I’m by his side.
Sorry a long comment and scattered. But I don’t talk to anyone about this and this helped

All i can say is I thought I was the only one. This chain is helpful in validating and articulating an experience that words fail to convey. I married a man two months ago after a short courtship who has TBI. He masked the level of his impairments until after we were married. And then he also misrepresented his battle with alcohol having said he was in active recovery. After married he began drinking and the anger and emotional imbalance has been a living hell. Yet, something inside me presses on and there is a neuroscience treatment center that has programs that help people with brain injuries in every way possible - addiction, behavioral stabilization (I call it jekyl and hide syndrome). We are waiting to hear if he will be admitted and praying to get through each day at a time. I have hope. I can't imagine what he is going through. But it's very hard on caregivers. There are support groups for people with TBI and for families of those with a loved one who has it. I encourage everyone here to keep supporting each other. I felt alone but I am seeing that it's not all me.

I'm dating my BF of almost one year. In 2002 he received a TBI. We started dating in August of 2016. I had no idea how TBI was 24/7.Living with someone who has TBI can be so unpredictable. One minute he planning a future, the next he thinks we shouldn't be together bc he thinks I'll eventually leave him anyway. His ex wife cheated on him so now he has these thoughts that I'm going to do the same thing. He says he can't get those thoughts out of his head. He says he loves me one day nd then the next he says its too hard to be in a relationship, then the next day it's fine. We moved in together about 4 months ago. Does a person with TBI need more time to be alone? He blames himself & what happened to him as reason to not continue on those days. He says "I'm a loner-I was meant to be alone". Yet this man pursued me for a while until I went out with him. It started out so great. I feel like he was trying to hide a lot of what is going on inside him. I told him I only want to help him. He thinks I'll get sick of him. It's like he wants to give up bc he doesn't want to get hurt again. I just started researching about TBI. He seems so happy and energetic one day & the next he contradicts a lot of what he said the day before. Do I give him more space? Do I keep letting him that I do love him & I'll stand by him? I would never hurt him. Help. I really feel in my heart we make a great team. Can I help him get over those obsessive thoughts?

Your relationship sounds a lot like mine. It's so frustrating. I feel helpless but can't give up on him. He gets ideas in his head that aren't real and can't seem to let them go. He says mean things to me until I have to walk away. I was previously in an emotionally abusive relationship and find it very hard to not feel like I m putting myself through another one. I read about TBI when I feel like I can't take it anymore. That's why I'm on here tonight. It's good to know that we are not the only ones suffering.

It's been 4yrs ago since severe TBI and he says he can't show me affection. He is afraid I'm going to leave him. He says he is living in the past where all his ex-wives have left and comparing me to them. He says emotional abuse is not as bad as physical.

I'm lost want my loving husband back.

My husband and I have been married for over 21 years and he is a completely different person after severe side effects from predisone and having a siezure while getting off of that medicine. He is not the same man. Something is missing. I feel like I have lost my husband. There are ridiculous arguments every single day. He's military and now getting out. All of this happened in September and he is finally getting a referral for TBI evaluation. I've been begging people to help. No one is listening to me. He argues that nothing is different and I'm the enemy.

Lisa, I can't put myself in your shoes but I can fit into your friend/boyfriends shoes. I suffered a TBI while in Europe in 2008. Its been nearly 10 years and I function just like your friend. My wife has been WONDERFUL, why she has stayed with me, I'll never know. She never knows what tomorrow will bring. Your friend needs you now more than ever before. Good luck and hang in there.

I am only just coming to the realization after 3 failed relationships that it is not possible to have a supportive relationship with TBI. TBI is worse than a life sentence. It ruins everything good. It's too hard for AB people to understand the need for rest and sleep and to live with the constraints that we have to to be able to function, survive and work. I'm tired of having to apologize for being punched in the head multiple times during domestic violence. Life for me ended on that day. This is worse than being dead. It's like being tortured slowly daily knowing you will always have to be alone.

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