How do you save or preserve a marriage after one person’s had a brain injury? Is it still possible to have a good marriage?
Often people ask how to save or preserve marriage, or how to make it a good marriage, after a brain injury. When people first come in to marital counseling, for example, the wife will say something like, "He was the breadwinner in our family, he was confident, he was a patient, understanding husband. Now he can’t balance the checkbook and he’s angry at everyone. I just really don’t like to be with him; in fact, I really prefer to be with myself and to be with my friends than to be around my husband."
And then I have the husband say something like, "You treat me like a child, you tell me what to do, you’re always criticizing me. You used to trust me all the time, now you don’t trust me anymore." And I look at those two people and I feel very sad.
And I say to them with all honesty, "This accident wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault that the truck driver went through the red light and smashed into your car and made it difficult for you to work, to balance the checkbook, to be patient. It really wasn’t your fault. It would really, really make me sad if your marriage, this marriage that you’ve had for 10, 20, 30 years, was also a causality of that accident. It’s really not your fault. What happened is somebody else’s fault and we’ve got to do whatever we have to do to bring back those things that brought you together before to help you recognize those things again. Instead of your marriage being a causality of what happened, it would be wonderful if your marriage helped both of you be stronger and helped make your lives better."
Jeffrey Kreutzer, PhD a Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry at VCU. He serves as Director of Virginia's TBI Model System, a position he has held since 1987. He also coordinates VCU Health System outpatient services for families and persons with brain injury.