Emotional Mis-communication Changes Relationships after Brain Injury

Emotions alter Relationships after Brain Injury

By Dawn Neumann, Ph.D.

TBI changes communication in a marriage

The woman in my office was clearly a very successful woman, who for the most part, usually had it together.  But now it appeared she could fall apart at any second. She was there to talk to me about her husband who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She told me that since the accident, he had made terrific strides learning to walk again, improving his balance, and regaining most of his thinking skills.

Hold onto hope.Despite these monumental improvements, there was still a terrific strain in their relationship.  She no longer felt “connected” with her husband. The wife was frustrated and perplexed. Prior to the injury, which was just months before they were married, he was an extremely compassionate person always in tune to her emotions. Now he was oblivious to her needs.  He never comforted her in times of sadness or worry. He was unresponsive to her frustrations.  He never participated in her joys, not even when their first child was born. Was this because he didn’t care?  Most people would assume so, but as you read on, you will see that this is because he just couldn’t tell how she was feeling.

Brain injury can affect relationships with everyone

We all know relationships can be very challenging. This does not just refer to relationships with spouses, but relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and even acquaintances. Add a brain injury into the mix, and these relationships can become even more stressed. In fact, relationship problems are one of the most frequently reported long-term and devastating consequences after brain injury. They often cause families who have been touched by a brain injury to become fairly isolated and have dwindling support networks.

In the last decade or so, researchers have slowly started to realize the impact of social challenges on an individual’s quality of life and well-being. Scientists are trying to understand the different sources of relationship problems after brain injury and figure out ways to address them.

What changes after a brain injury?

Why does it become more difficult for many persons with brain injury to develop and maintain relationships? Well, a lot of things change, but an area that researchers are very interested in now is emotion. This is not simply referring to people who have trouble controlling their emotions, which often makes social interactions uncomfortable. It’s much more complicated than that.

Reading and responding to needs and emotions of other people

What is the key to good relationships and social interactions? How well we interact depends a lot on being able to read and respond to other people’s needs and emotions, while effectively communicating our own. Let’s review why this is trickier than it sounds.

For the most part, people don’t always tell us what they need or how they are feeling. Instead, this information is subtly expressed through facial expressions (for example, knitted eyebrows), tone of voice, or body language. Believe it or not, recent studies show that as many as fifty percent of people with a brain injury have a harder time correctly “reading” other people’s needs and emotions. They may not pick up on these subtle cues or inferences, and only pay attention to the words that the person actually says – which is only half the picture.

Missing or mistaking emotions

Research has shown us that after a brain injury, people may tend to see no emotion when there is one, or mistake one emotion for another. Both errors have significant consequences. If a person sees no emotion when there actually is one, the person won’t respond to another person’s emotional need because it is not recognized. For example, if the person doesn’t realize that a spouse is sad or a boss is annoyed, there is no reason to offer comfort or to take action to solve the problem. If the person mistakes one emotion for another, such as assuming someone is angry when someone is actually sad, the interaction is more likely to be confrontational rather than supportive. This behavior would obviously be a problem.

Expressing too much emotion

It’s not only important to be able to read the emotions of others, but it’s also important that we accurately and appropriately express our emotions to others. After brain injury, we often see exaggerated expressions of anger or sadness. The pitfall with expressing these emotions is that this might not be what a person is actually feeling. People who express a lot of anger are often feeling other emotions, such as fear or sadness. However, they may act angry because they are not aware of their other emotions, or because they don’t know how to express or deal with their sadness or fear.

In cases where the person is feeling angry or sad, they may “take out” these emotions on people who were not responsible for causing these emotions. In instances when they are angry with the person they are interacting with, they may be verbally or physically aggressive because they may not be able to handle their emotions rationally and/or not know how to communicate these feelings in a calm way.

Language and cognitive problems can present an even greater challenge. Nonetheless, inappropriate expressions of anger are likely to receive an undesirable response, such as pushing people away or inflicting anger, when what is really needed is support and understanding.

Showing too little emotion

In contrast to those who are overly expressive with their emotions, there are people who show very little emotion after a brain injury. This will also be a problem for relationships and social interactions. When we talk with people, we try to get an idea of how they are feeling so that we know how to respond to them. If we can’t tell how they are feeling, it creates a lot of questions. Do they enjoy spending time with me? Does this person care about me or how I feel?  What do they think of me? When people are not emotionally expressive, social interactions can be confusing and unsatisfying.

Sharing emotions builds relationships

The bottom line is that relationships are built on emotional exchanges that result in shared emotional experiences and the understanding of one another’s feelings. We must tune into the emotions of others and make sure we are kindly expressing our own. These are skills that often become more challenging for individuals after brain injury. The good news is that it appears to be a skill that can improve with treatment.

References:

Radice-Neumann D, Zupan B, Babbage D, and Willer B (2007). Overview of impaired facial affect recognition in persons with traumatic brain injury.  Brain Injury: 21(8): 807–816.

Radice-Neumann D, Zupan B, Tomita M, Willer B (2009). Training emotional processing in persons with brain injury.  Journal of Head Trauma and Rehabilitation: 24(5):313–323.

 

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46 responses to “Emotional Mis-communication Changes Relationships after Brain Injury”

  1. Sarah says:

    My fiance fell off the staircase at our engagement party.

    After that he had a severe concussion but went back to normal health. His only lingering symptoms for the next few months were a lot of tiredness and some snapping (he was previously very happy tempered)

    Over the next few months he developed severe depression, flat affect, mood swings, verbal outburst of rage (always at me), total loss of logic, negative attitude to everything, loss of all empathy and he then told me he didn’t love me anymore and wanted to go and live on his own. A lot of this was the opposite completely of the kind and gentle man he was.

    After that I tried to help him / see him (loved him so much) but he said he found it easier to be away from me and better on his own so he could think only of himself. He didn’t even miss me, it was out of sight out of mind.

    He lives a quiet life now alone, and it’s almost as if he forgot me after all our years together.

    I just wanted to share with people who would understand. Four years on and I am still heart broken and miss the person he was so much. I would do anything to speak to him.

    When he was ill, I think he knew something was really wrong with him. He said he got uncontrollable flashes of rage and he knew he didn’t hate me, and that he loved me but he couldn’t feel it. One time he cried and told me “I am in here somewhere”.

    All these years later, I would give anything just to get one hug from him.

  2. Dawn Neumann says:

    Just a comment to Nicole’s post May 7th. First, I want to thank you for sharing your story. It underscores the fact that TBI affects the entire family, not just the person who sustained the injury. From what I hear from others, it is not all that uncommon what your partner is going through. The brain injury may be making it hard for him to realize what he is even feeling at this point and/or causing him to have a hard time communicating to you what he truly needs and why. Three months post-injury is very early on and he still has a lot more healing and recovery to do. Improvements can be seen years and even decades after one’s injury.

  3. Nicole says:

    Hi guys,
    So I’ve been with my partner 6 years and he has sustained a tbi in January. Same story as most we were told he wouldn’t survive and he came out of the coma perfectly, apart from the behavioural issues, he came home and was great for the first 3 weeks, affectionate caring and just very tired. He said he had terrible thoughts and wouldn’t tell me what they were… After this time he decided to stay at his parents because he didn’t want to snap at myself or our children, doctors told him to avoid alcohol and he drinks maybe most days of the week. Since moving to his parents his attitude has changed and seems like out of sight out of mind. he asked for us to visit and we had a great few hours amd later that day he messaged and said he wants a break from the relationship. Can’t handle worrying about it he said. I lost it and said my opinion of drinking is changing him for the worst and he has no thought of us at all daily. A week ago he was always saying he loves me and two days ago he messaged me saying he is not in love with me anymore amd to leave him alone… last night o seen him at a family function and he absolutely ignores me and won’t even look at me or his children. It’s 3 months since tbi and only 5 weeks out of hospital and I wonder if he could be stick at this point or I’m just hoping he changes his mind! It is so hard after watching him on his death bed and now this seems such an unfair reality. I want my family together more than anything and o hope it’s just a irrational thought and he gets over this nastiness. So so sad
    Anyone else have these problems?

  4. Trish says:

    I had been involved with a guy for years, he had an aneurysm rupture. His family who never had anything to do with him all of a sudden became caring. He was 28. His family pushed me away, the one person who had always stood by him. He knew no difference, was literally brain washed. I reconnected with him on Facebook. His family involved 12 years ago is no longer there, however he lives with an aunt. I started dating him again, he was the love of my life, my soul mate. Everything was great we were going to move in together. He was at my apartment. I actually tapped him on the shoulder, he got angry, came downstairs like nothing ever happened. I asked him why he was angry at me. The next thing he is in a fit of rage, shaking his fist, telling me to take him back home(to aunts) or he would walk!! I tried talking to him, feel I should have not taken him home, we said nothing on the way. He said he loved me and always would but this was not going to work. Did not call me, this happened on Saturday. Monday night he called by accident. I told him I didn’t understand,, was told by the time I did, it would be to late. He never called me and told me 4 days later he was not “in love” with me. How can something like this change someone? He said he loved me and it’s like a light switch, all gone. I was devastated. His responses are so off track. I wondered if his family brain washed him again, fed him crap. When I saw him and he told me it would not work, he actually asked if I wanted a hand shake or hug and it was nice meeting me? Is this weird or what? I feel so bad for him, he will never be in a relationshi9p and sadly will always love him. has anyone else had anything like this happen?

  5. Wendy says:

    Thank you for having a place where someone can learn about TBI’s and how they affect relationships. I’m in a new relationship with a man who suffered a TBI as a child and he didn’t receive the proper medical care at the time of his injury. The injury happened over 30 years ago and caused him to develop certain psychic abilities and he actually has visions and dreams that come true ….and he can also read people’s thoughts and intentions. Before I admit I was somewhat skeptical , but we have been together for almost a year and have seen his predictions come to pass over and over again. He is a spiritual man and feels that this ability does come from God, but I know he finds it hard to deal with everyday and he tends to isolate himself from others. He also has the other symptoms of TBI in regard to being somewhat emotionally disconnected and has told me he does have problems processing emotions and it’s very difficult to sit down with him and discuss feelings . He can become easily frustrated and angry, and he gets depressed with suicidal ideations and has even asked me to put him out of his misery…..he says it’s so hard to see some of the messed up thoughts and attitudes that people have and that there isn’t any way for him to stop seeing and feeling things from others. We recently moved to a new city and he seems to like the change ….he grew up ina small town where everyone knows each other and has said that he likes the fact that our new friends don’t know his troubled past.and just accept him for who he is today without any judgement. I am trying to create a loving, supportive and encouraging environment, I try not to get my feelings hurt when he seems cold and distant because I do know that he loves me and it’s the injury that causes that disconnect and I just want to learn how to help him . Has anyone else experienced the psychic development following a TBI? Why does this happen to some people? Is there any kind of therapy that can help?

  6. Your post has been approved and the delay was due to illness among our staff – not any wish to ignore or discredit your feelings and experience.
    We do not share your email address with anyone so you can be assured that we respect your privacy.

  7. Talitha says:

    It’s DISGUSTING that you didn’t post my comments from yesterday. In fact, it’s failure to disclose. Maybe you’re adverse to ‘religious’ talk and mention of sexual dysfunction which is ALWAYS present with TBI….? To withhold this information is to do disservice to the people you imagine you are helping. This blog is worthless. Many of the people posting are experiencing sexual issues with their TBI partner but may be too embarrassed to report it. Also, if I get any more junk mail (I was NOT getting any before leaving my email address here) I will report this blog to the FCC and to Google. You have no right to submit my email address to ANYONE. This morning my inbox had 50 solicitations from everyone under the sun. Prior to posting here, I had no such problem.
    You’re a fraud. Take my email address out of the system you put it in. Thank you.

  8. Talitha Cumi says:

    The man I am with suffered severe head trauma and was in a coma for 2 months. That was over thirty years ago. When I met him, I had no idea about TBI or its after-effects.

    He told me he had neurological problems, that’s all. He rushed the relationship and has been needy and very suffocating, yet vacillates between commitment and abandonment. He tries to micro-manage my existence but sometimes makes an effort to accommodate my wishes. We fight often, and the next day he texts me lovey-dovey as if nothing has happened.

    I realized I have no skills in dealing with TBI so I researched it after he finally went for an MRI. The results blew me away. His cerebellum is in an advanced state of atrophy, and other issues are present with the rest of the brain. His voice is harsh, bizarre, and unintelligible over the phone, although I can now understand him perfectly in person.
    He has sexual aggression issues; he groped women in the past and now thinks he can grope me any time he likes because we are close. I found through research that this inappropriate sexual behavior is also TBI-related. He is sexually demanding and I can’t be a plastic Barbie Doll for him. After he is satisfied, I am not even there. He spaces out. He watches so many hours of TV and always has to have the TV or music going. He can’t stand the sound of silence.

    I admit I have reacted badly to him in ways that would only aggravate the problems we have. At the moment we are in a fight and he wants a divorce (we are common-law married). Spiritually he vacillates from praising the Lord to doubting Him. He was posting Scripture on Facebook every day; now he has stopped since our blow-out and hasn’t posted anything ( I got mad at him over something and pulled my photos from FB and the ‘married’ status…this started the tailspin of which I speak in the lines above.
    Sometimes I feel that some of his actions are designed to cause me physical harm, too long to explain. He has never hit me but has almost injured my arm and hand in the doorway, trying to push me out of the apartment.

    He seems psychopathic at times, and maybe WAS a psychopath before the injury. I have no way of knowing how he was at age 16 when he was injured; he is now 49. He either was a psychopath from birth, or the TBI symptoms present similarly to psychopathy. I will never know. He has asked me numerous times not to give up on him.
    He started the “I love you” stuff and pressured me for a response. We married because I was celibate for 10 years due to my Christian faith and could not fornicate. So we did a common-law ceremony because he pressured me for sex constantly. I do love him now, but feel that hope is scant. I don’t expect any answers from this blog. I am looking to God alone. That’s a tough one, right there; exercising faith when hope seems gone.

  9. Betsy Curtin says:

    This is brilliant! My 52 year old fiance was hit by a car at 10 years old and in a coma for a few weeks. Fast forward to our relationship now and this explains so much! Long story short, for the past 4 years I kept questioning why he said he loved me, but his actions said differently. I wear my heart on my sleeve and am super empathetic where he is the complete opposite. He never seems to know how to comfort unless I map it out for him. Now I know!!!! It isn’t me, it isn’t even his fault. He is incapable of of feeling, or supporting, or thinking before saying honest yet hurtful things. Thank you for making me see a new path in this relationship!

  10. Dawn Neumann says:

    Dear All,
    I am continually touched by the posts in response to this article. Knowing that this blog has been helpful to some of you makes my day and continues to inspire me. But I also hear some of challenges you describe and the distress that many of you continue to experience. I just wish there was so much more I could do to help. Emotions and relationships are complicated and unfortunately there is no magic solution. We still have so much more work to do in this area to better understand how to treat these complex needs and improving quality of life and relationships after brain injury. Just know that we are working on it and there is some evidence to suggest that people with brain injury can enhance their ability to recognize their own emotions and others’ emotions, and there is new research showing that a treatment program for couples after brain injury can improve relationship quality. Now we need to transition from research findings to practice implementation so that these new approaches start being practiced regularly. I wish you all the best and look forward to reading more comments. Thank you for sharing your experiences with others.

    Best,
    Dawn

  11. Robin says:

    I cannot begin to express my gratitude for this site. As a relative of someone with brain injury, it’s been very difficult to find information about the emotional impact on not just the survivor, but the people in that person’s life.

    In my case, it’s my stepmom who suffered a brain injury from a fall last year. Since then, it’s been the emotional changes that have been the most painful for us to cope with. It’s like her less desirable personality traits now present without warning and with no filters involved. Her hostility isn’t limited to personal interactions, either – she also bashes us (usually me) publicly on her facebook page. But she refuses to attend any kind of counseling; in her mind, she’s not the problem, after all.

    To make matters worse, she’s making it nearly impossible for almost anyone to see our father, who’s much older and in declining health.

    No one asks to have a brain injury and I feel sad for her and for anyone else that has experienced or been affected by one. I’ve come to understand that when she’s acting out it is the brain injury talking, and so I have been able to refrain from reacting in anger. But it still hurts, sometimes a lot. I do love and care about her, but I sometimes have to avoid interactions for my own wellbeing. To her, it’s just another example of how uncaring I am. Sigh …

    Again, I just want to say thanks to the author of this post, Dawn Neumann, Ph.D., and to all of the people who took time to share their experiences and insights. It’s been very helpful.

  12. Yvette Holden says:

    I just read your article it was very insightful. I was hospitalized for 5 months in ICU from a rare case of negative pressure Hydrocephalus. While it was not a brain injury it was a brain disorder I still suffered from short term memory loss. I thank God everyday that I survived but this has been a big strain on my marriage. There is not much out there for brain disorders. Thank you for shedding the light on some things I have had questions on.

  13. Thank you so much for writing. Unfortunately, our medical system is more trained to address the physical aspects of brain injury than the cognitive, social and emotional consequences. Yet it is these changes that have such a profound effect on one’s life and relationships. It is these invisible disabilities that can be so challenging throughout life. I especially like the positive strategies you have used to balance your life.

  14. Dave says:

    I had brain surgery in 1978 (I was 16) for a blood clot in my brain as the result of a fall where I hit my head. I was totally paralyzed as a result of the swelling and learned to talk and walk again. No one has ever told me about the resulting emotional and social damage that was done to my brain. I only had people help me with the physical results of my TBI. As soon as I could walk and talk again I was left to fend for myself. I walk with a limp. I wish that was the only lingering effect of my TBI.
    37 years later I still deal with not having a social filter, among other emotional issues. The anger I experience is real to me at the time. The things I say seem like the right things to say at the time I say them. But, of course they are not. And the anger is mostly only from my imagination. I am clear headed, emotionally stable, intelligent, spiritual and loving most of the time. Then again, sometimes I am a raving lunatic capable of saying and doing tragic, hurtful things to those I love most.
    I wish I could say there is a solution, a pill, or remedy that will fix me. Self knowledge doesn’t seem to help. Here is what I’ve found that helps….
    Meditation- I chant and or meditate almost daily
    Diet- I am vegan. I find that eating a ph balanced diet lessens mood swings
    I have someone I can talk to (besides my wife).- I tell someone else everything about me
    I experiment spiritually- I have been to the Amazon rain forest drinking Ayahuasca with a shaman. I participate in in different spiritual organizations (non religious) like the Blue Morpho Foundation
    I still Love (and let people love me)- even though at times I am not my real self I still love my wife and friends and family. This is the tricky part, because not everyone is capable of being around someone like me. I don’t think I’d stick around if my wife had said and done to me some of the things I’ve said and done to her. But love is a powerful tool to have in my arsenal. It keeps me going in the dark times.

    So if you love someone with a TBI, my heart goes out to you. Try to keep in mind your loved one is doing the best they can with the tools they have. Peace and Love to you!

  15. Amy says:

    My husband and I were in a horrific traffic accident four years ago and are both extremely fortunately to be alive. I had a 16 fractures, internal injuries, and a moderate TBI. He had fewer fractures and internal injuries, but a severe TBI that left him in a deep coma for nearly 3 weeks. Despite being given no chance of recovery, he woke up fluent in all 3 languages he spoke previously, had all the technical knowledge required for his engineering job, had near-photographic recollection of life pre-accident. He still has some minor issues with physical coordination, processing time, and short-term memory, but his cognitive function is excellent.

    Unfortunately, his frontal lobe took a huge hit and the lingering effects are putting a serious strain our relationship, which had been near-perfect for the 7 years we were together prior to the accident. His empathy and insight are not working very well, nor are impulse control and judgment, causing him to consistently misread people around him, jump to conclusions, and then get really upset over the (wrong) conclusion. He also lets his brain turn the conclusions into ‘stories’ that he gets really attached to….and then he looks for that particular fault in a person in future interactions. I’m also finding that once he’s upset, he becomes completely irrational for a while, despite placing a high value on rationality. To complicate matters even more, he’s acquired an impressive layman’s knowledge of psychology and basic neurobiology since the accident, and is excellent at analyzing human behavior from an academic perspective. The problem is that his damaged insight makes the academic knowledge virtually useless in interactions with real people, yet he’s absolutely convinced he’s right.

    The author’s description of the TBI survivor who couldn’t emotionally connect with his wife is exactly what I’m experiencing. I know, without a doubt, that my husband loves me as well as his brain allows him. When I say he has a lack of empathy, I don’t mean that he doesn’t care about me, our daughter, or others in his life: I mean that he is genuinely unable to identify with what others may be feeling or thinking. It feels like everything is all about him, and getting along has come to mean “go along with whatever he wants, regardless of the effect on me or anyone else”. He’ll only engage in conversations that are sufficiently interesting to him. He’ll only do things that are exactly what he wants to do, not realizing that you don’t play Sorry with a 6 year old because it’s the most fun game on the planet – you do it to interact with and bond with your kid. There’s no concept of “this is important to me because it’s important to you, and you’re important to me”. What our daughter or I need/want just doesn’t factor in.

    I know that in almost every relationship, there are times when one person needs to do more of the giving/supporting than the other. I feel like I’ve been doing almost 100% of the giving for the past 4 years, and not being supported or nurtured at all in return. It’s absolutely draining the life out of me. Before the accident, my husband was one of the kindest, most caring, compassionate, in-tune people I’d ever known. He was the calming force in my life. He was a completely equal partner and parent. I’d always been able to talk to him about everything and feel fully loved, supported, and understood – even if he didn’t necessarily agree. Now – I’m on my own. For a long time, I thought/hoped that with enough therapy these things could improve. I’m not so optimistic anymore.

    I wish my story had a happier ending. Maybe it does, and we just haven’t gotten there yet. But right now: Brain injuries suck.

  16. Heather Hensley says:

    This was very helpful. Thank you so much. Having a concussion makes you feel so alone.

  17. Sepi says:

    Hello . I am desperate to get some answers . Been happily married for 12 years and been with him for 18 Years. We have been in love up to 1.5 years ago when he had his aortic dissections, following with 4 small strokes..Strokes didn’t affect his motor skilles however after his surgery he started resenting me. Now, he says he loves me but he is no longer in love with me. We have been separated for a month. Please tell me if there is a way I can bring him back .. We have tried therapy but it hasn’t worked!

  18. Dear Jaxson,
    I am so sorry to hear that life has been so difficult and painful for you. Unfortunately, it is the “invisible” disabilities that are so hard for others to recognize and as a result many people struggle through their daily lives with little support, information or help. I strongly encourage you to consider attending a support group for persons with brain injury and there you will find others who will understand and recognize what you are going through and the challenges that you have faced. If you search the internet for the brain injury association or alliance in your state, you will find this information. Most states have a strong network of support groups through their state association.

  19. Jaxson says:

    I suffered a TBI in 1998. Three days later suffered one of many seizures. Since they were not grand malls I was diagnosed repeatedly as suffering numerous mental disorders. Eight years later I suffered a seizure in front of a neurologist, who thought it was a pseudo seizure since it was not a grand mall, I suffer partial and partial complex seizures, mood swings and cannot feel much for anyone or anything. I am ultra sensitive to lights, sounds, motion and smells. I seem to exist but not live, since I feel very little about most everything, or on the other hand over emotional about something of no consequence. It is very difficult as people see you and think you are “normal” I cannot not do any of the things I did before the accident. ( MVA ) I feel like I am half of a person and clearly this will never change, it has been a very long time. Maybe if the doctors would have taken my symptoms for something other than a mental disorder things would be different. The abuse from the medical profession runs rampant especially if you are a woman. It has ruined my life and relationships. The man I was married to told me after the accident it would have been better if I had died. Part of me did die, I am sure others with this feel the same way. Who and what you were before are no more. How is anyone supposed to have “normal” relationships when one feels so little about everything?

  20. Dear Brianna,
    Thanks for posting – changes in emotions are very common after a brain injury. Sometimes people have difficulty emphasizing with others, sometimes they “shut down” and self-isolate, sometimes there are wild swings from euphoria to depression. But the most hopeful sign is that your friend is seeking counseling to understand himself better and to understand how the brain injury may be affecting his relationship with you.
    I wish you both the best as you seek understanding both of this needs and your relationship.
    You may find it helpful to contact the brain injury association in your state as most have support groups and conferences where you will find much in common with other individuals and their partners.

  21. Brianna says:

    I have been in a very close friendship with a man that suffered a TBI and nearly lost his life. We have become closer over the years but always have had a difficult relationship because he can never seem to be ready to commit to me. This man is perfect for me in every aspect other than the issues we have.

    Every time we get very close to a serious relationship he freaks out, he tells me he just can’t be with me the way I deserve right now. He says since he accident he has problems making commitments and suffers from a lack of emotions. He doesn’t feel excitement over things or real passionate feelings. This isn’t like other guys that can’t commit because he is an amazing guy (seriously, the best). We’ve spent hours discussing it and he just doesn’t seem to know why he can’t feel certain things. I have accused him of making up excuses and my friends can’t seem to understand why I stick around. I see it written all over his face when he is struggling.

    He recently began therapy to try to resolve some of his issues so he can hopefully have healthy relationships one day. We have a ridiculously close relationship for me to believe he is just dragging me along and I just truly believe that he has complications because of his injuries.

    Anyways, I know this was posted years ago, and I’m not sure if anyone will even read my comment, but I am SO happy to know there are other people out there dealing with a similar situation.

  22. Jamie says:

    Is it common for people who have experienced TBI to be completely emotionally unavailable? I have met the most amazing girl of my life around 1.5 years ago while working together. I transferred and she changed jobs so we drifted apart but stayed friends. Around 2 months ago we were talking to each other and found out that we had both been interested in one another for quite some time. We continued talking and decided to meet each other for our first date. So I flew to visit her and we met everything seemed the same at first but over the course of the weekend I noticed she is completely devoid of any type of affection, wouldn’t even let me hold her hand, open doors, anything. We were around each other quite a bit before and had several talks that lasted 5-6 hours so I’m not sure what to think and im really confused. I know that she suffered a TBI in the past and after it took her around a year to learn to read again. I really like this girl and can see myself with her for the rest of my life but I’m so confused now and not sure what to do or how to handle it. What I’ve wrote here doesn’t do justice to the lack of emotion/ affection that I observed. I don’t know how to put it but it was just like all the pieces were there but one.

  23. Dawn Neumann says:

    Hi Deb,
    Thank you for your post. I can’t begin to imagine the frustration that you are experiencing. I know your husband is not very convincing in his love for you, but I’m sure he loves you very much. From his comments that ‘he is broken’, it sounds as if he is hurting within and does not love himself very much right now – even it it doesn’t appear that way on the surface. Does he go to counseling to cope with the changes he’s experiencing? If not, he should. Maybe the two of you could go to counseling together if that’s feasible. If not, it’s hard to know what to recommend, as everyone’s situations are so unique. A couple ideas which may or may not work: 1) Talk with him and tell him how much you still love and want him. Tell him how much seeing him like this hurts you and you miss him. Leave him little affectionate notes to re-affirm your feelings for him; he needs to rebuild self-esteem – I think he feels unlovable. 2) Take it slow. Rather than snuggling or initiating sex, build intimacy through other small gestures – conversation, hand holding if he will; back rubs; doing something fun together- a date or a vacation. I wonder if he is experiencing any sensory problems at all – in such a way that he doesn’t feel sensory information the way he used to. It might not be a problem, but if it is, work slowly to build up his ability to process sensory information. 3) Try to initiate feelings in him by looking at old photos. 4) Tell him you want to work on strengthening your relationship and see if he will work with you to establish small goals (eg hand holding).

    Warm regards.
    Dawn

  24. deb says:

    It’s comforting to know that others are experiencing some of the same things as we are. You’re not the only one crying.

    My husband has had brain surgery and extensive radiation that has affected the hypothalamus as well as the frontal lobe. He had always been a very affectionate and playful person. After the radiation, he is non-emotional. He has NO desire for affection or intimacy and I have a real hard time with it. He says “I Love you” as if it’s a daily requirement like brushing his teeth. If I try to snuggle, I’ve been told that he needs to make a phone call or that if I want sex, he’s broken and why don’t I get a machine that could take care of my needs. Needless to say, I was devastated. He doesn’t always remember saying such things or he didn’t mean it that way. He thinks he’s broken for good and nothing will help. It’s my problem if I can’t accept him the way he is.

    We need help and the doctors don’t seem to have a clue or don’t want to deal with it. I’m at the end of my rope.

  25. Johne450 says:

    Hey very nice site!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds. Also I am happy to find a lot of useful info here in the post, we need work out more techniques in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . .

  26. Dawn Neumann says:

    In response to MYLYNN’s post:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I could only imagine that life was not always easy growing up in your house. BUT it does sound like you are a very strong family, and together you made it through. Everyone is affected differently by brain injury. It is possible that the situation impacted your brothers differently than you, but maybe not. There are so many variables that influence people’s relationships, so it is hard to really know what impact this had on your brothers and their marriages.

    You asked for resources regarding the effects on children that have been raised by parents with brain injury. I do not think much has been done in this line of research. However, I did come across a reputable resource (link below). I do not know if it will give you the answers to your questions, but it is a place to start. I wish you and your family the best.

    file:///C:/Users/dmneuman/Downloads/Parenting_Post-TBI.pdf

    Sincerely,
    Dawn

  27. Mylynn says:

    My dad had a frontal lobe injury when my mom was pregnant with me. I am 47. I hear about how laid back he was before his injury but this was not the man I grew up with. As a child, I learned to walk on eggshells and do my best not to upset my dad – he can be angry and unreasonable. As an adult and a parent myself, I know he loves me and that he does the best job he can given the life he was dealt. I will always wonder why long term psychological care or mood stabilizing medication was not a part of his life and how that might have changed the far reaching effects of his emotional instability. My parents are still married and raised me and my two older brothers. My dad returned to a professional career and has been a success in financially supporting his family. His ability to be an emotional support as a father and a husband is his greatest struggle. I feel defined by living with a dad that had a traumatic brain injury. I see the effects of this on my brothers and their relationships with spouses and children. I know it has to have a deep impact on me and don’t know that I fully understand that impact.

    I now have a daughter in college and she is in a serious relationship with a young man whose father suffered a temporal lobe head injury. My fear is that my daughter’s boyfriend will have difficulty being a loving and supportive spouse because of what I’ve seen my brothers go through in unsuccessful marriages and struggling relationships with their own children which are now grown. He is a decent young man but is not as patient with or as considerate of my daughter as I would like him to be which makes red flags go off in my head when my daughter brings up the possibility of marriage. I don’t want to unfairly judge this young man’s ability to be a good match for my daughter based on my past family experiences.

    I would welcome any thoughts or information or resources about understanding long term effects on children raised by parents with head injuries.

  28. Dawn Neumann says:

    To all who have commented on this blog, thank you so much for sharing. I learn so much from your experiences. Knowing what is important to survivors and their loved ones helps me to know where we need to continue focusing our efforts to best help people. My thoughts are with you all.

  29. Dear Angela,
    Thank you for sharing your story and your honesty in describing the challenges you face in your marriage and with your family. Few others can truly understand what this is like unless they are also caregivers.

  30. My husband had a brain tumor; he had three brain surgeries and it has been now 11 years. It continues to be a struggle for me because it affected him in so many ways. He lost most of his motor skills he had to learn how to eat and do basic things we take for granted on a daily basics. There has been little to no family support from either family. I feel like I have to carry this load by myself. I am now 50 yrs old now and I am so burnt out. We have a 17 year old son and he has been a god send; but it has taken it toll on him as well. He stated to me that it is harder now for him to see his father in this state. They have a close relationship.

    As for me I no longer feel I have a husband, I feel like I have a disabled room-mate. I cry , cry and pray. But I do feel that eventually I may have to leave the marriage because of the stress. It has caused me to shut down emotionally, spiritually, physically and there is NO sexual relationship at all. This is something I would not wish on any marriage. It takes all the LOVE and PATIENCE that you have and that only GOD can get you through.

    My prayers go out to all of you who are suffering with a brain injury and those of you who are supporters and caregivers to someone with a brain injury. God has blessed me to handle things this far, but how much can a person bear – even a dog gets tired. I am TIRED and STRESSED out. I also care for my disabled mother who recently suffered a STROKE in April. Seven siblings but no family support their either. My father is deceased. PRAY for Me!!!!Plus I work in mental health field which is stressful also!!!!!!I am not burn out!!I am burn Up11111

  31. Excelente Pagina de chicas. Estaba revisando constantemente este blog y estoy impresionado! la información es extremadamente útil . Yo estaba buscando esta información durante mucho tiempo. Gracias y buena suerte.

  32. Thank you for sharing your comments and experience. The support that you offer to others is important and only those who have walked in your shoes can truly understand. It takes courage to rebuild your life after a brain injury and to find new meaning after so many losses – I commend you for moving forward.

  33. Cecil says:

    I find comfort in reading about what others experience suffering with TBI but mostly seeing the compassion others show in their efforts dealing with a loved one with TBI. Sadly the understanding is just not there for many because the social difficulties we have are relentless. From previous friends, work associates, family members, children and future acquaintances will all be judgemental about how our injuries affect us. If they could feel like we do inside then and only then would they truly understand our misery. Daily meaningless tasks are at most times impossible to do. The variety of familiar symptoms can appear at any time but over time you recognize these symptoms as they have become a major part of your life. Part of my own personal healing process was accepting that all my meaningful relationships had vanished and being at peace in my heart knowing they will continue to elude me. I look normal. Websites like this one are the only way others will begin to understand those of us with TBI . I hope others keep writing on here to share their stories .

  34. kristine says:

    Very helpful..thank you

  35. Cheryl says:

    Over 15 years ago experienced a severe traumatic brain injury, relearned walking, talking, etc., met with a nueropsychiatrist for a couple years and thought 15 years later it would be easier, but it’s harder. My relationship of over 35 years with my partner is the only one that truely survives as she can look at my face and in an instant knows what I’m feeling. I cannot read her and often think she’s mad at me.

    In the last year have had multiple instances with family that I find I am expressing anger when what I am feeling is fear or sadness. I can say that at the time I am not aware of this and only in reflecting on the situation at least a day later do I realize this and still have not come up with a way to express that sadness or fear and am leaning to not interacting with people because they don’t deserve anger they aren’t willing to recognize as an emotional miscommunication from the TBI.

    There are days, after reflection even I do not like the person I am after the brain injury.

  36. jennifer chorn says:

    Reading this, it is all true. From the outside it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but living is totally different. My husband and I usually have a blow out 3 or 4 times a year. I try really hard to control my emotions, I get irritated at many little things because my energy is low. Leaving clothes on the floor, dishes in the sink, and he thinks I just bitch and complain and don’t appreciate all the extra things he does, like pay the bills, take the kids to school. Handle family issues with my husband and the kids etc. I do know and appreciate all he does.

    I wish I could still do all those things. When I get tired, he always asks if I am mad at him. I’m not, I’m just tired. It’s difficult to control your emotions when you have to use your brain and it’s damaged. If you don’t have a brain injury, it’s difficult to relate to. Your brain controls everything. It is not just a choice to get mad or upset, you have to be aware of it beforehand and scrutinize every reaction, gesture, etc. It bothers me and the other persons. It was all stuff you did before a brain injury without even thinking about it. I wish I had some easy answer…

  37. blue says:

    Yes, I got cut out becuase of his brain injury, he cannot cope with things, frustrated with things, emotions….I do feel sorry for him….as much as I would like to help, it seems all things I said is taken the opposite way; all wrong

  38. Thokozani says:

    Thank you for such information, my hubby got injured in July last year. He is recovering though I find it so hard to relate with him, this s a new thing to me, sometimes I would think he hates me, he is so emotional, sounds angry and he’s unappreciative, I don’t know if I am right or wrong , only its so difficult. However with God by my side I take it easy, when stressed I just go out to cool off, by myself.
    I also was to start a support group.
    Thank you

    Thokozani (South Africa)

  39. Kristen says:

    Thank you so much for the article! I have been interested in and spending a lot of time with a guy who had a major head injury in his mid 20’s. He is 42 now and has never been married. I love to spend time with him and he seems so into me when we are together but as soon as we are apart its as if he has forgotten about me. And I have been so patient but it seems he really isn’t interested. I saw him last night for the first tim in 7 weeks.. I have cried over trying to get over him.. let him know how much I liked him but he could never say the right thing or share any emotions or connection.. his best friend told me last night that he really likes me and I could see it in his eyes.. but here I am 24 hours later waiting for him to comment on a text I sent him saying how good it was to see him again.. I have cried some today and am really wrestling with being in a relationship where I initiate almost everything because he lost that skill in the accident. Is that ok since his lack of effort is not intentional? Can I accept his love for me just by his word but not by any follow up? Its really hard to walk away because he has so many great qualities and honestly it is his brokenness that I love so much and can relate to.. we have shared everything so openly.. like there were no filters or judgement..

  40. Jennifer Stokley says:

    Women, come to SSS (Semi-Support Sisterhood) and I may be able to help. I am a TBI Survivor, and it is all for women, by women, about women dealing with all this stuff. Been there, hope to one day have done that, lol

  41. Julia says:

    I find that i cry so much but realy do feel sad. I canot control the crying. of course, there is stress here at home and i have had the worst year of my life, losing my 34 year career, losing my good income, having a pregnant teen and losing my dad, all i the past 12 months. maybe i am normal and cring for true reasons. All i know is that i cry! maybe the tumor in the frontal lobe did it or maybe it is just life. who knows!

  42. Susan says:

    I am so glad I came across this story. I recently ended a relationship with someone who had suffered a brain injury in his childhood. During the relationship he would verbally express his love for me, but it was always hard to tell his true feelings because of his lack of emotion. He was not an expressive person and usually wore a serious look upon his face – often out of context with what was happening around him. As much as I truly cared for this man, it seemed he could not offer me the love and support I needed. I often felt unloved and out of touch with him. The human brain is so amazing and yet so complex. I have been searching for information relating to loss of emotions after an injury and found this story so helpful.

  43. Mr. kim kincaid says:

    In 2007, my right occipital lobe was removed due to an infection. I have estranged myself from the world, since.
    My former wife hates me. My 3 yr old son is being kept from me. I’ve just completed my autobiography. That project was a
    big help.

  44. Leslie says:

    Robert,
    .
    Short term memory loss is very common after a head injury.
    It will affect your daily life as you will not remember people you meet or things you see. I would make sure that the person you have a relationship with knows all about the head injury and your short term memory problem. It would be good if you could keep daily notes about what you did, met, went saw, etc… Laughter can also help out, don’t take things to seriously, get someone you trust to help you with appointments, bills, etc. Good Luck

  45. Robert says:

    I was wondering about how lose memory effects relationships. I had two serious head injuries in my life. Now I have been dating for 10 months but it feels like a month. Do I keep forgetting the momements and feelings month by month? I still feel like we just met. Messed up huh?

  46. What a brilliant blog on emotions after brain injury and its affect on relationships !

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