How Relationships Are Affected by a TBI & How to Overcome the Obstacles


Maintaining a relationship after traumatic brain injury can be challenging at times. These insider tips can help.

Among the numerous life changes after a traumatic brain injury (TBI), close relationships are affected in a variety of ways due to:

  • Modifications in responsibilities
  • Adjustments in relationship roles
  • Problems with communicating
  • Handling emotions and mood swings

Getting used to these changes often results in feelings of uncertainty in the relationship, which can create additional stress, anxiety, and frustration.


Since the traumatic brain injury survivor must concentrate on recovery, many everyday tasks are transferred to the person’s partner. The partner also is required to provide assistance with managing the survivor’s recovery while maintaining his or her own everyday obligations, which can lead to ignoring self-care and personal interests.

Additionally, the TBI survivor could be searching for more attention, which can lead to feelings of frustration and sadness on both sides. Recognizing that these are normal emotions following a traumatic brain injury and maintaining open lines of communication with each other can help.


Oftentimes, after a traumatic brain injury, relationship roles are reversed. The partner might be making decisions that the TBI survivor used to make, like financial or child care decisions. The survivor may then disagree with the partner’s choices, which can create more stress and irritability.

Establish a better comprehension of each other’s new roles through:

  • Modifying your viewpoint to observe things through the other person’s eyes
  • Serving as a mentor/consultant for each other in the new responsibilities, as opposed to being critical


Following a TBI, relationships can be challenged due to a lack of communication, due to a fear that asking questions or communicating feelings might bring misconceptions.

Less communication can lead to:

  • Feelings of separation or disconnectedness
  • Pent up emotions
  • Problems getting used to a new normal

To promote open and honest communication:

  • Refrain from talking about difficult subjects when the other person feels aggravated or irritated.
  • If discussing a sensitive issue, make sure there is adequate time available for the discussion.
  • Arrange for an entertaining date with each other such as watching a movie on TV, playing a game, eating at a favorite restaurant or taking a walk to reduce tension.
  • For particularly sensitive topics, try writing a letter to your partner, conveying your position and feelings.
  • Devote time to simply talking, to get to know each other again.


Frequent emotional changes for a TBI survivor include problems with controlling anger, diminished empathy, mood swings and depression. It’s important for partners to understand that these emotional obstacles are a reflection of the injury, not the relationship.

Approaches to help include:

  • Having a dialogue about what makes the survivor sad, worried or angry.
  • Understanding when mood changes happen in order to help find out why they occur.
  • Remaining patient, but setting firm boundaries that threats, insults or hurting others is not ok.

Understand that there may be grief and disappointment involved with missing the “pre-injury” person. But, with a combination of education, support and understanding, it is possible to maintain healthy, loving relationships. It’s just as important to accept care support to allow each other more time to focus on the relationship separate from care needs.

Contact Advanced Home Health Care online by clicking here or call us at 800.791.7785 to learn more about our specialized care services for those with TBI from our highly skilled Keokuk, IA home care team. To learn more about all of the areas we serve across the state of Iowa, please visit our Service Area page.

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