How Brain Injury Affects Marriage

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Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, PhD, ABPP, is the Rosa Schwarz Cifu Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Medical College of Virginia Campus. There, he is also a professor of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Dr. Kreutzer serves as Director of Virginia’s federally designated Traumatic Brain Injury Model System and coordinates VCU Health System outpatient services for families and persons with brain injury. For the last two decades, he has been active in implementing empirically based vocational rehabilitation, psychological support, cognitive rehabilitation, and family support programs. Dr. Kreutzer has co-authored nearly 150 peer-reviewed publications, most in the area of traumatic brain injury and rehabilitation. Co-Editor-in-Chief of the international journals Brain Injury and Neurorehabilitation, he has also published a dozen books focused on topics including vocational rehabilitation, community integration, behavior management, and cognitive rehabilitation. Currently, he serves as Editor-in-Chief of the soon to be published by Springer, New York, Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology.

Taryn M. Stejskal, PhD is a licensed marriage and family therapist and an Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training (ARRT) postdoctoral research fellow at Virginia Commonwealth Medical University (VCU) in the division of neuropsychology in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM& R). She received her masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) as well as her doctoral degree from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). At present, Dr. Stejskal is the family support and education coordinator at VCU. She conducts the Brain Injury Family Intervention (BIFI), funded by National Institute of Disabilities and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), a clinical research program designed to help families and couples gain necessary education, psychological support, and personal skills after brain injury. Dr. Stejskal trains clinicians to implement the BIFI and presents her work nationally as well as internationally. She has written numerous peer reviewed research and newsletter articles on the impact of brain injury on couple and family relationships. Dr. Stejskal is also a volunteer co-facilitator for the Brain Injury Association of Virginias (BIAV) family support group, and she is an executive board member of the Community Futures Foundation (CFF).

On April 24th, 2009, BrainLine had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Kreutzer and Dr. Stejskal to talk about their work with traumatic brain injury survivors and their families.

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Rob Dannebaum says:

I took care of my wife for 10 years out of 13 years together he had epilepsy with lots of strife she was finally a candidate for surgery on June 2nd 2020 she had her right front lobe removed well she hasn't had a seizure since then but she changed into this heartless fairytale telling malicious person I told the doctors about her anger / short temper they said it will adjust well she's filed 4 restrain orders against me said I kidnapped her and our 2 children for 2 years ,that I beaten her said I've made life threatening threats harrased her she doesn't allow my name to be brought up when my mother takes to the children my children can't say that they love me or miss me by the grace of my CREATOR I've proven myself innocent and the judge has denied the RO's but I'm ruined my reputation,threw me out closed our bank acc, I saw my children 12 times last year and the judge doesn't even care that she don't follow court orders there's no help out there for a loving father ,husband now she filled for divorce and full custody I dont know what to do and without an attorney it makes it worse

Anja Elias says:

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Mark Flatt says:

What I'd be interested in seeing is, how is the dynamic different when women are injured…though they are less frequently victims of TBI, new research from a group of neurologists at Stanford University suggests that the damage women suffer is more widespread. Its similar in that aspect to cardiopulmonary injury. While less frequent, far more damaging…and with more women going to college these days and driving to work I suspect we are going to see some changes in all of these dynamics over the next few decades. (I have PhD credits in Clinical Neuropsychology and am working on my Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and Neurology Nurse Practitioner.)

Abigail Martinez says:

My husband had a brain injury a few months ago, he use to be a jerk before his accident. Now we talk more we share more time together and he helps me with everything now

m gray says:

I having been the one with a tbi have went from being a romantic relationship for 10 years, now 10 years later that romantic relationship has changed to one of being of a friend, me being more caring and having maybe a better place just me trying to help out more at home and I think he gets frustrated and upset but understands what has gone on over the past 20 years

Joanne Nadeau says:

After 26 years of dealing with my husbands brain injury , it’s getting much worse lately and I’m at my wits end with despair and no help from family

Theresa Geiger says:

I'm never going to get better

James Williams says:

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tim johnson says:

40 years ago I had almost zero "help" after brain surgery. They wanted me to go on government aid and not work again. I got angry and it worked well because I had a good career and am getting ready to retire nicely. Therapists, psychologists, doctors and other medical so-called professionals were counterproductive profit seekers.

Adriana MacLennan says:

Ya my husband has no memory and it makes me crazy. We r five years post stroke and it’s still very hard

Akopian Atrebates says:

As a person with a brain injury I think sometimes couples stay together because the uninjured spouse feels like society would judge her badly for leaving and the brain injured can be financially dependent on the uninjured. I was married for 10 years before and have survived for 20 more years together. I feel sometimes that we stayed together for those reasons and for the kids. For my part, I simply cannot conceive of being with anybody else and what life would be like other than I would have no income or anything. Yet my wife has made it very clear that I am a burden to her, she is not romantically interested in me, and that she harbors many regrets. It has been this way for the last twenty years, more or less. But I loved my kids, I had hope for the future, I was somewhat high functioning still (enough to appear fine but fail enough in life activities to be maddening), and there were some nice times in there between us. Those were the exceptions. Anyway, though I think your message is sweet and hopeful, I think it would be useful to address some of the darker aspects of why a couple might stay together and how they should look at those societal and economic pressures. For they will almost inevitably come up, and I think it worthwhile to prepare viewers in advance with a means of taking them i to account, I have no idea of how to do so, but it would be refreshing to hear somebody discuss that topic.

Jason Stockman says:

I have 2 frontal lobe tbi's and my wife my friends and even my parents have abandon me – I would have rather died after the first accident

DD Bears36 says:

What about riding the D? So let's say your husband becomes a vegetable and you are horny and you ride him? Would that be considered rape or disturbing but yet you're married and if you're going to continue to be married wouldn't that be part of what couples still do? I would love my husband I would be there for my husband but I do have needs that need to be met especially my Peak is going to be hitting soon I can't just sit back and wipe someone's butt all day I'm with my I might have to put his ass in a nursing home because I don't know how long my body could handle that

GertyAndyDean says:

The comment about empathy is absolutely correct. I am married to someone with an anoxic brain injury and I need his empathy as much as he needs mine. We were married only 3 months before his cardiac arrest and brain injury.

Copperheid says:

I've not found a lot of information on couples affected by TBI that are unmarried and without children. My partner and I are only kids ourselves practically (he's 22 and I'm 19) and all I've seen so far are horrible people telling me that his accident has doomed our relationship. I refuse to believe that. What has your charity observed in young couples affected with TBI? I can imagine a lot of people especially in new relationships would run away, but we've been together quite a long time now and an engagement was not off the table for the near future prior to the accident. I don't know where we stand now as I've not been able to see him yet (despite it happening a month ago as the accident was in another country he was visiting) but he's projected to recover well and his personality doesn't seem changed. I'll continue to love him even if he has – I could never stop loving him. I'm just terrified that maybe his opinion of ME will have changed.

Tenn And Tenn, P.A. says:

Fascinating discussion on how brain injury affects marriage. I am especially intrigued by how the divorce rate of those marriages affected by brain injury is actually lower than the national norm. Of course, they also commented how many of those marriages may have been strong before the injury occurred. It still intriguing nonetheless.

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