9 Jun

How to navigate changing relationships

Relationships are so important as they make us feel supported, connected and loved. In this article we’ll talk about how a brain injury may impact the different relationships in someone’s life and how to navigate these interpersonal connections after recovery. Understanding these new dynamics can help anyone living with a brain injury and their carer feel more informed to retain, reconnect, and build stronger relationships.


After an injury, family roles can change. Returning to work may not be an option in the short or long term, it depends on the job and the extent and nature of someone’s injury. When jobs are lost finances can become a significant worry and roles within a household can shift.
A brain injury may have impacted or limited physical and cognitive function resulting in changes to your emotional, behavioural and mental state. This can make it difficult for family members to understand why you’re reacting differently to what you might have done before your injury. Adapting to these changes can be difficult, but it is possible and it’s worth working on as relationships are a significant positive factor in your recovery and happiness in life.


During recovery it’s common for the partner of the person with a brain injury to take on extra responsibilities. They may become the sole wage earner, take over all chores in the household, make most of the important decisions as well as support their partner with their injury in whatever way they need. As a couple the financial situation can change due to the increase in medical bills and loss of income.

Changes the sexual elements of your relationship can also occur creating further distance between people. Maintaining a relationship through these aspects can be challenging. It’s helps to focus on communication and making time to learn and adapt to each other.


A child may have to come to terms with why their parent has changed so dramatically after coming home from hospital. They’ll want to understand why their parent needs care, walks or talks differently, doesn’t remember things and may get easily upset or confused. They might find it hard to understand what is happening to and why things are different, particularly as brain injury is an invisible disability so their parent may look the same as before the injury. Many families report relationships can become strained between children and their parent post brain injury.


Those living with a brain injury will often say that during recovery you’ll find out who your real friends are. It can be hurtful when friends disappear at a time when you need them most. It’s common for people who have spent a long time in hospital to feel that they have missed out on a lot of experiences with their friends and that they now have trouble relating to them and sharing their interests.

Strategies to overcome these changes

  • A brain injury changes your ability to communicate, problem solve and empathise and see another person’s point of view. So, it’s easy to see how this can make things trickier in relationships for both the person with brain injury and the other party.
  • Try techniques to promote communication like waiting for someone to finish talking before responding, avoiding blaming and labelling and look for ways to positively speak about the other person.
  • If you’re approaching big problems try and break them into smaller ones, think of all solutions before solving them and work with the other person (not step in and solve the problem for them).
  • Make sure you prioritise quality time together by finding enjoyable activities you can still take part in together to share your interests and find new ones together.