If you ask Jason or I, we won’t lie to you, our relationship took a hit with the brain injury. Our roles changed, not just with me working out of the house and him being home on disability, but even our roles towards each other. I became very much like a parent, checking his daily schedule, reminding him of his tasks. The things we celebrated in that first year of marriage included his being accepted to Toronto Rehab and long term disability being approved, not necessarily things that newlyweds think they’ll be cheering for. The fact that Jason loved me through all of that, and never seemed to resent my bossy role is a testament to what a good and patient man he is. We were told early on we had a 90% chance of being separated by one year into the brain injury, and a 70% chance of divorcing from then on out.
Statistics like that are scary, and fortunately act as a great motivator for Jason and I. In the beginning we had to focus on recovery and surviving, and I don’t regret a minute of it. But now, as we seem to settle into more of a day to day routine we’ve decided to change things up. Over the last few months we’ve been trying to prioritize regaining our feelings of husband and wife, rather than roommates, or patient and caregiver. We literally find ourselves having to choose to be married every day rather than fall into other relationship dynamics. Romance for us is more about choosing to try in small ways, than some fancy dinner or big gesture.
And so we had to come up with a brain friendly way to love each other. Most of our strategies come down to clear communication. If the idea that your spouse should mind read fails in a regular relationship, it will definitely leave you disappointed when brain injury is a factor. There’s just no energy left for trying to sort out coded words or meanings. And so we make lists and read books and add our relationship into the schedule (actually, this is just what we are trying to do, we are by no means masters at this!).
Our love list: Hanging on our wall in our bedroom is a chart. This chart has 5 things we can each do to take care of ourselves (different for each of us, mine includes things like pray, go to the beach, for Jason it’s watch a movie or go for a walk with Willow). Below that is 5 things we can each do to love the other person. Again, different, mine involve things like kiss me hello, ask about my day; his include specific words of appreciation and kind reminders of our schedule. It’s not romantic in the traditional sense of the word I suppose, but I feel overwhelmed with gratitude whenever I know that Jason has taken the time to remind himself of the list and make an effort for me.
We also started the Bethke’s 31 day challenge and when that was too overwhelming decided we would stretch it out over a series of weeks with 3 love challenges a week. And I have to tell you, when Jason chooses to use some of his energy to show me love it lights me up. Again, these are actions we schedule into our week on Sunday so that we can plan and conserve energy as needed.
Some other reading about relationships and TBI: http://www.darlingmagazine.org/do-we-need-new-love-songs/