Building Healthy Relationships

Service member hugging spouse.

Make your most important relationships even stronger. This new specialty consultation from Military OneSource helps you deepen relationships with family, friends and others through an education-based consultation.

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

Building Healthy Relationships offers coaching sessions, practical tools, resources and problem-solving techniques. This consultation is designed to be flexible and personable, and is available to you by phone or video.

Identify your goals and boost your relationships

Everyone can benefit from boosting a relationship or improving communication. Perhaps you’re a parent who wants to create a stronger bond with your child. Or maybe you’re looking for ways to develop your communication skills.

This consultation offers a variety of tracks that are customized to different relationship dynamics. Your consultant will help you identify the track or tracks that are right for you. The personalized coaching sessions, educational tools, resources and empowering skills will help you be at your best. Building Healthy Relationships consultation tracks are designed so that you can do them from the comfort of your home.

  • Strengthening the Couple Connection. This track focuses on providing educational resources, guidance on common issues couples can face being a part of the military culture and tools to support strong relationships. Consultations can include both or one partner.
  • Healthy Parent-Child Connections. This track allows the parent to work with a consultant to identify relationship goals, with parents receiving education and resources to enhance these vital relationships. It is also possible for children to attend sessions with their parent as appropriate.
  • Communication Refreshers. Communication can be one of the most important parts of a healthy relationship. This track offers individuals or couples educational webinars, inventories and services to improve the way they communicate with one another. This is an excellent path for those seeking to enhance communication with a spouse, colleague or family member.
  • Staying Connected While Away. Part of military life can come with deployment and separations due to military duty. With this track, a consultant can assist service members or adult loved ones with identifying goals and resources to assist with emotional coping and keeping connected with that family member during these times.
  • Reconnecting After Deployment. When service members return from deployment, a major shift can occur for the entire family. This track is tailored to the unique period of reintegration by assisting service members and/or family members with identifying goals and providing materials that can ease stress and shape resiliency.
  • Blended Family. Couples may encounter new family dynamics when partners have children from previous relationships. This track focuses on co-parenting as a way to build a solid leadership unit for the military family, accounting for unique experiences and dynamics. This is an excellent path for those couples who are trying to introduce civilian children to military life.
  • MilSpouse Toolkit. From education on military culture to navigating resources, this track is beneficial for new spouses who may feel disconnected from their family and want to identify a support system in their new community. This track focuses resources to assist new and current military spouses with adjustment to the military lifestyle, developing coping skills and resources for resiliency.

If one or more individuals do not speak English, your consultant can facilitate a three-way call for simultaneous language interpretation.

Start building healthy relationships

Since this consultation is available by both phone and video, you can get started anytime. Call 800-342-9647 or start a live chat to schedule an appointment with a Building Healthy Relationships consultant. OCONUS/International? View calling options.

Relationship Support for Military Couples

couple looks out over bay

When you are part of a military couple, you and your partner share the pride, benefits and challenges of service. Permanent change of station moves mean you get to experience new parts of the country and world. But these frequent moves can also bring stress. Deployments allow the service member to put their training into practice, but being far from home can be hard on a relationship.

Fortunately, couples counseling and many other free and confidential resources are available to help you and your partner build a relationship that can thrive amid these and other challenges.

Expert help for military couples

Free and confidential non-medical counseling and other programs provide professional support for military couples with relationship concerns.

  • Non-medical counseling. You and your partner don’t have to figure it out on your own. Talk to someone who understands military life and its unique challenges. Non-medical counselors are experienced professionals who are available through:
  • Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations. These consultations include coaching sessions, practical tools, resources and problem-solving techniques. Consultations are available as specific tracks that focus on the area of your relationship that needs attention. The tracks include:
    • Strengthening the Couple Connection. This track targets the common issues military couples face and provides tools to support a strong relationship.
    • Communication Refreshers. You and your partner will be given the resources to improve the way you communicate.
    • Staying Connected While Away. You and your partner will learn ways to stay close and cope with being apart during deployments and other separations.
    • Reconnecting After Deployment. This track is tailored to the period of reintegration after a deployment.

Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations are available by phone or video by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

Virtual resources for military couples

These free tools and resources are available to you and your partner 24/7, on your own schedule.

No relationship is perfect. But with attention and a commitment to one another, you and your partner can build a foundation strong enough to weather any challenge while providing you both with a source of happiness and fulfillment.

Strengthen Your Coping Skills With Building Healthy Relationships Specialty Consultations

Couple stand in airplane hanger

Current as of April 13, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has upended lives everywhere. Staying home and away from usual support systems can challenge even the strongest relationships.

If your family is feeling the strain, Military OneSource can help. Our Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations offer coaching sessions, practical tools, resources and problem-solving techniques.

Individual tracks are available by phone and video to improve connections with your children, your partner and others during these uncertain times.

Cope With Stress as a Couple

The COVID-19 pandemic can strain even the strongest relationship. Review our guide for ways to cope.

Specialty consultations for all of your important relationships

The Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations offer a variety of tracks that are customized to different relationships. When you call Military OneSource to arrange a specialty consultation, your consultant will help you identify the track — or tracks — that are right for you.

  • Strengthening the Couple Connection. This track includes personalized coaching sessions, educational resources, guidance and tools to support a stronger partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • Healthy Parent-Child Connections. You will work with a consultant to identify goals for your relationship with your child. Your consultant will also give you education and resources to enhance your bond. If appropriate, your child may attend sessions with you.
  • Communication Refreshers. Good communication is at the heart of healthy relationships. This track focuses on improving the way you communicate with others and is helpful for couples, as well. It offers educational webinars, inventories and services.
  • Staying Connected While Away. If you’re away from your partner or family during the pandemic, this track might be right for you. A consultant can help you identify goals and resources to help you cope emotionally and stay connected with your loved ones.
  • Blended Family. This track focuses on co-parenting when you and your partner have children from previous relationships. It may be especially helpful for those who are learning new family roles at the same time their children are feeling isolated due to school closures and other precautions.
  • MilSpouse Toolkit. If you are a new military spouse away from your family and support system, this track may help. It can help you adjust to the military lifestyle, develop coping skills and identify resources in your new community.
  • Reconnecting After Deployment. A major shift can occur for the entire family when a service member returns from deployment. Coming home amid the changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic may cause additional strain. This track can help you identify goals for this reintegration period. It also includes materials that can ease stress and boost your family’s resilience.

Healthy Relationships resources

Find information and tools to keep your relationship strong.

Call 800-342-9647 or start a live chat to schedule an appointment with a Building Healthy Relationships consultant. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Our understanding of COVID-19 is changing rapidly. Stay up to date by checking the Coronavirus Information for Our Military Community page for updates.

It is natural for all relationships to feel tested during an emergency or crisis. If your spouse or partner has made you feel unsafe or afraid, help is available through the Family Advocacy Program. Speak to a victim advocate to explore next steps, or call or chat with the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7, at 800-799-7233 or thehotline.org.

Reconnecting With Your Partner at Home

Couple connecting at home

A romantic getaway may seem like the perfect way to reconnect as a couple. But, that’s not always possible – and even if it were, it may not be the answer you’re both hoping for.

A more lasting solution is to look for opportunities to grow closer in your everyday interactions. Practice mutual respect, carve out time for one another, tune in more closely to each other’s needs. These and other simple ways to express love and affection for one another will strengthen your relationship.

Seeing each other’s side and managing your expectations

A first step toward reconnecting with your partner is to open up to each other and to be honest with yourself. As a couple, you can use these insights to forge a deeper connection based on mutual understanding. Here’s where to start:

  • Check your expectations against reality. Examine each other’s ideas of how your relationship should be. Where did those expectations come from? Are they realistic? Accept that no relationship is perfect all the time. Relationships also naturally change and evolve. The romance in its early stages may deepen into a reliable partnership that can be equally fulfilling, if not more. It may be time to update your expectations.
  • Stand in each other’s shoes. It can be truly eye-opening to hear each other’s perspective. It’s important in all relationships, but particularly for military couples when one partner is new to military life. For example, the demands of a service member’s job may make it impossible to have dinner together every night or talk on the phone whenever you want. By listening to each other’s needs and responsibilities, you will develop a greater awareness of and appreciation for each other. You may even be able to come up with creative ways to meet halfway, such as having breakfast together each morning or checking in during a scheduled break.
  • Avoid angrily criticizing each other. This will put each other on the defensive and shut down communication. Instead, name the specific action that bothers you and how it makes you feel. Then work together toward a solution that will work for both of you.

Ways to connect at home

No matter how busy you get, it’s essential that you and your partner make time for each other. Here are ideas for keeping your relationship fresh and meaningful.

  • Describe your perfect date together. Write down or tell each other in great detail what your ideal date would be like, right down to your outfits. Describe the setting, how you will get there and what you will do when you’re there.
  • Have a date night. You probably won’t be able to pull off your fantasy date, but you can aim for the emotional connection it would create. Plan a special night at home if going out is impossible. If you have children, ask a neighbor or friend to watch them for a few hours. Put away your phones, so you can focus on each other. Have a special meal, watch a movie. Dance. Do what makes you both happy.
  • Ask each other 20 questions. It doesn’t have to be 20, but there are probably many things you don’t know about each other. Do you know your partner’s favorite movie? Favorite recording artist? What would each other’s superpower be and why that one? The questions are endless and can open up new insights into one another.
  • Exercise together. Run, bike, hike, lift weights, sign up for an online fitness class together. Encourage each other and have fun together.
  • Go on a walk. Try to fit walks into your regular routine with your partner, even if it means getting up early. If you have young children, bring them along. Walking reduces stress and can lead to great conversations.
  • Take a long drive together. The car is another good setting for conversation. Enjoy the scenery outside your windows while catching up with each other.
  • Share your favorite childhood foods. Incorporate family recipes into your meals or order regional treats online. This is a good way to learn about each other and share an important part of your personal histories.
  • Take a class together. Experience the excitement of learning something new together. If you can’t get out, sign up for an online class. You should be able to find whatever you are interested in online, from cooking or learning a new language, to dance or drawing.

Resources for connecting with your partner

The Department of Defense, through Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling program, offers resources to help service members and their partners reconnect at home.

  • The Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultation is a free and confidential series of personalized coaching sessions to help you deepen your relationships. Strengthening the Couple Connection track focuses on issues common to military couples.
  • Non-medical counseling is another option available to couples or individuals. Free and confidential sessions with a Military and Family Life counselor are available on your installation. Military OneSource also offers non-medical counseling.
  • The Love Every Day app is a fun way to practice your relationship communication skills and rekindle your romance.
  • Visit the Re the We page on Military OneSource for access to articles, tools and resources to rekindle, repair or reset your relationship.

Military OneSource is there for you 24/7 to help you and your partner thrive in your relationship. Call 800-342-9647 to connect with a consultant. OCONUS? Use these international calling options.

What To Do When You Feel Disconnected From Your Partner

disconnected couple on couch

One of the rewards of being in a healthy relationship is the emotional fulfillment it brings. Sharing a deep connection with someone can make the hard times easier and the good times even better. But it’s not unusual to sometimes feel disconnected from your partner. Work or parenting stress, along with the challenges of military life, can cause couples to drift apart.

When this happens, take action to reinforce your bond and strengthen it against further challenges.

Noticing when you are feeling disconnected from your partner

It might seem easier to ignore warning signs in your relationship than to do something about them. But if you don’t address them right away, they can quickly pile up.

  • Reach out to your partner if you notice behavior changes. Avoid being confrontational. Instead, have a conversation about it. Be open with your concerns and ask your partner to do the same.
  • Take a team approach to identifying the problem. Avoid the impulse to get angry or blame one another. Instead, work together to identify and tackle the issue.
  • Focus on finding a solution. Write down your options for dealing with your problems. Talk through each one and consider moving forward on a path that feels right.
  • Reinforce your bond by listing what you are grateful for. Seeking out the good in your relationship will remind you of what you love about each other and help you feel more satisfied and closer in your relationship.
  • Have a conversation about your values and desires. Describe what is important to you and ask your partner to do the same. You might find you share the same values and desires, but define them differently. Talking it through will lead to a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and expectations.

Reaffirming your emotional connection

When you feel distant from one another, be proactive about strengthening your bond. Here are steps to take:

  • Carve out time each day for conversation. Talking about your day builds closeness. Remember to give each other your full attention during your conversations.
  • Set expectations for how often you will be in communication during the day. Prioritize quality of conversations over quantity.
  • Mix and match time together. Spend time as a couple with family and friends. But also try your best to make time to be alone with each other. Even getting up a few minutes early to have breakfast together before the kids wake up will give you a quick boost.
  • Resist using your cell phone when spending quality time with your partner. Put your phone on silent so you’re not tempted to check it.
  • Get moving outdoors as a couple. Physical activity outside will boost your mood, translating into positive feelings toward each other. Go for a bike ride, take a hike or even walk around the neighborhood as a couple.

You can find more ways to communicate effectively with your partner in the article, Tips to Improve Communication in a Relationship.

Staying connected while apart

Military deployments or other separations can make it harder to stay connected as a couple. Take a proactive approach to staying emotionally close.

  • Make a communication plan. Work out how you will handle obstacles like different time zones. List various scenarios you might run into and come up with solutions for each.
  • Share an experience together. Watch a movie while on video chat. Read the same book and schedule a time to discuss it. Start a fantasy sports league as a couple. Play virtual games and use your favorite apps together.
  • Send photos, audio clips or videos. This will help you visualize each other’s lives and feel closer to one another.

You can find more tips and resources for every stage of your relationship by visiting Military OneSource’s Re the We page.

If you and your partner need additional support, free, confidential non-medical counseling is available through the Military and Family Life Counseling program on your installation and through Military OneSource.

Non-medical counseling is available in person, by phone, video or secure chat. To learn more or schedule time to connect with a non-medical counselor, call 800-342-9647 or start a live chat. OCONUS? View international calling options.

Tips to Improve Communication in a Relationship

Couple walking outside

Healthy communication is at the heart of a strong relationship. Speaking – and listening – openly to one another fosters intimacy, boosts happiness and builds trust and respect. When communication in a relationship breaks down, partners can feel isolated, resentful and misunderstood.

Effective communication is a top challenge couples face. Fortunately, communication in a relationship is a skill that can be learned and one that grows stronger with practice.

Set the scene for effective communication

All couples face challenges in relationships from time to time. In addition, military couples have unique stressors, such as deployments and frequent moves. You may be tempted to avoid talking about hot-button topics for fear you’ll get into an argument. Tackling issues with an open mind and a commitment to resolve differences will strengthen your bond. Here are ways to set the stage for an open and productive conversation:

  •  Check your feelings. Try not to go into a conversation assuming your partner will react a certain way. Rid yourself of negative feelings as much as possible, so you can approach the topic with an open mind.
  • See if it’s a good time to talk. If your partner is busy with work or if it’s late at night, it may be best to save the conversation for when you are both fully present.
  • Stay calm. If what you have to say can’t wait and your partner is busy, calmly ask if they have a moment to speak. If they don’t respond the way you hoped, take a moment to assess the situation and let your partner know that you understand it’s not the best time to talk, but the matter is time sensitive.

Have important conversations in person whenever possible.

Speak so that you are heard

Go into your conversation with the mindset of resolving the issue, rather than debating or assigning blame.

  • Speak slowly and clearly. Do not raise your voice or mumble.
  • Match your tone to your message. The way you say something can be as important as what you say. Your partner will be confused if you disguise your feelings by sounding upbeat when you are in fact upset, or if you bring up a minor issue in a dramatic way.
  • Be honest. The issue is likely to remain unresolved and tensions between you will grow if you expect your partner to read between the lines. Say what you mean.
  • Use “I” statements. This removes blame. Say, “I feel frustrated when you leave the dishes in the sink,” instead of “You always leave the dishes in the sink.”
  • Focus on one topic at a time. Wait until your or your partner’s point has been made before bringing up another issue. This eliminates confusion and allows you to solve the issue at hand.

Listen with an open mind

A productive conversation involves listening as well as speaking. Let your partner know that you are paying attention and keeping an open mind by doing the following:

  • Be aware of your body language. Relax your face, look your partner in the eye and keep your shoulders relaxed with your arms at your side. This signals that you are receptive to what your partner has to say.
  • Listen to your partner. Hear what your partner is saying rather than planning your response or letting your mind wander.
  • Show your partner that you are listening. Nod or ask questions. Rephrase what your partner says and repeat it back to clarify the message and demonstrate that you are paying attention.
  • Let your partner make their point. Try not to interrupt.

You and your partner don’t have to agree on everything. The goal of your conversations should be to gain a better understanding of each other’s viewpoints, so you can work on compromises, when necessary.

Remember, you and your partner don’t have to figure it out on your own. Military OneSource offers resources and tools to help with relationship goals, including improving communication. Military OneSource also offers virtual resources to help military couples strengthen their relationships.

Non-medical counseling is also available for service members and their partners. Connect with a couples counselor by contacting your installation’s Military and Family Support Center or reach out to Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647. OCONUS? Use these international calling options or live chat.

Tips for Healthy Conflict Resolution in a Relationship

close up of hands during a conversation

All couples argue from time to time. Occasional disagreements are normal in a relationship. But arguments that happen frequently or escalate quickly can cause lasting conflict in a relationship.

You can de-escalate arguments by paying attention to your emotions and making a commitment to understand your partner’s point of view. Conflict resolution is important to the longevity and health of your relationship.

Tune into your feelings

A conversation can turn into an argument when one or both partners feel misunderstood or defensive. Be aware of how you’re feeling. That will help you keep emotions in check, so you can keep the conversation productive and on target.

  • Truly listen to what your partner is saying. Show them you are actively listening by nodding or asking questions. They will appreciate that their concerns are being heard and validated.
  • Recognize when you start to feel defensive. Take a breath, acknowledge you feel this way and ask yourself if there is a valid reason to feel defensive.
  • Be open and objective. Ask yourself if you said or did something that may have caused your partner to feel the way they do. If you aren’t sure what you did, calmly ask your partner to help you better understand.
  • Pay attention to your body language. Crossed arms and tightly pursed lips convey defensiveness. Instead, relax your face and look your partner in the eye.
  • Focus on the issue at hand. Avoid bringing up other complaints and be careful not to attack your partner’s character. Otherwise, your partner may become defensive, which could escalate the situation and make it difficult to move forward in your conversation.

Recognize when it’s time for a reset

It can help to take a timeout from a conversation that goes nowhere or threatens to turn into an argument. When that happens, try doing the following:

  • Think before you speak. Be careful not to say the first thing that pops into your head. It’s common when annoyed or defensive to say things in the heat of the moment that you later regret. So, try to collect your thoughts before you speak.
  • Take a break. If you are about to lose your temper, remove yourself from the conversation. Raising your voice, cursing and becoming physical are all signs that you need a break.
  • Do something to cool down. Talk a walk, go for a run or do another physical activity to get rid of pent-up anger or frustration. Deep-breathing exercises can also help restore calm.
  • Return to your conversation. Start fresh after taking a break.

Agree to fight fair

Disagreements are a fact of life, so it makes sense to anticipate them and set some basic rules for when they occur.

  • Be aware of the issues that trigger arguments. Some common relationship challenges center around money, children and trust. Military couples have additional stressors, including frequent moves and deployments. When one of these issues comes up, give yourselves an extra reminder that it’s important to address it calmly and openly.
  • Set basic ground rules. Agree with your partner that you will hear each other out, avoid jumping to conclusions, focus on the issue at hand and not bring up past complaints about each other.
  • Take a timeout if either of you break a rule. This will help keep the conversation calm and productive, allowing you to come to a resolution.
  • Seek outside help if necessary. Recognize when you and your partner might benefit from the help of a skilled professional. Service members and their partners are eligible for free and confidential non-medical counseling. You can connect with a non-medical counselor through your installation’s Military and Family Support Center or by calling 800-342-9647. OCONUS? Use these international calling options or live chat.

 

Check out the other tools and support that Military OneSource offers for all stages of your relationship, including virtual resources to keep you strong and connected no matter where you are.

Military and Family Life Counseling Program: What’s New, What’s Stayed the Same

Husband and wife looking at each other back to back

Current as of May 4, 2020


The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help you stay strong through life’s challenges, including those due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. We will offer telephonic and video sessions in areas where face-to-face support is restricted.

What is the Military and Family Life Counseling Program?

Military families face unique challenges, such as deployments and moving. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program offers free, short-term, non-medical counseling to service members, Department of Defense expeditionary civilians, their families and survivors.

Non-medical counselors are available through one-on-one, couple or group sessions to help with:

  • Managing stress and changes at home due to COVID-19
  • Adjusting to deployment
  • Preparing to move or adjusting after a move
  • Strengthening relationships
  • Managing problems at work
  • Grieving the death of a loved one or colleague

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

What’s new?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program now offers telephonic and video non-medical counseling. This is available in areas where face-to-face support may be restricted due to COVID-19. Contact Military OneSource for contact information and a warm hand-off to your closest military and family life counselor for telephonic or video non-medical counseling.

What’s the same?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is here to support you with free non-medical counseling by licensed master’s- or doctorate-level counselors. Sessions are confidential with the exception of child abuse or neglect, domestic abuse, harm to self or others, and illegal activity.

Counselors who specialize in child and youth behavioral issues are available to support children and teens with non-medical counseling.

Military OneSource also offers non-medical counseling by phone, live chat, video, or face-to-face where permitted. Children and teenagers may meet with a Military OneSource non-medical counselor by phone or video, as well as face-to-face where permitted.

How to get help

Contact your installation’s Military and Family Support Center to set up non-medical counseling through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program.

You can reach a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor through:

  • A child development center
  • Your installation’s youth and teen center
  • Your child’s public school on or off the installation
  • A youth summer camp sponsored by your military service
  • Your commander or unit training point of contact

To connect with your closest military and family life counselor, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for contact information and a warm hand-off. View calling options if you are outside the continental United States.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19:

When Your Spouse Has a Traumatic Brain Injury

Health specialist points out areas of magnetic activity in a brain displayed on a monitor.

As a spouse of a service member who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, you may be experiencing a range of emotions. It is important to allow yourself to feel every emotion that surfaces and attend to your own needs. Here are some strategies to consider as you prepare to take on your new role as a caregiver to your spouse.

After the injury

Your spouse may spend a few weeks and months in the hospital, which could be challenging for the two of you. In this phase of recovery, it may be helpful to:

  • Gather information. Learn everything you can about your spouse’s injury so that you can compare notes with doctors and other health professionals. Ask questions about your spouse’s treatment program and take stock of the various medical care providers that you interact with during your hospital stay.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t spend all your emotional energy in one place because a brain injury requires long-term care. Save your strength for the long haul.
  • Understand your spouse’s treatment program. Your spouse’s team of medical care providers will develop an individualized plan to treat his or her injury, which could require multiple hours of in-patient therapy per day.
  • Be understanding. Don’t take your spouse’s hostile outbursts personally. Some TBI patients behave angrily toward their caretakers in the first few days and weeks of recovery. This behavior is a result of the injury and not a personal attack.
  • Get help. Let your family and friends help you with the day-to-day stuff like taking care of your children, preparing meals and other chores. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat healthy meals. If you need assistance, contact a Military OneSource consultant who will put you in touch with a trained counselor in your area. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or schedule a live chat.

Understanding the challenges of TBI

Traumatic brain injuries vary from patient to patient. Some people experience headaches, seizures, dizziness, memory problems and difficulty focusing. Others symptoms include:

  • Chronic fatigue. Rehabilitation consumes a lot of energy. Simple tasks may be exhausting for your spouse, and the brain injury may be disrupting his or her sleep cycle.
  • Anger. Some patients may seem angry or frustrated because they can’t do simple tasks, remember things or focus on a project. Try to be patient.
  • Too much emotion. It may be difficult for your spouse to control his or her emotions. Help your spouse avoid emotional triggers by turning off the TV or radio during conversations. Allow only a few family and friends to visit at one time.
  • Insensitivity. Brain injury patients tend to make inappropriate statements in social situations. You can help your spouse by speaking about your feelings directly instead of using nonverbal cues.
  • Loss of focus. Your spouse may have difficulty organizing his or her thoughts. You can troubleshoot this issue by helping your spouse establish routines.

Taking care of your spouse at home

Your spouse will endure a long-term recovery process. Although coming home from the hospital is a step towards health, there will still be some challenges ahead. You might try these tips:

  • Adjust to changing roles. If you are trying to hold down a job while performing the bulk of the household duties, you might become overwhelmed. Be sure to ask for help. Consider going to couples counseling so that you and your spouse can adjust to changing roles.
  • Understand your spouse’s changes. Brain injury patients can look normal, but still exhibit emotional and behavioral symptoms that take longer to heal.
  • Let your spouse rest. Brain injury patients tire easily. Schedule outings in the morning when your spouse is rested and allow for naps during the day.
  • Treat your spouse normally. Giving your spouse some of the duties he or she had prior to going to the hospital will make him or her feel useful. Increase these duties over time as your spouse recovers.
  • Remember what you have together. As you and your spouse adjust to the “new normal,” take time to nurture your relationship: remind each other of what you most admire in each other, or look through photos of special memories.
  • Find a TBI survivors group. Meeting other couples in similar situations can be very helpful. Connect with other families by attending a TBI survivors group.

For more information about TBI, visit the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury website. They offer a variety of Family & Caregiver resources, including a comprehensive downloadable caregiver’s guide. Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans includes:

  • Comprehensive lists of medical terms and diagrams
  • Charts to help keep track of medical providers and medications
  • Worksheets to help coordinate caregivers and tasks
  • Helpful suggestions about what kinds of behavior to expect and how best to respond
  • Encouraging stories from other caregivers, and more.

When your spouse suffers a traumatic brain injury, your life will be impacted in ways you didn’t expect. Recovery can be challenging, as it requires large doses of patience and understanding. By educating yourself on TBI and using the tips listed in this article, you can better navigate through this phase of your lives and adjust to your new normal.