Anger and relationship

Hi group, I've been lurking for a while and finding the viewpoints of both carers and people who're living with a bi very helpful. You've saved my sanity sometimes, so thank you! My OH had a cerebellar hemorrhage and craniotomy with complications two and a half years ago, and was in hospital for 3 months. He's recovered better than anyone expected, but everyone here who's been there will know that it has not been easy for either of us. Lots of adjustments.

Our relationship, which was volatile even before the stroke, seems to have reached a crossroads, to put it mildly. He loses his temper and snaps or shouts so quickly and so often that I'm finding it unbearable - neither of us deserves to live in this kind of angry toxic atmosphere all the time. I do know this is partly the effect of the bi, and try hard to tell myself he can't help it and he's frustrated. But he did have a quick temper even before the bi, it just didn't explode nearly as often.

When I'm feeling calm I can handle it, but when I'm stressed I confess that I yell right back and we have a screaming match, which I find so upsetting. Recently this seems to have been practically all the time, and I feel that we both have loads of underlying anger towards each other, ad I imagine he's also frustrated about not being able to do what he could do before. I've told him the situation has become impossible and we have to find a way of getting on better, or else consider living apart. I think he could manage independently, just, with the 2 carer visits a day he is currently getting. Obviously we'd both rather it didn't come to this.

We did go to Relate, years ago before the bi, and didn't get anywhere, because he just said that I provoked him and if I stopped provoking him everything would be fine. Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with the bi, but my question does have to do with it. I understand about the short fuse that so many seem to experience after a bi; has anybody found a way to improve this? Have counselling or anger management courses helped anyone to better control this quick angry reaction and shoutiness that so often seems to follow a bi? Or is it something one just has to live with? I sometimes feel I'm a horrible person for not being able to just tolerate it, in the circumstances. I could, at first, but the more he becomes 'himself but not himself', if you know what I mean, the harder it seems to have that detachment.

26 Replies

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  • Oh, I think most of us know exactly what you mean. I think separate counselling could be the answer, I had some with Care for the Carers which helped me cope better. Your other half needs to see if he can get specialist counselling to help him learn how to cope with his temper and frustration. Give Headway a ring and see what's available in your area.

  • If your realionship was on rocky ground before the B.I then thats not good as you have all that other stuff, unsolved, my hubby had "depression" for five years before we found out what was wrong, i confess i nearly left, but now we are all good. Give it one more try see how you feel good luck

  • hil736 hi i suffered an abi feb 2012, i became angry mood swings, become aggressive to people in the street, my wife had a break down down, took me to the drs and he referred me to a psychiatrist.

    i was put on non anti depressant meds to combat my mood swings, they work, but like every thing i fly off the handle from time to time.

    i hate noise crowds and a lot of other things...................time to have a chat with your doc.

    i was given epilim which is mainly for epilepsy another one would be cabamazapine which is also for epilepsy.

  • Thanks Steve

  • hi i joined my nearest headway group which i have now attended since may 2017 i have spoken to my doctor as i was also finding it tough everything sounding very loud and talking and feeling awkward when in crowded places the doctor was able to help

  • Thank you everyone x

  • Unfortunately the ones with the TBIs always think we're right. My wife and I have basically come to an arrangement whereby we just talk, often in intially agitated tones, until I calm down.

    That woman has the patience of a saint!

    Potential problem is if he didn't take responsibility for his temper before the injury it may be doubly difficult to get him to do so now. Are you able to have frank conversations? It's something that we've had to work on but as a survivor if I didn't have conversations where we at least tried to say exactly what we meant there would be a constant state of misunderstanding due to problems with me drawing incorrect inferences. Perhaps your OH is now similar? If not then I'm not sure I can be much use...

  • You're absolutely right, we need to do that, later on when it has calmed down. Perhaps we need help to be able to do that

  • Hi there, thankfully I was single when I had my bi as a relationship would have been really difficult, especially due to the short fuse and inability to see another persons perspective, it's mainly to do with ptsd, I put a website together with information that would have really helped me understand what was going on and find some peace in the early days, it might be of interest to both of you, braininjuryftp.co.uk

    I really wish you all the best, it's does get better and contempment does come eventually

  • Your website is great, thank you so much Neil, and I have asked OH to read it too. I hope it might help him acknowledge some inner feelings. Funny enough I also feel affected by ptsd; the shock of seeing him in A&E disorientated and in so much pain, the words "bleed on the brain" which you know instantly is mega and life changing, followed by 5 hours brain surgery in the middle of the night, then brain and chest infections, him in a coma then loopy, coping with 6 hours a day at the hospital and all the other stuff at home and work, was so traumatic and i still get weepy if something reminds me of the early days and neuro intensive care. Trying to understand what had happened, and making sure he got the best care; just wanting to be with him and they would not let me in because they were doing ward rounds or physio or 'personal care'. He doesn't remember any of it. In the context of my posting about relationship problems, I really did think there would be one silver lining, that our relationship might be better as a result. At first it was. Thanks everyone for your input, it has been so helpful, and I will try and find a way forward that works.

  • Sorry it's braininjuryftp.com, not .co.uk, too early in the morning!

  • Your site looks really interesting, I'll read everything and encourage OH to look at it. Thanks.

  • Your website is great! Really helpful and comforting thank you 😊

  • If it wasn't working before and it's not working now, maybe you should stop using the BI as the excuse for the leaving decision. Separating is never easy, it will be better in the long run if you're just honest with each other.

  • I am also struggling with relationship issue. I was struggling for quiet a while to work out what issues relate to my partner BI ( Brain injury ), his medical issues, or his character. We have only been living together for two and half years. I now think i took the wrong approach. I am now trying to focus on the here and now and how we related as a couple with IB and medical issues.

    My partner is very lucky because he is high functioning but anyone who get to know him will realise how much he compensates for his memory issue, he is very loving but also can also fly of the handle, he is not good at listening to what i say and misunderstands things ( i have start to send him emails it less emotional and I can make my point clearly ) .

    We have some really fundamental relationship issue to address but he simply flies of the handle when ever I try to talk about any of our issues. We did try counselling but he did really engage ( I will try again because he is worth it ). I think that are BI partners are so scared of losing us that they put their relationship at risk by engaging in avoidance behaviours that are quiet selfish some BI partner can't help it but other can this is the big question.

    All couples have to talk and work through their issue even if you have a BI. There are ways to help but only if both parties are willing to change and work at a relationship, if not we,ll just become carers not partners and not everyone will want that.

    BI couples really do need specialist relationship support to help with specific issue like communication, fear of loss, anger management, sexuality, parenting, grieving process. My partner keeps reminding me that the odd are stacked against us as so many relationship don't survive BI. I say to him only if you do nothing.

    Thanks HI1736 for opening up this debate its really helped.

  • Hello, hil736 and welcome to the forum.

    I've typed-and-deleted this several times now, because I don't want to offend anyone with my peculiar phrasing, we're all unique individuals wading through the chunky soup of life with brain injuries in our own ways. I'm on a similar time-line to your partner, ruptured aneurysm with hydrocephalus in February 2015, the burst aneurysm was drained and coiled, and they found another two while they were rooting about in there. The second-largest was coiled in March 2016, the third one is inoperable.

    Another similarity I can draw is that my marriage was also less-than-rosy prior to the haemorrhage. Apparently the ex's face was a picture when the medics told him I 'might be irritable', and he seemed to grab the wrong end of the stick about 'personality changes', I'm sure to this day he thought I'd come home all Stepford-wife, and be so pleased I'd survived that I'd forget all about the fact that we'd jointly declared the marriage over about a decade ago, and were only maintaining the facade 'for our son.' (I'd advise against that, it was a toxic environment, and it wasn't doing anyone any good. In reality, it was more about not letting on to the in-laws, the Father-in-law had recently had prostate cancer. Lump in the fact that the ex's mother had died as a result of a brain haemorrhage piling the survivor-guilt on me, and you have a plot that Eastenders' script-writers would reject as being too depressing and far-fetched.)

    'Irritable' didn't come close, but I suppose they train NHS staff to phrase these things in as neutral a way as possible, there's a whole world of 'nobody knows' with brain injuries, and I imagine "She'll look like your wife, but she's liable to behave like an absolute monster from time to time." might have been a bit much. Anyhow, I was 'discharged' two weeks after the emergency surgery, because I could say what day it was, and put my shoes on the right feet. (See that? That's me being a monster, there was no care plan, no advice or guidance, just a leaflet on 'memory strategies for patients and carers', and a carrier-bag full of medication.)

    Tah-dah! You're not dead, go home and get on with it, because you're occupying a bed you don't need. Bloody hell, what a shock to the system the 'outside world' was, especially given that my ex had moved himself in with the in-laws while I'd been 'away', heaven forbid he'd have to wash his own underpants- still, it did mean our son didn't have to live on crisp sandwiches for a fortnight. I'm not joking, he decided to 'Pop to Tesco for some bits' on the way home from the hospital, and insisted I come in with him, he's 'that' type of man, who thinks shopping is 'for women.' I'm sure there's a term for it. Idiot, that's it. (Rein in the snark, woman, he'd not long since been told that 'his wife' might not make it through the surgery, making sure there was food in the house for her to come back to just didn't occur to him. Idiot.)

    So, he tried to 'carry on as normal', with this FURIOUS thing he'd brought back from the hospital sitting in his wife's chair. We'd been together almost 20 years, his 'normal' was to do largely as he pleased, and then say "I'm sorry, love, I can't eat this, is there anything else?", meaning I'd make him a second dinner while mine went cold. I was a doormat, I took the path-of-least-resistance on everything, because he had a temper, and a tendency to smash things up when things didn't go his way. Classic-coercive, no big, shouty rows, because I'd just not argue back, that led to a lot of slammed doors. (Dramatic flounce-outs don't work so well when you're a middle-aged manbaby who can never remember where your keys/phone/wallet are- maybe HE should have read the 'memory strategies' leaflet?)

    I'm going bad-Eastenders again, aren't I?

    A common side effect of brain injury is aphasia, the absolutely infuriating inability to recall the word you want. (Life hack, just substitute another word quickly, and hope nobody notices.) I remembered a word, and, like an obstinate toddler, that word was 'No.' I started saying 'No.' to him, which was new behaviour. Did I want to go out? No. Did I want to walk the dog? No. (That's 'out', idiot, I've already said no to that.) Did I want a cup of coffee? No. ('Do you fancy a coffee?' was ALWAYS a precursor to 'Make me one, while you're up.') Did I want to go and see the in-laws for an hour? FLIP, no. Not myself? Might 'get better'? I got worse. I was perpetually furious about everything and nothing, and, because I'd been a naughty wife, and given everyone a hell of a scare with the old brain explosion, I tried REALLY hard to 'act normal.' I went back to work too quickly, because I couldn't face endless days of roaming around the house picking up cups, plates, beer-cans and socks he'd left all over the place. I carried on pretending-to-wife, and minimising the difficulties I was having with everything. (Side-order of coercive behaviour, I KNOW I'd worried a lot of people, but "If you get a migraine I'm taking you to the hospital, if you won't get in the car, I'll strap you to the roof-rack!" was NOT helpful.)

    Pretending not to have brain injuries is not a productive coping strategy. I tire more easily, I need more sleep, 'normal' situations can completely overwhelm me, being 'me' isn't an altogether pleasant experience. As well as being a mouse/doormat, I was also a trained Learning Mentor, used to teaching challenging adolescents strategies to manage their anger. It sort-of-worked.

    The key to any of 'my' strategies working is the ability to recognise emotions/impulses, that's not as daft as it sounds, I've worked with kids who could only state that they felt 'OK' or 'angry', nothing in-between, and, as an adult, I'll have days where I just feel a bit 'off', and can't quite articulate how, or why. Even more crucial is recognising the emotion before it becomes problematic. (Wry smile at the old-school "Count to ten." "I tried, Miss, but I got up to three, then punched him anyway.") (Counting to ten doesn't work for me, I have to count to ten, forwards, and backwards, in at least 3 different languages, I'm not a 'numbers' person.)

    "I'm angry." OK, what am I angry about? Is it worth being angry about? Is there anything productive to be gained from being angry about it? Is there anything I can do about it. A bit like the Serenity Prayer, I suppose. I'm perpetually angry about the US President, but there's bog-all I can do about him. Evaluating what the feeling is, whether it's something within my control or not, is sometimes enough to resolve it. The wisdom to know what I as an individual can and cannot influence still evades me occasionally. Frontal lobe damage, I'll get angry at staplers, jelly, sock-fluff, and then have to talk myself into putting the 'thing' that's made me angry into my imaginary 'does not matter' box.

    Leaving the room. In the very early days, that was the only strategy I used. I wasn't certain I could stay in the same room with the ex laughing at YouTube videos on his phone with the TV blaring out crap nobody was watching, or manage to refrain from slapping the colleague who slurped her tea. The 'distance' from whatever I was allowing to make me angry usually worked. I probably looked a bit odd coming out of the store-cupboard empty-handed so often, and one of the offices downstairs from me used to take one look at my face and say "Is she eating fruit again?"

    Writing things down worked sometimes. My office bin regularly contained post-it notes with things I KNEW I shouldn't say out loud on them. (I get weird thought-loops or impulses, always verging on dangerous, with my tendency to blurt, sometimes I'd write the invasive thought down, in an attempt to stop myself shouting "Dog yogurt!", or "Isn't it sweet how your Mum lets you pick your own work clothes?") For the less 'blurty' impulses, I'd email colleagues rather than speaking to them, so I could check what I'd written BEFORE I hit 'send.' Blogs, journals, diaries, letters-never-sent, it's a strategy that worked with some kids, write down what's bothering you, sometimes the catharsis of 'getting it out' was enough, and it could be deleted/destroyed, sometimes re-reading it helped to contextualise, in a 'Why was I so angry about THAT?' sense.

    Me/them. I got this one completely wrong for ages, and it did me no favours. Every person has different tolerance-levels for things that irritate them. Pretty much everything irritates me, pretty much all of the time. I taught myself to think "This is MY problem." when something was annoying me, thinking that asking the tea-slurper to try not to make the plug-hole noise followed by the lip-smack and 'Ahh!' after every sodding gurgle-slurp might sound a bit rude, I mean, she probably thought that was 'how' you drink tea. The ex didn't like the way I left the dishes to air-dry on the drainer, I don't like the way fibres from the tea-towel stick to wet plates. He didn't wash dishes, I didn't dry them, because of 'my problem' with tea-towel fluff, and 'his problem' with thinking his testicles might fall off if he put his hands in the sink. There 'should' have been compromise in a lot of things, there wasn't. There 'could' have been an earlier discussion about him wearing the same work-clothes for weeks at a time (in engineering, he constantly stank of grease and dirt) instead of me mouse-wife-ing about the place bleaching and cleaning everything, because he couldn't smell the oily-stink permeating everything in the house. What 'did' happen, about a month before I kicked him out, was me saying "Will you put your work clothes in the washing machine, the smell is in every room in the house now, and it is making me feel sick." (That was after about a month of him saying "They don't need washing, they're only work-clothes." I married Stig of the Dump.) Some of the 'little' stuff can ride, if you're willing to compromise, BUT, if it's going to work, there needs to be discussion. He hated the way I had shampoo, conditioner, and shower-gel bottles on the side of the bath, I hated the way he'd come in from work and shove his worn socks down the sofa-cushions. (Gods, I'm SO unreasonable!)

    This is turning into War and Peace. 2 1/2 years in, I still have issues with anger, I just mostly-manage it a bit better. What 'works' for me might not work for everyone, but if there's anything in my bag o' tricks you haven't tried yet, it might be worth a go?

    DESCRIBE- What is this emotion/impulse?

    DESIGNATE- is it within my control? Can I do anything to alter it?

    DISTANCE- Remove yourself from the trigger/stressor if you recognise a risk in remaining.

    DISTRIBUTE- Don't try to do everything on your own, like I did, this forum is great, but there is further professional and voluntary help out there. I eventually managed to get NHS counselling for my near-miss and associated life-changing after-effects, but I should have asked for help sooner. Headway, the Samaritans, your GP, literally anyone you can speak openly and honestly with.

    DISCUSS- Best not done in the heat of the moment, but, if you're going to come through this together, it's no good assuming each of you knows what the other is thinking.

    DISTRACT- I'm the QUEEN of distracting myself when I recognise I'm 'on one', the land of perpetual anger is not a happy place to be, I humour-deflect by ripping the p*** out of myself when I'm throwing a tantrum about something trivial.

    DIVORCE- That's for me, you'll make your own mind up about you, we separated the day after I came out of hospital following my second brain surgery, we have another six months before we can do the 'no fault' two-years-separated-uncontested divorce. ('No fault', it was HIS fault for treating me like a servant, and my fault for putting up with it, the brain damage just accelerated the decision.)

  • Thanks so much for your long and very funny reply, your SOH is clearly intact. Lots in there, I'll read it again and again. Will try the D's myself, and maybe avoid the last one. Laughed like a drain at the "She'll look like your wife, but she's liable to behave like an absolute monster from time to time" and the lip smacker - I manage to be annoyed by people even without having had a bi :)

  • If you laughed, 'you' are still in there, whatever the 'slings and arrows' of outrageous brain injury are throwing at you. I know I rip the p*** out of my situation, but it's all that keeps me whole some days. Anger is the bane of my life, but it's an accepted stage on the grieving process.

  • Gaia_rising, you've made my day. No, my week. No, even more... Your post made me laugh as I recognized myself a lot in it (as in I have been living with an idiot, a selfish one at it!) Like you said, I should have gotten help way sooner, but kept to myself for over ten years because I was afraid to be judge as incompetent, not being able to get work, etc. I have been with my boyfriend for 6 years. I am the one with the TBI. I am the one who is the mouse and don't "rock the boat", so I get angry in silence. He is the one who gets mad at me anytime he doesn't get his way, accusing me of inflaming him to rage, not taking any responsibility for his actions. Anyone who knows me think the world of me, and appreciate me for my kindness and acceptance of others. But my acceptance of him has surpassed the good common sense. My mom hated him until the day she died for all his meanness towards me. Well, I have known for a long time that I need to move out and let him get the perfect woman he is looking for (he is dating on the side, looking for a woman who would 'make' him happy.) I am out of here. I have so much love and caring to offer, and I will start offering it to me starting now. Thanks for sharing. And thank you, Hil736 for starting this discussion. I will reply to your post next.

  • Towards_Healing, it was a weird situation, and a prolonged one, he was raised with the old-fashioned 'traditional' family model, where his Dad was the all-powerful breadwinner, and his Mum, and then his Step-Mum floated about the place dusting and ironing. That was his 'normal', and he assumed that, because I keep my reproductive paraphernalia in a relatively difficult-to-kick place, that I'd be content doing his bidding and his ironing. (Chuckling, because I HATED ironing, I stopped ironing altogether in 2014, and nobody noticed...) It's doubly-weird because, with everyone else, I projected a persona of feisty and fearless, but with him, I rolled over/played dead. It was a half-life at best, the marriage had been dead for years, my near-death medical event gave me perspective that I didn't want 'that' for another 20 years.

    It wasn't fair to any of us to allow the 'empty shell' marriage to continue, I was struggling enough managing my own emotions after the BI, without pandering to his frequent man-trums as well, our son had just been traumatised by seeing his 'strong' Mum with pipes and tubes poking out of her. The fact that I'd survived what killed the ex's mother can't have been easy for him to deal with, so I made the decision to ask him to leave. VERY uncomfortable discussion, but it needed to happen, then he did what he always did, and sulked for a week, before asking me if I was sure, if I'd thought about it etc. I refused to roll over.

    My life isn't exactly champagne and roses now, but I'm trying to learn how to put my needs first, instead of last, 'new' behaviour for me, because I'd had 20 years of putting my needs at the bottom of every (imaginary) list. It's a shame it took a life-altering medical issue as a catalyst, and all the well-meaning, empty platitudes of "Makes you think, doesn't it?", and "Doesn't it make you feel grateful for what you have?" did make me think, and reflect on 'what I had'. What I had was a husband approaching 50, who viewed himself as the centre of the universe, and a bit of brain damage, I couldn't deal with both, and the brain damage showed no sign of buggering off.

    Away with me, I have stuff that needs doing, and I need to be mindful NOT to get angry at my son, who's been awake all night after a panic attack, we're both sleep-deprived, and he's currently giving me a running commentary on an egg he's frying. Today's going to be challenging to say the least, and there's a high probability of both of us inventing new swear-words to humour-deflect how much we're irritating each other. I can see today having plenty of 'leaving the room' in it. I'll go and change my bedding, and try not to get stuck inside the duvet cover, or fall head-first down the stairs whilst trapped in the duvet cover. Stranger things have happened, a couple of weeks ago I turned the duvet cover around five times looking for the 'open' end. Five times, and there are only four 'sides', mathematically improbable to say the least, life with brain injuries is a picnic. A special picnic, where you've accidentally thrown the rug down on a cow-pat and an ant-nest, there's a bull in the field, and a swarm of wasps, and it looks like rain.

  • I have a terrible temper - it scares me so much I try not to lose it. I have, in the main, controlled it [and that takes some doing, often walking away from those causing me to boil over].

    One saying [attributed to Buddha] puts anger well into its perspective:

    "You will not be punished for your anger.

    You will be punished by your anger."

    Incidentally; my wife and I went to Relate once .... total waste of time. Married 40 years four days ago so must have done something right together :)

  • I had a terrible temper. I unexpectedly cured it when I went gluten-free.

  • That's interesting. Hmmm...

  • Each to his own; but, well done indeed.

  • Hil736. Welcome here. Thank you for sharing your insights with us. I am the one with the TBIs, but my boyfriend (whom I talked about in a response post to Gaia_rising) is the one with the anger. He is on many medications, and one of them called Abilify, which helps him control his anger, meanness, and hurtful words from coming out of his mouth. He has tapered off this drug in the last two months, and completely stopped a week and a half ago. And believe me, I have been at the receiving end of his anger, and hurtful accusations of me doing everything I can to make him mad, etc. I can say that the Abilify really worked for him (he said he started taking them again a couple of days ago), so maybe it is something that you can discuss with his doctor/psychiatrist to see if this medication could help your husband. For me it is too late. Although leaving the relationship is scary due to the many symptoms of TBIs I have, at this point I just want to live in peace. Good luck to you. Please let us know how things will turn out for you. Thank you for starting this conversation. It really helps us all.

  • Good luck, you're a brave lady. Glad you have found more peace x

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