Can your marriage/relationship survive SCI

“Disabilities break down the basic structures of relationships. Roles may be reversed overnight” according to Richard Senelick, MD, a neurologist.  He and another doctor have provided a list of some of the predictors of whether a relationship may survive SCI.

A Relationship Checklist
Dr Hoine and I sat down and created an unscientific checklist that you can use to evaluate your relationship and how it might weather the storm of a disability. We can tell you from the experience, that these storms are not predictable and show up at your front door both unexpected and unannounced.

  • Communication: Evaluate how well you and your partner communicate and remember that it is less about what each of you say and more about what each of you hear. A simple request to take out the garbage may be heard as just one more unreasonable demand or an unfair criticism.
  • Competence: The individual’s perception of their competence. The more an individual has a sense of self competence the more secure they feel in their lives and their relationships.
  • Maturity: Do you have a mature relationship? The prominent psychoanalyst, Eric Fromm, discriminated between mature and immature relationships by writing that in an immature relationship the individual says, “I love you because I need you,” as opposed to the mature relationship saying, “I need you because I love you.” I don’t need you to make me feel important or special; I need you only for the relationship.
  • Empathy: This is the ability to see the relationship and world from the other person’s perspective.
  • Coping Skills: The healthier the individual’s personality the better one’s chances of adapting to change. The preexisting personality of the able-bodied partner is critical to the post disability relationship.
  • Financial Resources: We can quote studies on happiness that diminish the importance of the relationship of money and happiness. However, it does make a significant difference whether one has the financial resources to deal with the disability. This may mean having good medical insurance or the financial resources to help with care taking, or just provide a little relief to recharge your batteries.

In legal cases, the impact on the non-injured spouse is called “loss of consortium.”  It is the surviving spouse’s loss of fellowship, company, cooperation, aid, emotional support, love, care, affection, services, companionship and assistance.  In Washington it is a separate claim of the non-injured spouse even though it arises from the other spouse’s injury.

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About Karen
Karen Koehler, partner at the nationally recognized law firm of SKW, blogs about all things related to spinal cord injuries...More
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On Another's Sorrow
Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief.

Can I see a falling tear.
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd.

Can a mother sit and hear.
An infant groan an infant fear?
No no never can it be,
Never never can it be

And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small
Hear the small bird's grief & care
Hear the woes that infants bear

And not sit beside the nest
Pouring pity in their breast.
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infant's tear.

And not sit both night & day.
Wiping all our tears away.
O! no never can it be.
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.


— William Blake