Accidents can happen at any time. If you’re lucky, yours will just be a minor fender bender. However, many accidents result in serious accidents or even death. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that between 33,000 and 43,000 people have died each year over the last 10 years as a result of motor vehicle accidents.
A serious car accident can result in permanent injuries, as well. You or your spouse could suffer a traumatic brain injury, suffer chronic pain, or even lose the ability to walk. Injuries like these can cause a serious strain on your marriage.
If you or your spouse find yourself in the caregiver role for the other, it can completely change the nature of your relationship.You could suffer financial strain, feel extreme stress from the ongoing care needed, and start to feel estranged. Different studies on brain injuries found that anywhere from 48 percent to 78 percent of couples were divorced or separated after the injury, and between 16.4 percent and 24.4 percent of couples were divorced after a spinal cord injury.
You need to develop a plan to manage the injury and the way your life has changed if you hope to save your marriage or relationship. Here are a few things you can do to protect your relationship after a serious injury:
Get Plenty of Support
Managing a serious injury can cause serious stress for you and your spouse. You may be adjusting to financial stress, or you may have to figure out how to adjust your routine now that your spouse can’t walk, can’t work, or can’t get through the day without crippling pain.
The best thing you can do to manage that stress is to get plenty of support from friends, family members, and professionals. Hire a nurse or aid to help you with care. Form a support network of friends and family that you can call on for help or just for a shoulder to cry on when you need it. The more people you have in your support network, the easier it will be to get through the hard times.
Take Time for Yourself
You can get lost in taking care of your spouse after an injury. Everything can start to revolve around providing care and managing treatment. Your stress will be compounded by the fact that you aren’t taking time for your own care.
Do what you can to take time for yourself. That may be as simple as a walk or run every day or a weekly lunch with a friend. Whatever you can do to take time for yourself, you will have the opportunity to decompress and feel refreshed for your spouse. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and caring for yourself physically, as well.
Do Things that Remind You of Who You Were
Couples can drift apart after an injury because all their interactions start to revolve around that injury and the care it requires. If you want to save your relationship, you will need to do things to connect. Take time to do things that remind you of who you were as a couple before the injury. That could be as simple as going to the movies together or trying a new restaurant together.
You may not be able to do some things you did before the injury. For example, maybe you loved rock climbing together, but now your spouse is disabled. You can still reconnect with each other by focusing on the spirit of the things you enjoyed. Instead of rock climbing, you can turn your focus to activities that give you an adrenaline rush or that allow you to explore new places, such as traveling together or trying new things.
Sort Out Your Finances
Financial strain is one of the biggest contributors to marital distress, whether one of you has been injured or not. An injury intensifies that strain since you are now dealing with expensive medical bills.
Start by working with a car accident attorney to get the best settlement possible for the accident. Then work with a financial adviser to create a plan for how to allot that settlement and to best manage future expenses on the limited income you now have. You may have to make some adjustments to your standard of living, but you can create a financial plan that is sustainable and will relieve some of the strain you feel.
Don’t let a serious injury mean the death of your marriage. Be proactive about your finances and your care arrangement, and create a strong support network to help you get through it. You will have to adjust to a “new norm” but you should be able to create a life that is just as happy and rewarding as your old one.