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Family and relationships

Life after a spinal cord injury (SCI) can mean significant adjustments for you, your family and the people you care about. Open, frank communication during this time is vital.

Changing family dynamics

SCI can mean uncertainty for all involved, especially in the early days as you adjust to a new way of life. Your injury will likely affect those closest to you. Roles and responsibilities within the family may shift, and with that comes a change in the dynamics of your relationships, especially if those close to you are taking on care responsibilities. Family members may struggle to understand how you feel, which can cause frustration and tension in relationships.

Among the most common relationship problems we hear about are:

  • Not being able to play with your children in the same way, which can make you feel less connected to them.
  • Feeling isolated because you have moved to a specially adapted house in a new area.
  • Changes in your sex life, which can lead to difficulties with a partner.
  • You or your partner feeling isolated if you don’t want to socialise as much as before.

If you can, talk to your family about how you’re feeling. See if you can find common ground and address any problems as they come up rather than ignoring them. You can also talk to your local support coordinator who can refer you onto one of our specialist counsellors who are SCI.  Alternatively, speak to the relationship support charity Relate.

Having a spinal cord injury affects everyone connected to you in a massive way. Sometimes, problems don’t come up until you’ve lived with them for a while. By talking openly and honestly to each other, you can work on tackling them

Ian Younghusband, our counselling and wellbeing manager

SCI and other relationships

A SCI can affect relationships with the other people in our lives, including friends. In the beginning, you may not want to see your friends as you process what has happened, and perhaps you aren’t yet ready to talk. Some friends may act awkwardly, sometimes distancing themselves from you because they don’t know what to say. Time usually helps, and things can become easier.

Being unable to do the things you used to do with friends can be extremely difficult. If you can, talk to them about how you’re feeling.

We’re here for you

Our factsheet on the emotional impact of SCI on friends and family has a list of organisations offering support and counselling that you may find helpful.  And don’t forget our support network coordinators are also here to chat with you about living with a SCI.  Access your local support team here