Objective: To explore qualitatively the experience of intimacy from the viewpoint of persons with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their intimate partners.
Design: Qualitative interview study.
Setting: Outpatient community.
Participants: Eighteen persons with TBI and their intimate partners at a mean length of 4.78 years postinjury.
Main measures: Open-ended, semistructured, in-depth interviews regarding participants’ experience of intimacy, factors impacting intimacy, and need for services.
Results: Factors that were perceived as helping relationships remain strong included unconditional commitment, spending time together, open communication, a strong preinjury relationship, bonding through surviving the injury together, social support, family bonds, spirituality, experience with overcoming hardship, and coping skills. Factors that were perceived as barriers to intimacy included injury-related changes, emotional reactions to changes, sexual difficulties, role conflict and strain, family issues, social isolation, and communication issues.
Conclusions and Implications: Education regarding the impact of TBI on intimacy should be integrated into rehabilitation. Health professionals should be sensitized as to the needs that persons with TBI and their partners have regarding intimacy and how to make appropriate referrals to assist them.