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Guy Refuses To Apologize To Girlfriend After He Doesn’t Recognize Her Due To His Brain Injury

Man in hospital bed
tampatra/Getty Images

We’re all aware that tragedies happen every day and that a person’s life can change in a moment.

But until we’re the ones going through that experience, it can be hard to accept as anything more than a general concept, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

After suffering from a traumatic brain injury, Redditor throwawayprspgns was also struggling to recognize any faces, especially those he had not spent his entire life exposed to.

Knowing this could hurt his relationship, he attempted to explain what was going on to his girlfriend, who brushed his worries off.

But when he saw his girlfriend’s reaction to the realities of his diagnosis, the Original Poster (OP) was completely overwhelmed.

He asked the sub:

“AITA for refusing to apologize to my girlfriend for not recognizing her?”

The OP was struggling after surviving a brain injury.

“I (22 Male) recently suffered a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and I have developed prosopagnosia (face blindness).”

“I am able to vaguely recognize my immediate family, but it’s near impossible for me to recognize anyone else unless I remember other distinctive cues about their appearance (such as unique hair color or accessory).”

“This has been really hard on me, and I’ve been hospitalized for the past two weeks (for other medical reasons related to my TBI).”

“I texted my girlfriend (21 Female) to explain my condition to her and linked her some articles on it.”

“She insisted on visiting me since she hadn’t seen me since I was hospitalized.”

The OP’s girlfriend did not respond well to his condition.

“When she came into my room, I wasn’t sure whether she was my cousin (my cousin had planned on visiting too), a nurse, or my girlfriend.”

“She didn’t say anything to introduce herself, so I asked her, ‘Can you tell me who you are?'”

“When she replied, I could hear that she was extremely mad, and I recognized her voice as my girlfriend’s.”

“She said, ‘Are you f**king for real? You don’t recognize me?'”

“I told her that I physically cannot recognize her, and she started crying about how that meant she wasn’t important enough to recognize and a whole lot of other stuff.”

The OP was overwhelmed by his girlfriend’s reaction.

“I was honestly hurt that she was upset with me over a medical condition that I recently acquired and am struggling with.”

“This has changed the entire course of my life and caused me so much emotional pain already, not to mention the other trauma I sustained from my accident.”

“If she had read my explanation I texted her, or the articles I sent her, she would understand that my ability to recognize her has nothing to do with my care for her.”

“She got upset at me for not apologizing to her, but I refused and told her to leave me alone and go home.”


Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some were concerned about the girlfriend making the OP’s condition all about her.

“I dated a guy like you, other than his prosopagnosia that led to not being forever.”

“I learned rather quickly to have a catchphrase when I saw him. He said it made life so much easier to figure out who I was. I was his longest girlfriend at the time because I took time to see past his prosopagnosia.”

“If she was mature enough, she would have been worried and not angry when you didn’t recognize her. She needs to grow up and apologize.” – CakePhool

“Your girlfriend made it all about her instead of you. Of course, it hurts when someone you love cannot recognize you, but there is a very valid reason for it. I wish you well and hope you will be able to focus on yourself and your health.” – Pollythepony1993

“OP is in the hospital recovering from a very recent traumatic brain injury!! He may have other difficulties functioning currently, and even if he doesn’t, he hasn’t had a lifetime of building up coping skills.”

“He might recover his facial recognition, or he might not, and he needs to find other ways of dealing with it, but surely at the point where he is still in hospital and probably hasn’t even figured out the full impact of his injury, his friends and family should be giving him maximum support and understanding.”

“It’s the ring theory: comfort in, dump out. The most affected person is supported and comforted by their closest circle, and those people, in turn, should be supported and comforted by someone less close to the situation.”

“His girlfriend can be upset he doesn’t recognize her, but she needs to suppress that while she’s with OP and find another person not immediately involved to support her if she wants to continue this relationship.” – Potential-Savings-65

“Honestly, I’m a little worried that she hears you’ve had something horrible happen and are struggling, and she couldn’t even be bothered to read the resources. Not only that, she made what happened to you about her.”

“I hope your road to recovery is smooth and that those you love support you along it, as you deserve. I would caution you against keeping people around who are upsetting and hinder your progress rather than supporting it.”

“NTA.” – Uhwhateverokay

“Imagine expecting someone you claim to love to apologize to you for suffering a traumatic brain injury.” – StatusCaterpillar725

“I worked with people with different types of brain injury for over a decade, and so many people tend to lose a lot of their social network after an injury. They’ll often say how their injury showed them who their real friends were.”

“A common thread is that invisible disabilities are much harder to get across to others than any kind of physical problems. People will accommodate a paralyzed arm way more easily than they will someone with memory problems.” – quellesaveurorawnge

Others could understand how everyone in this situation needed to be shown some empathy.

“No one’s the AH here. His girlfriend needs time to adjust to, understand, and accept this aspect of OP’s TBI. If she can’t adjust to him not recognizing her, she needs to get out of this relationship.”

“And OP needs to give his girlfriend time to adjust. It’s unreasonable to expect her to be able to understand and accept this change without any time to process it.”

“They owe each other some grace.” – dr-pebbles

“NTA. Everyone could have stood to be a bit more understanding, to be honest. It has to be incredibly jarring to hear that you could recognize your immediate family but not her. She probably needs more time.”

“I changed my vote to NTA because she should not have been acting angry while you are injured, though I can understand her being hurt.”

“Just my two cents for this situation going forward: as someone who also struggles to recognize faces, I generally apologize before asking people who they are. It’s just a matter of tact. Apologizing doesn’t kill me, and no one gives me s**t for not recognizing them.” – Snakesquares

“I honestly don’t know what to say, OP. I can see it from both sides. I’d be hurt, but you also can’t help it. I’m giving an NTA, but I don’t think she’s an a**hole, either.” – Bunnyclownn

“NTA. Your girlfriend is probably more scared than mad that you didn’t recognize her. Tell her to read those articles while in the room about your condition, so she can understand.” – miafrunt

“Sudden disability is hard on the person affected, but it still affects those around them and especially partners. When you share your life with someone, you inevitably end up sharing some of the hardship of your disability, and it’s still an adjustment period for OP’s girlfriend.”

“I think she can’t relate, so it’s hard to understand right away, and she naively thought somehow she was going to be an exception.”

“He said she hadn’t even had a chance to see him in the hospital until that time. I’m not sure how long/serious their relationship is, and many things depend on that.”

“I don’t think it’s right to demonize her for not accepting it right away because a TBI changes a lot about what is possible in their relationship and puts limitations on them that she probably didn’t expect. It’s up to OP if he wants to give her time or feels it’s not worth the added stress.”

“But I suppose I’m trying hard to be kind because I feel I know a bit about what she’s going through.”

“My partner experienced a physical injury (spinal injury though, not brain) a few years ago, and I definitely felt frustrated at the loss of potential goals, the reality of adjusting to his loss of mobility, and the way it affects both of us, and just a million small things. It took about a year for us both to come to terms with what disability means and how it changes your life.”

“And yes, there was a period in which I wondered if I could do this for the rest of my life: live with the limitations of including him in all the things I want to do despite my otherwise active and able-bodied lifestyle. He had to learn to ask for help and not take out his frustration on me when he failed to ask and pushed himself too hard or when he refused to accept help and had to live with the consequences (a lot of pain).”

“I had to learn when to offer my help, to do it more often, and to accept that I can’t assume he will be able to assist on certain things because it’s outside of his abilities now. I learned to ask, ‘Do you think you can handle this?’ and he had to learn that sometimes the answer is just no.”

“For OP and his girlfriend, the adjustments are things like, can she handle needing to remind him who she is? Maybe they can come up with a routine every time they reunite.”

“Can she support him in reminding him who other people are in a kind and sensitive way? Can he get past the embarrassment of needing that help? Can he devise strategies to identify people that don’t include coming right out and saying, ‘Who are you?’ to their face, which rightfully hurts some people’s feelings.” – Ashesnhale

The subReddit admitted this was an incredibly sensitive subject and wished the OP well, but they were a little more divided on the girlfriend’s reaction.

While some could understand it is hard to see someone she loved not recognize her, the girlfriend arguably made a situation about herself that hardly had anything to do with her at all.

She only had to decide if this was something she wanted to work through or move beyond.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan has been a part of the George Takei family since 2019 when she wrote some of her favorite early pieces: Sesame Street introducing its first character who lived in foster care and Bruce Willis delivering a not-so-Die-Hard opening pitch at a Phillies game. She's gone on to write nearly 3,000 viral and trending stories for George Takei, Comic Sands, Percolately, and ÜberFacts. With an unstoppable love for the written word, she's also an avid reader, poet, and indie novelist.