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Spousal Mindfulness and Social Support in Couples With Chronic Pain

Williams, Amy M. MA; Cano, Annmarie PhD

The Clinical Journal of Pain: June 2014 - Volume 30 - Issue 6 - p 528–535
doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000009
Original Articles

Objectives: Existing research has reported the correlation between patients’ psychological flexibility, of which mindfulness is a component, and their perceptions of the spouses’ support provision. It is quite likely that spouses’ mindfulness, in particular certain aspects of mindfulness, is also related to the support they provide to patients. The current study examined this issue.

Materials and Methods: The sample included 51 couples in which 1 partner had chronic pain. Patients and their spouses each completed a questionnaire that assessed 3 facets of their own mindfulness (ie, nonreactivity, acting with awareness, nonjudging). In addition, patients reported on their pain-related psychological flexibility, marital satisfaction, and perceptions of spousal support.

Results: Only 1 facet of patients’ mindfulness (ie, nonreactivity) was related to their perceptions of their spouses as being emotionally responsive to them. Spouses’ nonjudging and nonreactivity were negatively correlated with punishing spouse responses. In addition, spouses’ acting with awareness was positively correlated with patients’ reports of perceived partner responsiveness and instrumental support and negatively correlated with patients’ reports of punishing spouse responses, often over and above the contribution of patients’ own mindfulness or pain-related psychological flexibility.

Discussion: Spouses’ mindfulness, especially as it pertains to acting with awareness, was most consistently associated with patient perceptions of spousal support. These findings suggest that acting with awareness should be examined further including the possible contributions this type of mindfulness may make to healthy relationship behaviors in the context of pain.

Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

The authors declare no conflict of interest. Data collection for this project was made possible by Grant K01 MH66975 awarded to A.C.

Reprints: Amy M. Williams, MA, Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, 5057 Woodward, Detroit, MI 48202 (e-mail:

Received September 6, 2012

Accepted August 2, 2013

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins