Spousal mindfulness perceived as emotional support in patients with chronic pain

Williams, A. M., & Cano, A. (2013). Spousal Mindfulness and Social Support in Couples with Chronic Pain. The Clinical Journal of Pain. Epub ahead of print. Abstract.

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.

Methods: The sample included 51 couples in which one partner had chronic pain. Patients and their spouses each completed a questionnaire that assessed three facets of their own mindfulness (i.e., non-reactivity, acting with awareness, non-judging). In addition, patients reported on their pain-related psychological flexibility, marital satisfaction, and perceptions of spousal support.

Results: Only one facet of patients’ mindfulness (i.e., non-reactivity) was related to their perceptions of their spouses as being emotionally responsive to them. Spouses’ non-judging and non-reactivity 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.