Communication impacted by partner’s pain coping

Researchers believe patient gender is an important factor when assessing and treating pain patients and couples.

December 5, 2011 14:56
2 minute read.
Back pain [illustrative]

Back pain 311 . (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

Newswise — GLENVIEW, Ill. -- Chronic pain suffered by one spouse can affect marital communication and influence the partner’s ability to cope with a chronic pain condition, according research reported in The Journal of Pain, published by the American Pain Society.

Psychological research has shown that how a spouse or partner responds to an individual’s behavior affects how and when emotions are expressed. For example, validation of a partner’s emotions by showing respect and acceptance promotes effective emotional regulation, trust and closeness. Conversely, invalidation of emotions, demonstrated by hostility or ignoring, increases emotional distance and is correlated with poor marital adjustment and depression.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

In their study, researchers from Wayne State University and the Norwegian Center for Addiction Research tested how the sequences and base rates of couples’ affective interactions were related to pain and emotional adjustment in both partners. They hypothesized that invalidating behavior followed by invalidation by either partner would be related to more severe pain, less marital satisfaction and depression.

Conversely, invalidation followed by a validating or neutral remark would be associated with better adjustment. They also expected that that the association of spousal behaviors and pain adjustment would be significantly stronger when the wife is the pain patient, based on previous research showing that women react more profoundly to pain and affective communication than men.

Couples for the study were recruited in a Midwestern US city through newspaper advertising. They were eligible to participate if one spouse had a musculoskeletal pain condition lasting more than six months. The initial sample had 78 adults with chronic pain and their spouses. Women comprised 58 percent of the pain patients studied. Low back pain was the most frequently mentioned site of the worst pain and the leading diagnoses were osteoarthritis, disc problems and fibromyalgia.

Study subjects participated in a three hour interview sessions in which the final 15 minutes were devoted discussing a disagreeable topic, such as family finances. Each partner was interviewed about their perspectives on the problem topic and the couples were instructed to discuss and make progress toward resolving the issue.

Results of the analysis showed that husbands with pain are more likely to respond negatively to spousal invalidation. So, contrary to the study’s hypothesis, men, either as patients or spouses, appeared to be more sensitive to their partners’ responses. This finding contradicts previous research showing that women are more likely to experience greater pain, distress and depression. The authors noted that perhaps pain is disruptive to a husband’s traditional roles, such as being the family provider, causing him to be more vulnerable for emotional upheaval from spousal invalidation behaviors.

From a clinical perspective, the authors believe their research shows patient gender is an important factor when assessing and treating pain patients and couples. Interventions, therefore, should be aimed at the couple, not just the pain patients, in order to help reduce invalidating behaviors and remarks and disruptive responses to them. Empathy training was recommended.

This article was first published at

Related Content

August 31, 2014
Weizmann scientists bring nature back to artificially selected lab mice