11 January 2011
Based on attribution theory, this study hypthesized that past spousal supportiveness may act as a moderator of the link between one partner’s current support behavior and the other partner’s relationship satisfaction. A sample of 88 patients with colorectal cancer and their partners completed questionnaires approximately 3 and 9 months after diagnosis. The data were analyzed employing dyadic data analytic approaches. In the short-term, spousal active engagement—which involved discussing feelings and engaging in joint problem solving—was positively associated with relationship satisfaction in patients as well as in partners, but only when past spousal support was relatively low. Spousal protective buffering—which involved hiding worries and fears and avoiding talking about the disease—was negatively associated with relationship satisfaction in patients, again only when past spousal support was relatively low. If past spousal support was high, participants rated the quality of their relationship relatively high, regardless of their partner’s current support behavior. Over time, past spousal supportiveness was not found to mitigate the negative association between spousal protective buffering and relationship satisfaction. Overall, our results indicate that relationship satisfaction can be maintained if past spousal supportiveness is high even if the partner is currently not very responsive to the individual’s needs, at least in the short-term.