Help provision within couples faced with chronic pain: a motivational approach


  • L. Goubert


Background: Research has indicated that receiving support from a romantic partner may not only benefit individuals with chronic pain (ICPs), but may also yield negative effects. Therefore, more research is needed examining the conditions under which partner support has (mal)adaptive effects. The present study used a motivational approach (i.e., Self-Determination Theory) to investigate the effects of partners’ different types of motivation to help upon ICP outcomes and its underlying processes. Method: A sample of 134 couples, where at least one partner had chronic pain, completed a diary for 14 consecutive days. Partners (81.3% males) reported on their daily helping motives, whereas ICPs reported on their daily received support, timing of help, need satisfaction and frustration and pain intensity. Findings: Results showed that partners’ daily helping motivation was significantly related to changes in ICPs’ day-to-day need satisfaction and frustration. On days where partners helped primarily for autonomous reasons (i.e., enjoyment, full commitment) rather than for controlled reasons (e.g., avoiding guilt and criticism), ICPs indicated receiving more help, which partially accounted for the effect of partner’s autonomous helping motivation on ICP need satisfaction and frustration. Timing of help moderated the effects of daily received support on ICP need satisfaction and frustration. Discussion: Our findings indicate that considering the reasons why a partner provides help is important to understand when ICPs may benefit from daily support. Further, findings highlight the importance of receiving support on moments that it is needed most, and especially when there is little support provision present.