The Influence of Rheumatoid Arthritis on Marital Satisfaction
Chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) interfere with an individuals functional capacity, ability to work and his/her interpersonal relationships. The influence of RA on marriage, particularly marital satisfaction, has not been investigated in depth. Other studies in chronic illnesses other than RA have suggested that wives satisfaction with marriage is lower when their husbands have a chronic disease. However, when wives have a chronic disease, husbands marital satisfaction is not significantly reduced. This suggests that gender may influence marital satisfaction. Other factors that may influence marital satisfaction include ways that couples cope with chronic illness and the severity of the disease. In the present study (Bermas, et al Arthritis Care Res 13:149-155, 2000), the investigators hypothesized that gender, coping styles and disease activity are associated with marital satisfaction. Prior studies have evaluated either patients or their spouses. The current study evaluated both partners.
Results: 76% of patients were women. The mean patient age was 56.5 years, the mean number of years married was 30.7, and the mean duration of RA was 14.2 years. Patients and spouses were generally satisfied with their marriages. Lower marital satisfaction in patients was associated with higher education, patients greater use of escape into fantasy, and patients greater use of finding blame. Spouses less satisfied with their marriages were more likely to use passive acceptance and less likely to find blame.
Conclusions: This study indicates that coping styles of marital partners differentially affect marital satisfaction. In general, certain passive coping styles were associated with lower marital satisfaction. It is interesting that one of these passive coping styles, the finding of blame, was associated with higher marital satisfaction for patients. The authors suggest that this coping strategy may not be so passive if it results in increased communication within the marriage.