Open Communication and Physical Intimacy in Young and Midlife Couples Surviving Cancer Beyond the First Year of Diagnosis

Mashael F. Dewan

Jessica R. Gorman

Brandon Hayes-Lattin

Karen S. Lyons

cancer, communication, sexuality, survivors, couples, physical intimacy
ONF 2021, 48(6), 669-679. DOI: 10.1188/21.ONF.669-679

Objectives: To assess the association between levels of dyadic coping (e.g., collaboration, communication) and sexual satisfaction in young and midlife couples surviving cancer beyond the first year of diagnosis.

Sample & Setting: This cross-sectional study included 49 young and midlife couples (aged 21–57 years) beyond the first year of diagnosis. Couples were from rural and urban areas.

Methods & Variables: A mailed survey was used to gather data from cancer survivors and their partners.

Results: Controlling for cancer survivor sex and age, open communication was significantly associated with greater involvement in affectionate and sexual behaviors of the couple. Protective buffering behaviors (i.e., concealing worries and avoiding communication) were not significantly associated with engagement in physical intimacy. Perception of how much a partner openly communicates was more salient for engaging in physical intimacy than one’s own open communication.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses should include partners in planned care, assess the concerns of the partner, and treat the couple as the unit of care.

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