Perceptions of Romantic Partners’ Responsiveness During a Period of Stressful Uncertainty

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Abstract

Whether awaiting biopsy results, a grade on a midterm, or a decision from a journal editor, people feel distressed as they wait for uncertain news. In the present study, we investigated how people’s perceptions of their romantic partner, specifically their partner’s responsiveness to their support needs, corresponds with key aspects of the waiting experience. In a longitudinal study of 184 law students awaiting their result on the California bar exam, we examined changes in perceived responsiveness over time and associations between perceived responsiveness and expectation management strategies, health, and well-being. Results revealed temporal patterns in perceived responsiveness, with the greatest responsiveness perceived at the start and end of the wait. Perceived responsiveness was also intertwined with efforts to manage one’s expectations while awaiting uncertain news and was associated with more positive emotions, better subjective coping, and greater self-reported sleep quality during the wait.

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