A growing number of studies have demonstrated the importance of marital quality among patients undergoing medical procedures. The aim of the study was to expand the literature by examining the relationships between stress, social support and family and marriage life among hemodialysis patients. A total of 114 participants, including 38 patients and their spouses and 38 healthy controls, completed a survey package assessing social support, stress, family functioning and marital satisfaction and quality. We found that hemodialysis patients and spouses were less flexible in family adaptability compared with the healthy controls. Patients and spouses had more stress and instrumental social support compared with healthy people. Stress was negatively associated with marital satisfaction. Instrumental support was not associated with family or marital outcomes. The association between marital quality and support outside of family was positive in healthy individuals but was negative in patients and their spouses. Family adaptability was positively associated with support within family as perceived by patients and positively associated with emotional support as perceived by spouses. In conclusion, findings suggest that social support may promote adjustment depending on the source and type. Future research should pay more attention to the types and sources of social support in studying married couples. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.