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Negotiating romantic relational dynamics is inherent to family caregiving situations, which continue to be on the rise in the United States. However, despite evidence that family caregiving duties are linked to a variety of negative relational outcomes, limited research examines communication processes that contribute to or alleviate the burden of caregiver duties on romantic relationships. Guided by psychological reactance theory (PRT), this study examined the link between romantic partner interference with family caregiving duties and the reactance process, as well as directness of communication about irritation as a type of freedom restoration behavior associated with reactance. Adults caring for aging family members recruited from MTurk (N = 187) completed an online survey as part of a larger study of romantic partner communication surrounding family caregiving. Results using PROCESS serial mediation indicated that greater partner interference was related to heightened perceptions of freedom threat, which was positively associated with the experience of reactance, which in turn was associated with communication about irritation. However, the association between reactance and directness of communication about irritation was negative, the opposite direction of what was hypothesized. Implications for PRT and interventions with caregivers and their romantic partners are discussed.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2021 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at


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