Background: Cognitive impairment gradually brings changes to the relationship between older married couples. Therefore, this study aimed to understand the individual viewpoints of couple dyads on the important attributes of a 'good dyadic relationship' in the context of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and to explore if the congruencies and discrepancies in their perceptions related to the quality and closeness of their relationship and well-being.
Methods: Q-methodology was used to reveal the perceptions of a ‘good dyadic relationship’ among couples with one having MCI. The participating couples were separated in two rooms and independently ranked 18 relationship attributes from least to most important on a 7-point Q-sort response grid. All participants also completed a post-sort interview and surveys to assess their psychological well-being and closeness. Q-sorts were analyzed using by-person factor analysis.
Results: Forty people with MCI and forty spousal partners completed the Q-sort. Three viewpoints, accounting for 48% of the total variance, were identified and were labeled ‘Provider,’ ‘Problem-solver,’ and ‘Partner.’ Different viewpoints of a ‘good dyadic relationship’ primarily varied by perceived importance of commitment, dedication, tolerance, and personal space. Despite these differences, there was wide consensus that respecting each other and cherishing the current moment are two universally salient attributes of a good relationship across all viewpoints. Couples with discrepant views scored significantly higher on perceptions of the quality of the relationship and closeness with the partner.
Conclusions: This study advances the theoretical understanding of the dyadic relationship between couples with one having MCI, from both perspectives. MCI is a state in which couples can openly discuss their expectations. The findings provide practitioners with insights to work with couples experiencing MCI.