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Heart patients are frequently advised to make lifestyle changes and communication with a romantic partner can help or hinder adoption of heart healthy behaviors. However, talking about lifestyle change can have both positive and negative meanings and this can create dilemmas for couples.
We engaged in an interpretive analysis of interviews with 25 patients and 16 partners to identify the ways they managed the meanings of lifestyle change talk. Their communicative strategies included rationing talk, saying it nicely and framing it cooperatively. Each strategy had advantages
and disadvantages as well as optimal conditions. We also identified interpretive lenses that shaped the meaning of talk, including legitimacy, patience, emphasizing the positive, moderation, benefits for both people, and perceived compliance. Finally, environmental resources (such as household
patterns and communication with the social network) contextualized the meaning of talk. We proposed a model of the interrelated influence of communication, interpretation, and environment on the meanings of talking about lifestyle change.