Sam, Revisited

Do you remember Sam? His sense of responsibility is keeping him home with his sick mom while his need for freedom is having a negative impact on his physiology. Sam can see his behaviours: depressing, sleep difficulties, impatience, even anger, and he doesn’t like them. He needs a change; his body is telling him so.

 This article is one in a series  on conflict.
You can find the first article in the series here.

According to Reality Therapy, problems are caused by unsatisfying present relationships. As much as Sam loves his parents, that relationship is not working well when it’s not working for one of the parties. It takes two to make a relationship, after all.

So Sam asked his parents directly how they want things to be. What he learned (or at least, what he perceived) is that they want him to stay. Forever, if possible. Oh, dear.

Sam might think that he is right back where he started, but he’s not. What’s changed? His parents, who know that Sam cares deeply for them, now know that the current situation isn’t working for him. That may motivate them to change both their behaviour and their expectations.

However, Sam can’t change their behaviour, only his own. He realizes that if he succumbs to stress and becomes incapacitated, he won’t be much help. That would be a drastic demonstration of Sam’s body choosing for him!

So Sam has choices to make, and none of the options are perfect. Here are four Reality Therapy principles to consider as he makes those choices.

1. Look carefully at what you really want. When Sam asked himself, “If I did feel independent, where would I be living? What would I be doing?” he realized he wants to be nearby and stay involved in his mom’s care.

2. Assess the direction of your choices. As Sam’s goal is to get out of the house, then creating an apartment in the basement would not be moving in the right direction.

3. Take action. If Sam were incapacitated, who would care for mom? Sam began looking at options for care.

4. Use caring habits in the relationship. Supporting, encouraging, respecting, and listening all help to keep the relationship close and connected even as you negotiate differences. You don’t have to see eye-to-eye on every issue to have a caring, satisfying relationship.

What did Sam do? One effective choice has him announcing a move in the not-too-distant future, while he maintains regular visits and puts external care in place for his mom. Sam and his parents agree to re-evaluate the situation a few months after the move. Sam gains freedom; mom connects with a larger community. With her isolation reduced, she even enjoys interacting with others. Knowing that he will be moving out, Sam immediately becomes less resentful and the joy in the relationship is restored.

Does that sound too good to be true? Or does it sound like a reasonable negotiation of differences within a loving, caring relationship?

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