What does it mean to accommodate, or give up “self”, to preserve harmony?
Ellis is a 53 year-old father of two. His wife, Stacy, is 51. Ellis runs a successful insurance business and Stacy is a homemaker. Their kids, Evan, 22, and Sheri, 19, are living at home. Evan started college at 18 but quit after two semesters. He says he won’t go back until he knows what he wants to do with his life. Sheri graduated high school last spring and is taking a “gap year” while she decides where she’d like to go next year. Stacy is supportive of both kids’ decisions to live at home because she says she doesn’t want them to feel pressured to move out before they are ready. Ellis once suggested that they should be paying rent if they aren’t in school, but Sheri was irate at the idea. “My children are not going to pay to live at their own house!” she’d yelled at Ellis.
Stacy is also concerned that Evan may be suffering from depression, which runs in her family. She cautions Ellis not to upset his son.
Secretly, Ellis thinks his wife is spoiling the kids. He’d like to see them take more responsibility for themselves. But Ellis grew up in a household where there was a lot of conflict and he’d decided a long time ago that he wasn’t going to live like that. He’d rather keep his mouth shut and avoid an argument. He’s sure that’s better for everyone than fighting. He just keeps hoping the kids will get motivated to do something productive.
The other thing Ellis would like is more time alone with Stacy. She’s so involved with the kids and her family-her sister and mother share a home nearby-that she never wants to go out with him. Sometimes he asks, but she’s always too tired. So Ellis occupies himself. He watches TV, reads a little, and works. A lot. Stacy complains about that, too. Thank goodness he likes to jog. Sometimes he thinks that if he couldn’t put on his running shoes and get out of the house for an hour or two he would lose his mind completely.
Last week Ellis had his yearly physical. The doctor put him on medication for his blood pressure. Ellis can’t figure out why he has such high blood pressure with all that exercise. It’s kind of depressing.
People make decisions for many reasons. Generally, however, you choose the way you do based on either your values and beliefs or your emotions.
People in relationships become very sensitive to each other. You can read your partner’s moods and you learn, often without realizing it, what pushes her buttons. You might even get to the point where you feel like you have to walk on eggshells to avoid problems. Everyone does this to some extent; it goes along with being a social animal living in groups. However, if you compromise yourself enough there might be serious consequences. You might drink too much, escape through a fixation on internet pornography, or overspend. Or you might develop physical symptoms. Many physical conditions are either triggered by or exacerbated by the stress of giving in to go along. Even if you and your spouse argue a lot, you still might be accommodating to an unhealthy degree. If, on some level, you know that you are behaving more out of anxiety than according to your values or innermost beliefs, then you are giving up “self” to preserve harmony.
Ellis is desperate to avoid conflict. In a sense, by going along with Stacy and the kids, he’s living a lie. The cost to his mental and physical health may be too high for him to afford indefinitely. Ellis has some decisions to make. In the long run, confronting his fears of confronting may be in his and his family’s best interests.