The Big Sam Question: Why Does Sam Stay With Dean?
I've been reading some meta in various places questioning why in the world Sam would chose to stay with Dean. This surprised me so I put together these thoughts on why I think Sam continues to choose to be with Dean,
(I'm going to try to keep my shipping goggles off. From a strictly shipping point of view, in my opinion there is no one else for Sam but Dean and vice versa and they both know that (in varying degrees of acceptance and reluctance at various times.) But from a non-shipping view of things, why are the brothers still together after all this time? Is it a choice, or are they just stuck with each other through inertia?
I think if you asked Sam straight out, "Why do you stay with Dean?" he'd first of all be surprised anyone was asking, and then he'd probably tell you that "it's complicated." Because it is. It is not straightforward at all, which is why to me as a viewer the tangled up relationship the brothers have is so interesting to watch.
So trying to look at it from Sam’s POV, here you are with your brother who you love dearly, who practically raised you, who has sold his soul to bring you back from death, and committed temporary suicide to retrieve your soul from being stuck in the Cage with Lucifer and chose to stay with you leaving behind Lisa and Ben.
This is the only living person who knows your story, well the majority of it, because of course, being human, you’ve kept a few things to yourself along the way.
You know that the life he managed to create for you even as he was a young child himself enabled you to be a high achiever in school, earning a free ride to Stanford. Through all that poverty, upheaval and danger, he kept it together for you. And you are now more than ever thankful for that after meeting Sonny and seeing the near-idyllic living situation Dean chose to leave to be with you and your father.
Dean is the engine that's driven you through life when you haven't wanted to go on and you've tried to do the same thing for him. You keep each other going.
And as he once said, "We keep each other human," which is so true it isn't even funny. (especially in season 10)
He's the main reason you were able to overcome Lucifer long enough to throw yourself in the cage.
He's the reason you chose to re-integrate yourself, taking on those debilitating Hell memories, "You know me, you know why, I'm not leaving my brother alone out there.”
He is the only reason you are still alive because you believed him when you were about to close the Gates of Hell, that you two could find another way.
When he was near death from electrocution, you regretted that another person’s life was lost, but you still would have made the same choice.
When he was going to Hell because he’d sold his soul to bring you back to life, you were willing to take an immortality potion to be with him forever until you figured a way out of his deal.
He represents both the best and worst things in your life. There's so much wrapped up in this one person that it's hard to even conceive of or analyze, so you try not to think about it too much.
He makes you laugh, he helps you when you're sick or injured, he makes you feel safe (most of the time) and he loves you more than anyone should love another person.
And you know you're going to end up together with him in your Heaven when it's all over for the both of you. That's a big one to you, because that Heavenly reward is something to look forward to when you know what it's going to be, all your best memories, and Dean at your side to share them with. When you read up on what soul-mates were, you realized the description of one soul in two bodies fits you two much too accurately.
Now the bad stuff, because of course there’s a lot of it, it is your life after all:
He doesn't always trust you or listen to you, or respect you, and you realize that you do the same with him. And maybe that’s because of the big brother/little brother built-in inequality and conflict that will always be there. Or maybe it is something left over from your father’s influence and training, the whole b.s. ‘need-to-know’ thing. But you don’t like it that it is this way between you.
You know that your relationship is very unequal, there was one time when it wasn't, right before you jumped in the Pit. Then you felt he was finally behind you. No, not just behind you, but beside you. Treating you like more than just his little brother. He talks a lot about being equal partners, but he hasn't really ever been able to get himself all the way there and stay there. And you have figured out that you cannot make that happen for him, it’s wrapped up in his self-worth issues and who knows what else. So you keep trying to get there again with him, you’re not ever going to give up on the attempt.
It is irritating and demoralizing that he still jumps in front of you when you're in danger, that he hides things from you that he thinks will hurt you, that he always puts you first instead of thinking of himself. That kind of obsessive, targeted love and attention is a burden to you. Because you feel the only response is to accept it, how do you ever reject that and break your brother's heart? The answer is you can't. Not ever again. You've done it before. And he's never forgiven you completely for it.
You recognize that the last few years have been hard on both of you, that the progress you struggled to make in your relationship has regressed from where you were before you jumped in the Pit. It pisses you off, but you understand it. You were soul-less, hallucinating, near-death during and after the Trials, and he had to hold it together for the both of you. You’ve had to depend on him much more than you’d ever wanted to. Especially after the experience of losing him to Purgatory for a year, and believing he was dead it just has cemented it for you, that you need him to function. All that stone number one stuff worked for you, and you still need it to be a whole person. That bothers you though, that you managed to have a sort of life without him, but you still didn’t feel like your real self.
He is more violent with you than you are with him. Part of this goes back to how he was raised and how he raised you. That whole being a quasi-parent thing. But it is a problem. It's not that you're scared of him of feel threatened, because you both know that you can physically best him if you needed to. But there are times that you know you're going to get punched and that is not okay. You know that Dean deals with his emotions in a physical way and is probably not going to ever change. Bringing it up with him as an issue would just give him one more thing to be guilty about and you don’t want to do that to him. Basically your life is a violent one, and you’re used to it. Yeah, that’s messed-up, but in the whole totality of your life, it isn’t that big of a deal to take an occasional punch from your brother.
The issue with the angel possession you’ve pretty much worked out on your own by now. You’re still angry that Dean didn’t just let you die, but you understand why he did what he did. You wish he’d just manned up and actually apologized like he should have. The thing that still hurts the most is that he left you right after you found out the truth instead of sticking around and working it out with you. Dean’s the bravest person you know, but he’s a coward when it comes to emotional conflicts.
You wish you could both talk and listen more to each other, but after all these years with all your dysfunction piling up, it doesn’t seem possible. Not without some major therapy, and that isn’t likely. So you stay with him, and accept his home-made hamburgers and Game of Thrones marathons for the love they are and try to return it in ways that he’ll accept. You know this wouldn’t be an ideal or healthy relationship for anyone else but you two. Because no one else in the world has gone through this kind of epic stuff and hung in there like you have.
The reasons for Sam choosing to stay with Dean are deep and they are complicated. Which I think pretty much matches his character, as Bobby’s last conversation with him re-emphasized, “You always were one deep little son of a bitch.” I find Sam to be one of the most inspiring characters on TV because of his vast capacity for forgiveness. Those around him might not recognize it or value it as much as they should, but I believe it is a quality to be admired. This fierce forgiveness is how he survives his life and manages to find some joy in it, a true example to anyone struggling in their own lives.
I think another interesting question might be to ask Dean why he thinks Sam stays with him. (But that’s a whole ‘nother story! And that’s even before the whole demon thing!