16&P: One million tell-tale signs that you’re in an unhealthy relationship

I’ve decided that my love of 16 and Pregnant runs much deeper that just enjoying many MTV reality TV shows, but in fact each episode teaches valuable lessons about relationships (romantic, friend, family, etc.). So, every Wednesday, I’ll be discussing an important issue that the Tuesday night episode highlights.

This week was about Nikkole, a 15-year-old high school junior who got pregnant after unprotected sex and relying on the “pull and pray” method of birth control. Like a majority of the teens on the show, the baby’s father was immature and mistreated the baby’s mother.

The father in this episode, Josh, was by far the worst father I’ve seen on 16 & Pregnant. He was controlling, manipulative, deceitful, and disrespectful. He treated Nikkole like a doormat, and he broke up with her and began dating another girl both when he found out Nikkole was pregnant and shortly after she gave birth to her baby boy, Lyle.

Normally, I feel sympathy toward these girls because they don’t realize how jerky their boyfriends are until after they give birth (see: Ryan and Maci, Jenelle and Andrew). But in this episode, I felt both anger and pity toward Nikkole, who obviously did not see or want to see the tell-tale signs that Josh was a complete douchebag:

1. Josh bossed her around in any situation possible, telling her where to be, what to do, and when to do it. He never asked — he demanded. Whether she was at a friend’s house and he demanded to see her or he alloted her only a certain amount of time to go to the Homecoming Dance, Josh always needed control.

2. Josh rarely kept his word about anything. He demanded that she only spend one hour at the Homecoming Dance before he was to pick her up, but he never showed, and she spent Homecoming night playing video games with her younger brother. Aside from breaking up with her when he found out she was pregnant, he also broke up with her weeks after she gave birth — both times to date the same girl.

3. Josh completely disrespected everyone in his path, including her, her friends, her mom, and his own mother. His disrespect for her was obvious, as he saw her as a thing to be controlled and not as an actual person with feelings, not to mention he broke up with her countless times so he could hook up with other girls, and then he’d get back with her so he technically avoided “cheating.”

He also was mean to her friends, calling one a “bitch” for trying to tell Nikkole not to leave just because he had commanded her to drop everything and see him. He constantly fought for power from Nikkole’s mom, even demanding that Nikkole tell him her mom was number one, just because he knew she wouldn’t say it and he wanted to feel validated. He kept saying he “trumped” her mom, and he was even disrespectful to his own mom and didn’t listen to a word she said.

Now, sometimes, girls are in bad relationships and their friends won’t be honest because they don’t want to cause any drama or fights. But Nikkole’s friends were extremely blunt with her when it came to trying to knock some sense into her about Josh, telling her point blank that he cheated on her, controlled her, and was no good for her at all.

Nikkole is like too many women who stay with a guy because they have dependency issues. Nikkole clung to Josh before the pregnancy, probably lured by his confident (and arrogant) personality and “bad-boy” image. She has convinced herself that she “loves” Josh, while she ignores his mostly douchey personality and instead focuses on the times when he treats her well (likely when it’s convenient for him and he wants something from her).

I see far too many women cling to damaged relationships because they are convinced that (a) the guy was at one point charming, so he can get back to that point if he tries, even though his charm was likely an act, or (b) she can change the guy, take him on as a pet project and be the one true love and woman who turned the “bad boy” into a Prince Charming.

These girls — especially teenagers — are yearning for that unconditional love they see in movies and read about in books, and they convince themselves that friends and family just don’t understand because they see a different side of this guy that is good and pure. They cling to this sliver of his personality as hope that, with enough time and care, this sliver will become noticeable to everyone else.

In some cases, it’s more a matter of trying to salvage the time and energy put into a relationship, hoping to save the relationship and work things out so it wasn’t a complete waste of time, but women need to be able to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship and get out of it. Even with a baby, Nikkole is better off not having her son’s major role model be a guy who lies, cheats, and manipulates every chance he can get.

Also, this episode is an example of how people need to listen to their family and friends when it comes to relationships. People often isolate themselves and disconnect with everyone they know in favor of staying in an unhealthy relationship with someone, and the reason they isolate is because their family and friends keep telling them it’s not a good relationship, and they don’t want to hear that.

This episode was a good lesson in what characterizes an unhealthy relationship, and why many 16-year-old guys are not prone to maturity. I hope teenagers and adults alike can watch this episode and be more real with themselves about how they deserve to be treated, how they are being treated by a partner, and how important it is not to get sucked into such psychological abuse.

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