Teen Mom: Phone records, gov’t assistance, separated parents

On last night’s episode of Teen Mom, Amber and Gary kept fighting about getting engaged, Catelynn and Tyler tried to mend their relationship after Catelynn’s lies broke Tyler’s trust, Farrah struggled to make ends meet, and Maci tried (but failed) to keep Ryan on the same parenting page as her regarding Bentley. Lots of yelling, lots of crying, lots of themes to work with.

1. Will access to phone records (or e-mails, texts, etc.) mend trust?

Catelynn and Tyler have gone from dream couple in season one to broken couple in season two — the skeletons are coming out of the closet for Catelynn, who lied to Tyler about her previous relationship with a guy in Florida, and Tyler’s trust for Catelynn has been destroyed because the lie has existed for their entire relationship. Tyler accuses Catelynn of having a wall up, they go to couples counseling, yet the trust remains a big problem.

Tyler tells Catelynn he forgave her but he can’t forget — which I think is constantly a bogus line because if you can’t forget what happened, then there is still a part of you that isn’t forgiving the person — and says he needs some concrete evidence to look at to know she is being honest. So what does Tyler ask to see? Her phone records. It’s unclear whether he wants past or present phone records, but it’s not the right path to rebuilding trust.

Relying on access to e-mails, phone records, text messages, etc. is not the way to build trust — it’s a way to get into the habit of needing to monitor your partner and never being able to believe what they say unless there is physical evidence (or a lack of physical evidence, e.g. check my phone records, I never called so-and-so). The definition of trust (according to Merriam-Webster) is:

A firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing; faith; reliance.

You can fool yourself into thinking that seeing those phone records and text messages creates and builds a sense of confidence and faith, but the entire idea of trust is that it functions without physical proof or evidence — sure you believe someone if you see their actual phone records, but if you have to check the records, you aren’t trusting them — you’re trusting the evidence you found, if anything. Trusting is believing the person without checking the phone records.

Tyler is stepping down a dangerously slippery slope if he thinks looking at her phone records is the key to rebuilding his trust — it gives him peace of mind to know she’ll agree to share them, but it creates a new pattern in which he doesn’t develop any true trust or confidence that she is being honest, but rather a dependency on invading her privacy and seeing physical evidence that she isn’t lying.

2. Making too much, but not enough

Farrah brought up a good point about government assistance when she was telling a coworker that she made too much money for government assistance but wasn’t making enough money to pay her bills. This is actually a common problem for many individuals and families, being denied assistance for making too much money to be considered “in need” but not enough to actually stay afloat or maintain any savings every month.

Luckily there are countless websites dedicated to helping people find other forms of assistance, such as this one, this one, and this one. But, it’s an important problem to highlight — people probably assume Farrah, as a single parent, would qualify for these programs and might judge her or write her off as someone whose livelihood is subsidized by taxpayers. In reality, however, she isn’t getting anything for free — except temporary baby-sitting, and that’s only because her mom was being charged with domestic violence and couldn’t be around baby Sophia.

3. Separated parents trying to jointly parent

Parenting is all about consistency — Supernanny will tell you that you need to stand your ground, otherwise your children will know that if they kick, scream, and complain enough, you’ll give in and let them break the rules. Maci was on a mission to wean Bentley off his pacifier, and she was extremely consistent — despite the fact his crying and fussing kept her awake all night, she never relented and never gave him a pacifier even though it would have stopped his tantrums.

Fast forward to Ryan’s day with Bentley, when Bentley hits his head on a table and Ryan calms him down by throwing a pacifier in his mouth. That sleepless night that Maci endured to show Bentley that she meant business? Out the window. It’s hard enough for two parents to be consistent in parenting under the same roof, but it’s exponentially harder when the parents are separated.

My parents are divorced, and I know from experience that kids pick up quickly on what they can get away with — this happens with parents who are together, but they are more likely to communicate with one another about parenting decisions they’ve made. Without my parents communicating, it was easy to learn one set of rules with one parent, and a completely different set with another — not sure how that affected my upbringing; perhaps it made me more conniving, or observant, or secretive, as I had to know when to keep quiet about one parent having stricter rules.

Either way, Ryan needs to show more respect toward Maci’s parenting choices, especially since it seems like she sees Bentley more than Ryan does and has to deal with the repercussions of whatever parenting choices Ryan does or doesn’t go along with.

Also, I’d like to give props to Maci for being mature about Ryan’s girlfriend, Kathryn. While her other friends were calling Kathryn a whore, Maci was saying that she hoped Kathryn was a positive influence on Ryan and led him to wanting to spend more time with Bentley. Maci was right to be concerned that Kathryn was also a positive influence on Bentley, but it was really great that she opted out of being catty and vindictive and focused solely on the well-being of Bentley.

4. Getting antsy about getting hitched

Amber wants nothing more than a ring on her finger so that she will feel secure that Gary won’t abandon Leah and her again. She tells Gary this pretty frequently, and they nearly broke up on last week’s episode because he wasn’t ready to propose. This week, on a family vacation in Florida, the topic reared its ugly head again, concluding with the most awkward marriage proposal I’ve ever seen in my life.

Amber relentlessly talked about how she was old-fashioned and thought the man should propose, yet she didn’t seem to keen on waiting until he was ready or felt like he really wanted to marry her. “I know what I want, but I’m not waiting forever,” she said (though I think that’s an empty threat), which is not uncommon for a person to think when s/he’s been dating someone for a long time, but Amber and Gary seemingly just agreed that he wasn’t ready and they needed to work on their relationship — STOP THINKING A RING WILL FIX YOUR PROBLEMS, AMBER.

How “old-fashioned” and romantic is it to pressure your boyfriend into proposing even though he is obviously apprehensive about it? Amber was practically feeding Gary what to say and getting angry when he didn’t use the right wording. Although, judging from the scenes from next week’s episode, it’s clear that the proposal and the ring weren’t the relationship-fixing, commitment-forcing things that Amber thought they’d be.

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