‘Jersey Shore’ couple shows forgiveness isn’t easy

While Jersey Shore might seem like nothing more than a show dedicated to working out, tanning, doing laundry, and partying, I actually am quite fascinated by Sammi and Ronnie, the couple of the Jersey Shore house whose relationship dynamics never cease to amaze me. On last night’s episode, the couple showcased a common relationship problem — forgiveness.

For those of you who don’t watch Jersey Shore, let me provide a recap: the show started as a reality show based in Seaside Heights, N.J., where people often spend their summers along the Jersey shore. Eight people lived in the house (well, one left almost immediately, but anyway), and Sammi and Ronnie started a relationship.

Next season, the show moved to Miami. Sammi and Ronnie were in a limbo kind of state regarding their relationship, and Ronnie would go to the clubs with the guys and make out with a bunch of girls, then come home and snuggle up with Sammi and tell her how much he loved her. They got back together, he said he wasn’t with any other girls in Miami, J-Woww and Snooki left her an anonymous note saying he did, drama ensued.

Now for season three, everyone is back in Seaside and Sammi and Ronnie are secluding themselves from the group. Actually, Sammi is secluding herself because she is pissed at the other women in the house for hiding knowledge of  Ronnie cheating, and she is guilting Ronnie into being secluded with her by bringing up what happened in Miami. And now we arrive at the topic of forgiveness.

Sammi wants to be with Ronnie and “forgive” him, but she also wants to use his cheating/lying to her as leverage when she wants something. In the house, she feels alone — she doesn’t want to lose her only ally, Ronnie, so when he decides he wants to hang out with the group, she immediately goes for this ammo — the problem is that it’s unfair to use the past as ammo if you’ve already agreed to forgive and try to move past it.

“It’s got to get to a point where it’s either get over it or move on,” Ronnie told Sammi. And he has a point — of course Sammi can feel sad or betrayed or angry, but if she is going to give him a second chance, she can’t keep beating him over the head with all the mistakes he has made. It’s tough to forgive and rebuild trust, which is why if you’re constantly going to use those incidents as weapons, you need to re-evaluate whether you want the relationship to continue — a reconciliation shouldn’t be a battlefield.

This is a common problem in relationships, and a lot of it is about evening the score. People on the surface want to accept apologies and offer forgiveness, but deep-down what really makes people feel better is a revenge of sorts — “you made me feel terrible, and I won’t feel better until you feel equally as terrible.” Sammi probably thinks that accepting Ronnie’s apology is letting him off the hook too easily, so she wants him to repent to her by doing whatever she says and proving his loyalty to her by ignoring everyone else in the house.

Of course, this attitude just leads to an unhealthy cycle of resentment and anger — now Ronnie feels treated unfairly by Sammi, who rather than making an attempt at moving past her feelings of anger and betrayal is keeping them in storage for use against him whenever he crosses her again. So then Sammi continues to feel betrayed because Ronnie isn’t showing undying devotion, and nothing progresses because the relationship is stalled in mutual feelings of anger, dishonesty, and bitterness.

Rebuilding trust is hard — I don’t blame Sammi for feeling unsatisfied with a simple apology and not thinking Ronnie understands her pain — but nothing can be rebuilt if you’re still stuck in the debris of the past. There comes a point when you have to choose between sitting in the rubble or clearing it and rebuilding — because you can’t build anything strong or stable on a rocky foundation.

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