Posts Tagged ‘bentley’

Teen Mom: A hodgepodge of highlights from the finale special

October 20, 2010

The second season of Teen Mom wrapped this week with the “Check-in with Dr. Drew” finale episode, when Dr. Drew makes the teen moms feel uncomfortable and typically tries to get them to admit they regret having their children — though last night, Dr. Drew did a lot more counseling and offered a lot more sound advice than usual. Of course, he still made all the teen moms cry.

Most of the topics that the finale show covered are topics that I’ve discussed before, so I think instead I’ll highlight in snippets the good advice that Dr. Drew had and the telling statements that the teen moms made.

Idealizing a relationship

People often romanticize relationships that are or were not exactly great — the memories are skewed or selective, and this romanticizing keeps people connected to or in unhealthy relationships — but Farrah’s relationship with her ex, Derrick, is a lot more complicated than the typical scenario because Derrick passed away. Those memories are all she has left of Derrick, and it seems both her and her mom have different memories of their relationship.

Dr. Drew point blank asked if she was romanticizing the relationship, and she denied that, saying, “I’m not painting a picture that’s rosy, I know what the realistic picture was.” Obviously losing him, especially with his being the father of Sophia, has left her devastated and she only wants to remember him in a positive light — but perhaps being more open and willing to deal with all the aspects of their relationship might help her grieving process.

The art of mind reading

Dr. Drew asked Maci and Kyle to talk about why they liked each other, and he said they could either tell him directly or they could tell each other. Both agreed to tell Dr. Drew instead of each other, which prompted the obvious question of why they couldn’t just look at each other and say those things. “We like show each other how we feel, but we don’t talk about it,” Maci told Dr. Drew.

Having mushy discussions all the time about why you like each other is understandably something many couples avoid — but you can’t avoid it all the time. A lot of people in relationships expect that their partner will know they appreciate, care about, enjoy the company of the other person — but actually verbalizing those things can make a world of difference. Showing rather than telling is important, but if you assume the other person always knows how you feel, it can transcend to topics beyond just lovey-dovey things — you start to assume the other person knew you wanted them to clean the bathroom; you assume the other person knew you didn’t want to go to that restaurant, etc. Being able to verbalize feelings to the other person is essential in any relationship.

Abuse doesn’t have to be physical

Something Dr. Drew highlighted that I really liked was when Catelynn’s mom, April, was reacting to Catelynn saying she would treat Carly different than her mom treats her. Upon hearing Catelynn say this stuff, April started clapping for her and mimed a halo being over Catelynn’s head. “When you call somebody a bitch and it’s your daughter, or you demean them with the halo stuff, that’s called abuse — it’s emotional abuse,” Dr Drew told April.

I’m glad he pointed this out, because abuse so often is only taken seriously if it’s physical or extremely offensive verbally. People pay attention when April is calling her own daughter a bitch — they might not even flinch at April putting a halo over Catelynn’s head, though it’s still April trying to break down her daughter. This kind of bullying, the little comments and jabs that are often overlooked because they aren’t overt and obvious, might seem harmless, but enough of it can really take a toll on someone.

Like mother, like daughter

A few times, Dr. Drew brought up that the way parents act directly influences how their children act. “[April’s] aggression is damaging, and if Catelynn had become a mom, she wouldn’t have really known any other way of dealing with those feelings,” Dr. Drew said. Catelynn might’ve taken out her frustration on Carly just like April makes a habit of using Catelynn as her own personal verbal punching bag.

He said the same thing to Amber, when he discussed how Leah will be affected by her domestic violence. He reminded both Gary and Amber that they came from violent homes and that Amber likely learned this behavior growing up, and then discussed how Amber had to take care of herself growing up (was “paternalized”) because of the fighting. “Her seeing you guys fighting, feeling the chaos — is that what you were exposed to as a kid?” Dr. Drew asked Amber. “It’s like the cycle repeating itself, right?”

He reminded them that kids are perceptive, and they know what is going on. Leah even tries to separate Gary and Amber if she sees them hugging, because she has learned that as parents, they are not meant to be affectionate — they are meant to fight with each other. If the violence continues, she could easily be conditioned to think that Moms just hit Dads — that it’s normal and it’s perfectly acceptable to do.

Calling the cops on a companion

Dr. Drew brought up a very good point — why didn’t Gary ever call the police after Amber would hit him? “I don’t call the police because I don’t want to — I don’t want to get [Amber] in trouble,” Gary replied. Dr. Drew made one of the best points of the night when he explained that, even though you don’t want to get them in trouble, you need to change the behavior somehow — the person won’t change unless there are serious consequences to certain behaviors.

He likened it to drug addiction and when family and friends enable behavior by giving the addict a place to stay, giving the addict money, etc., and never going through with threats, e.g. to cut the person off financially if they don’t get clean. In much the same way, Amber will not be motivated to change her behavior unless there are serious consequences otherwise — Gary tries to use taking the baby or calling social services as a threat, but if Amber knows he won’t ever do those things, she is less likely to actually change her abusive behavior. Some might argue that you don’t do those things to someone you love, but doing those things will ideally help that person improve their quality of life — how is letting that person spiral out of control a better way to show your love?

Struggling with self-worth

Amber brought up an interesting point when it comes to her love life — which is that dating other people makes her feel less guilty about the way she treats Gary as long as those other people match her own view of herself — she thinks she is a bad person, therefore she dates not-so-great people. This self-image is something a lot of people struggle with, and it leaves people in unhealthy relationships because they convince themselves they don’t deserve any better. Perhaps this is why Amber is so degrading to Gary — she doesn’t want him to feel like he deserves any better, either.

“You’re a good guy so she feels bad, they are bad guys so she feels better,” Dr. Drew told Gary. But this mentality also keeps Amber from making any real efforts at changing — if she surrounds herself with people who aren’t great people, who is there to inspire or motivate or support her growth from an abusive and angry person into a nonabusive and calmer person? Who you surround yourself with really does have an effect on the choices you make.

Thank you for being a friend — NOT

There’s a time and a place for parents and their kids to be friends, and during their high school years is not the time for that. Catelynn and Tyler somehow got to be extremely mature growing up with April and Butch (Tyler’s dad and April’s husband) — likely forced to by the circumstances of their upbringing (Catelynn’s mom is an alcoholic, Tyler’s dad is a cocaine addict who has been in jail most of Tyler’s life). Last night Catelynn and Tyler both expressed concern over how April didn’t have many friends and how sad it made them.

“They’re kids, they need a mom — they can’t be your friends,” Dr. Drew told April. Going along with the previous entry about how you are motivated by the people you surround yourself with, Dr. Drew suggested she go to treatment or a 12-step program where she could meet friends who understand the struggles April is facing in fighting alcoholism and who will support her, not enable her. Kids can’t offer adults that kind of support, especially when they are equally in need of support and guidance from their parents.

Teen Mom: Season 2 recaps, wrap-ups, and lessons learned

October 13, 2010

This week marked the final episode of this season of Teen Mom — let’s see what everyone’s actions in this episode say about what they’ve learned/how they’ve grown since the beginning of the season, shall we?

1. Farrah

The season began with Farrah calling the cops on her mother, who had hit Farrah in the face after a verbal altercation. Farrah moved into the guest house, then into an apartment, and she was struggling to pay bills, got scammed out of $3,000, and was finally dealing with and grieving the death of Sophia’s father with the help of a therapist. She also had therapy sessions with her mom, which was helping them communicate better.

And then, this week, old Farrah was back! Snotty, demanding, and completely hypocritical, Farrah was back to argue with her mom — who also is now her landlord. Farrah lamented that she wanted to sign a contract with her mom so her mom would respect her privacy and treat her like any other tenant — except she also wants special treatment in the form of moving in early, not paying prorated rent, and getting discounted rent because she wanted to move in early and the place wasn’t move-in ready yet.

Her mom tries going over the procedure with Farrah and tries to treat her like a normal tenant, but Farrah only wants to be a tenant on her own terms — she wants the huge house (for which she pays only $500 rent) and privacy, but she also wants her mom to discount her rent even further because Farrah is struggling and, as a mom, she wants her empathy and she wants to be taken care of. Suddenly, when her mom agrees to knock $100 off that month’s rent, Farrah is super happy with her mom again!

Farrah has definitely progressed, as she isn’t as outlandishly ridiculous toward her mom, but I think she could very easily devolve into her immature self if enabled by her parents. This week’s episode was one example of how far Farrah still has to go — you can’t ask to be treated like an adult while simultaneously demanding the perks you’d get as a kid.

2. Catelynn and Tyler

Catelynn and Tyler went through a lot this season — Tyler was still very distraught about the adoption, they nearly broke up because of Catelynn’s lying about her past with an ex, Tyler’s dad went back to jail, and Catelynn’s relationship with her mom continued to be rocky because of the adoption. Neither had enough credits to graduate with their high school class, but both remained positive about their futures and their decision to put Carly up for adoption.

This episode, they got to see Carly for the first time in a year. They were actually very calm and mature about the entire thing — no tears, no resentment, only happiness to see Carly and the realization that they were not and still are not ready to raise a child. It was great that the meeting didn’t bring any negative feelings back to the surface, and the positive experience is a sign that the open adoption can work for both Catelynn and Tyler and Brandon and Teresa.

Catelynn discussed her mom issues with Teresa, saying, “I think she wanted [the adoption] to rip me apart.” As Catelynn has said many times before, she wanted Catelynn to agree with her, and when Catelynn decided to do the adoption against her mom’s advice, she felt slighted and wanted Catelynn to see that not listening to her was a mistake. Rather, she sees that Catelynn is happy with her decision, and it only makes her mom more frustrated and angry.

Catelynn and Tyler are more mature than both their parents, and it’s shocking to see how clearly they think considering how irrational their parents are. It really comes down to wanting Carly to have better than they had, as Tyler summarized best when he talked about how happy he was that Carly had a father like Brandon. “I wish I could have a dad that would take me to the park when I was a little kid,” he said in regard to seeing Brandon push Carly on the swings. Their unstable parents are a constant reminder that they made the right decision.

3. Amber and Gary

Amber and Gary have had quite the roller coaster of a relationship this season — they exemplified the “on again, off again” relationship, with Gary moving in and out of the apartment and the two of them getting back together, breaking up, getting engaged, and breaking up again. Plus, Amber took her aggression to the new level by punching Gary in the face. Gary moved out, Amber met someone new, and they were trying to take care of Leah while dealing with their own problems with each other.

This week though, I actually felt a little bad for Amber.  Generally I think she is abusive and needs help beyond antidepressants, but Gary is being overly possessive of Leah and using her way too much to threaten Amber and get what he wants. Whereas Amber uses verbal and physical abuse, Gary is mastering psychological abuse.

When trying to discuss the schedule for taking care of Leah, first Gary and Amber were fighting on the phone, then Amber drove to his mom’s house to find him and talk in person, and then Gary sped off in his car when he saw Amber pulling up. This is interesting because at this time, he didn’t have any leverage — he already had Leah, so how could he further threaten to take her away? Even he laughed about it when he recalled the story to a friend — it made no sense, and it illustrated either 1) how afraid he is of Amber or 2) how he can’t communicate with Amber unless he has something to threaten her with, e.g. “If you don’t let me talk, I’m leaving and taking Leah with me.”

Then he found out that Amber’s new boyfriend changed Leah’s diaper, and he was enraged. “No guy is going to change my daughter. That’s your responsibility,” Gary said. “If you let him change her one more time, I’m going to take her away.” This is a ridiculous request. If you, as parents, are separated, you have to accept the fact that someone else might change that baby’s diaper. Is Gary feeling resentful about being replaced as a boyfriend? Yep. Does he need to learn to separate those feelings from parenting? Yep. These two could really benefit from counseling — I’m not sure they learned anything this season.

4. Maci

Maci’s had an interesting season, too — she started dating Kyle, she had to learn to co-parent with Ryan, she moved to Nashville to be closer to Kyle, and then her and Kyle broke up after dating for a few months. She resolved to stay in Nashville because she enjoyed the independence and not relying on her family so much for support.

I’ve talked at length about Maci and she wasn’t featured much in the finale episode, but custody was again a hot topic this week. It seems that Ryan only saw Bentley four days every two weeks, and he wanted one more day with him, which would bump the total to five days every two weeks. They met with a mediator, and Maci had a breakdown when Ryan asked for the extra day.

This is a normal setup. For parents who don’t live near each other, the nonprimary parent seeing the child on weekends is the rule, not the exception. So it’s not unusual for the nonprimary parent to see the child four, five, or even six days every two weeks. Regardless of his intentions (Maci thinks his parents, rather than Ryan, want to see Bentley more), the fact is that Ryan is not asking for an extraordinary amount of visitation.

Ryan asked Maci at the end of the episode if he thought they should be together for Bentley, and they both agreed they shouldn’t because they wouldn’t be happy. This is a very mature response, and one that I have wholeheartedly agreed with in the past — the convenience you gain by living in the same house and not needing to develop a visitation schedule is not worth the happiness and quality of life you and the child lose by choosing a living situation in which the parents can’t stand each other.


Don’t forget, next week is my favorite episode of all — the reunion special with Dr. Drew! Will he finally get the teen moms to admit their children are mistakes and they wish they’d never been born?! We shall see!

Teen Mom: Self-blaming, the honeymoon stage, selflessness

October 7, 2010

This week on Teen Mom, Maci and Kyle had an awkward break-up (which looked like a board meeting); Farrah continued to reconnect with Derrick’s family and her grief about Derrick’s death; Amber started dating other people (what an awkward first date); and Catelynn and Tyler planned a visit with Carly (which of course pissed off Catelynn’s mom).

1. The self-blaming game

I have to address the pattern of self-blaming that Gary showed this week. True, Amber did say she was sorry for hitting Gary, but then Gary sends her flowers and balloons as a peace offering? It seems bizarre, but Gary’s thoughts and actions are quite typical in an abusive relationship — instead of blaming Amber for abusing him, he blames himself and thinks his behavior gave her reason to abuse him.

“You must’ve done something really bad,” the florist said to Gary as he explained that he wanted a big vase of flowers to send. Precisely the opposite, though — he sent Amber a huge vase of flowers and balloons in hopes they could remain civil. It is not Gary’s responsibility to do this, as he is not the one who has an issue being civil and nonviolent. “She doesn’t care about you … I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to do that just because of what she’s done to you,” his brother’s girlfriend told him.

What Amber and Gary also show is that as hard as it is to get out of an abusive relationship, it’s exponentially more difficult when there are children involved. Gary still has feelings for Amber despite her abusive nature — likely because she has demeaned him to the point where he thinks he cannot do or does not deserve better — and it’s tough to move on when he sees her every time he picks up Leah. This is a problem regardless of a relationship being abusive — when you are separated but have a child, you’ll always have to deal with each other.

2. Hasta luego, honeymoon stage

Maci and Kyle were enamored with each other and in love, and so Maci decided to up and leave Chattanooga, Tenn. so she could move two hours away to Nashville to be closer to Kyle. I’ve discussed earlier that the move was premature because they had not been dating that long and were still under the honeymoon stage spell, and this week the honeymoon ended.

Maci left her family and friends behind to be with Kyle — though she figured out after moving there that Kyle was usually “unavailable” and always working. “Since I moved up here I went down on his priority list,” Maci told her friends. This is a typical problem that not only happens when long-distance relationships cease being long distance, but also when couples start living together.

That time you used to set aside for each other gets lost because you see each other constantly and the need to make time for each other seems irrelevant. In fact, you might see each other so much that one or both people want that time apart, which leaves a couple spending no quality time together, just time spent coexisting in the same square footage of space.

Though they didn’t live together, Kyle definitely felt the strain of suddenly spending so much time together. “It’s a big weight on my shoulders,” Kyle said. “It went from two hours a way to you being in my pocket 24/7.” Maci, however, felt differently — she moved to Nashville to spend more time with him, and instead she spent all day taking care of Bentley and being by herself. “I was hoping I’d be able to do something because I’m sick of sitting at home all the time, but you don’t want to do anything … all my friends are in Chattanooga; you’re all I have,” Maci said.

Maci told her friends that it was weird because, although she spends all day with Bentley, it really does feel like she is alone all day because Bentley can’t talk to her like an adult can. You can read more about being a stay-at-home mom at my friend Erin’s personal blog. This really causes a problem in any relationship in which one person doesn’t have a lot of adult or even human contact all day long and seeks that personal contact from their partner. If the partner doesn’t understand the need for that interaction, then the person just feels more alone.

The important thing to take away from Maci’s and Kyle’s relationship is that making time for each other is critical to a healthy relationship. Sleeping in the same bed or just being in the same house does not count as quality time together — e.g. when Kyle came over and slept in Maci’s bed while she was potty-training Bentley. Quality time together involves interaction, conversation, etc.

3. Moms gotta be selfless, not selfish

Both Catelynn and Farrah had to deal with their moms thinking more about themselves than the feelings of their children. Catelynn’s mom is still upset about Catelynn putting up Carly for adoption, and Farrah’s mom is stuck on her ill feelings toward Farrah’s deceased ex-boyfriend, who is also Sophia’s dad.

Catelynn’s mom is very back and forth about Carly — this week, she came in and gave Catelynn a dress to give to Carly for when her and Tyler see Carly for the first time since she was born. Then Catelynn and her mom started discussing Carly, and her mom told her how she felt out of the loop about the decision, saying, “Well, it hurts my feelings that you gave up my granddaughter without discussing it with me.”

Catelynn told her mom that she herself was unsure of what she was going to do, though Catelynn’s mom seemed most concerned with venting to Catelynn about why she felt so hurt about the adoption and how she felt like a fool for being stringed along during the pregnancy. Then when Catelynn tried to interject about how she was acting, her mom replied, “Don’t tell me how to be a mom when you couldn’t be one.”

Though her mom is upset about the adoption, she rarely ever shows Catelynn any support or understanding that, in fact, it’s exponentially more difficult for Catelynn to deal with. “It’s hard for you? Have some compassion, it’s hard for us, too,” Tyler said when discussing the matter with Catelynn. “I think she’s probably just mad because we’re making better decisions than she ever did,” Catelynn replied. Regardless, her mom doesn’t put Catelynn’s need for understanding and support over her own need to drill into Catelynn how disappointed she is by her decision.

Farrah’s mom has a similar problem when it comes to putting her daughter’s feelings before her own. The rocky relationship between Farrah and her ex-boyfriend Derrick (who died in a car accident while Farrah was pregnant with Sophia) is discussed in vague, general terms as him “being mean” to her, but no one ever gives specifics.

Whatever the “meanness” was, it turned Farrah’s mom off to him and his entire family, with her constantly reminding Farrah that keeping contact with them isn’t a good idea. Most recently, when Farrah eagerly told her mom that Derrick’s sister, Kassy, wanted to see Sophia at least once a month, her mom simply responded, “There’s just not a lot of time right now.” Farrah wants to build a connection between Sophia and her dad’s family, but Farrah’s mom is resistant.

In fact, at dinner with Kassy, Farrah explained how hard it was to even think about dating anyone but Derrick, saying she couldn’t imagine calling someone else her boyfriend. “I don’t ever want to feel like I’m replacing him,” Farrah said, which is an understandable and common feeling when it comes to grieving the loss of a partner. To help her mom better understand her grief, Farrah plans another therapy session.

Let me just say that I love Farrah’s therapist. She is blunt and tells it like it is, and she called Farrah’s mom out on ignoring her daughter and, rather than listening to Farrah explain her deep grief, she was trying to “talk her out of it” instead. Eventually her mom admitted she didn’t realize the connection was so strong and apologized, but she wouldn’t have come to that conclusion with an objective third party there to say, “Hey, you aren’t listening to what she is saying. You are tuning her out so you can only hear yourself talk.”

Teen Mom: Partner violence, grief, & high school graduation

September 29, 2010

Teen Mom was an intense roller coaster this week — Amber assaulted Gary (multiple times), Farrah reconnected with her deceased boyfriend’s sister, Tyler and Catelynn couldn’t graduate on time, and Maci and Ryan worked together on a custody plan for Bentley.

1. The signs of an abuser

Last night, Amber verbally assaulted Gary to no end. She yelled things such as “Guess what bitch, this is my house — I’ve bought everything in this motherf-cker — get out!” and “Don’t get cocky with me,” and ” You need to shut your f-cking mouth … You want to f-ck with me? Huh? … You are so f-cking lucky, you better watch your goddamn back.” As if that abuse weren’t enough, she then threw his stuff down the stairs, punched him in the face, and then slapped him again before he left.

Amber is an abuser. And she was an abuser before she punched Gary in the face, as the things she would scream at him were meant to maintain control over and demean him. She constantly called him a fatass, meant to degrade him and lower his self-worth, and she constantly reminded him that it was her house, so he’d better do what she says or he’s out on the street.

At the reunion episode after season one, Dr. Drew called her out on the domestic violence and she said she didn’t regret it. Only after she remembered that Gary had been abused when he was younger did she retract that statement, which was concerning because it was like she admitted that, had he not been abused as a child, her hitting him would’ve been perfectly justified. It seems that sympathy for Gary didn’t last very long.

Abusers often were victims of abuse themselves, and so have learned to use violence as a way to solve problems, relieve stress, or control a situation. Of the four main types of abuse found in intimate partner violence (via the Centers for Disease Control), Amber utilizes three (the fourth being sexual abuse, which isn’t discussed on the show) — physical abuse, threats, and emotional abuse (including “harming a partner’s sense of self-worth”).

There is a major disconnect for Amber between how she treats Gary directly and how she interprets her own treatment of Gary — directly, she is obviously abusive in a number of ways. As she puts it, however, she is sympathetic toward Gary and lets him live with her because he is Leah’s father and she doesn’t want him living on the street. She confides in her friends that Gary threatened to call Child Protective Services, and the aggressive attitude she has toward Gary was nonexistent when she described the incident to her friends.

“It scares me as a mom to hear him say, you know, ‘You’re never going to see your daughter again, I’m going to take her away,'” Amber said, though this possibility never seems to stop Amber from abusing Gary — it’s unclear whether Amber’s rage is enhanced for the same reason Maci got angry at Ryan, which was that he was implying she was making poor parenting choices, though he himself had only recently become more involved with raising their child. Regardless of what fueled the rage, nothing makes it OK.

And, again, I keep wondering how people’s reaction would be different if the roles were reversed — if Gary were abusing Amber on film, calling her a fatass, hitting her, telling her that he better respect her because he puts a roof over her head. I’m sure the public outcry would be loud and strong, and my hope is that viewers don’t cut Amber slack for her behavior — she needs anger management classes, not martial arts classes.

2. Dealing with — not avoiding — grief

Sophia’s dad hasn’t really been mentioned much before this season — in Farrah’s episode of 16 and Pregnant, it wasn’t even mentioned that he had died in a car accident, but it simply seemed like Farrah’s mom and her had decided he wouldn’t be involved with raising her. This week, she reconnected with her ex’s (Derrick’s) sister Kassy, who shared with her how much Farrah meant to Derrick and gave Sophia a picture book with pictures of him.

“I see her everyday, I see Derrick’s face everyday,” Farrah told Kassy, and the pictures of Derrick really do show a strong resemblance between Sophia and her dad. Farrah’s mom told her that the best way to deal with those sad feelings is to stay away from the family, but that is not a way to deal with those feelings — it’s merely a way to avoid them. She admits she doesn’t think she’ll find anyone who compares to Derrick, and all these feelings need to be sorted out — not swept under the rug — for her to gain some closure and move on.

I’m glad that Derrick is being mentioned in the show, because Farrah has to be feeling so many emotions that viewers who have lost a loved one or partner can identify with, especially considering Farrah was pregnant when the car accident happened. It always seemed weird that Sophia’s dad was the elephant in the room, and I think there are a lot of viewers (and obviously Farrah) who will benefit from openly addressing Derrick’s death and its effect on Farrah and Sophia, rather than avoiding discussing it.

3. The importance of education

For many people, a high school diploma is the default — a piece of paper that is just routine on the way to college. For Tyler and Catelynn, a high school diploma is the exception rather than the rule, and a symbol of why they gave their daughter up for adoption. “Me and you will be the first ones to go to college or even graduate from high school,” Catelynn told Tyler, regarding their families.

But Catelynn made a good point that they needed to graduate to really make the adoption worth it, because the entire reason they gave her up was because they couldn’t support her financially and needed to get an education first. Though being pregnant with Carly set Catelynn and Tyler back when it came to having enough credits to graduate, Catelynn says, “If I had kept carly, I might not be graduating at all.”

Catelynn and Tyler also struggled with choosing college career paths, something every teenager can relate to. It’s daunting to be 18 and charged with figuring out your life goals, and I know so many people who didn’t truly figure out what they wanted to study or pursue until two or three years after high school, and sometimes longer. “I thought I knew what I was doing, and now I don’t know what I’m doing,” Tyler said, frustrated with all the options and feeling like he should have his life figured out by now. Trust me Tyler, you’ve got a lot of company there.

Something else Catelynn mentioned was that she had to miss school because of her mom’s alcoholism — I think this is an interesting problem that isn’t really discussed in the mainstream. For a lot of people, school is just a given — you always have a way to get to school, you always have money to buy lunch, you always have the resources to complete homework.

But for some people, that’s not the case — merely getting to school is a challenge, and family problems can get in the way of attendance and homework (e.g. what if you need to focus more on an after-school job to help pay the bills than doing homework? Or what if, like Catelynn, one or both of your parents has a substance abuse problem that means 1) you can’t find a way to school or 2) you have to take care of them?). Catelynn’s admission revealed an obstacle to education that many people don’t experience or realize happens.

Teen Mom: Women as abusers, kids as leverage

September 22, 2010

In this week’s episode of Teen Mom, Maci moved to Nashville, Tyler’s dad got sent to jail for contacting Catelynn’s mom against a court order, Farrah had to reconnect with her ex’s sister to get social security benefits for Sophia, and Amber screamed at Gary a lot.

1. Abusive relationships work both ways

Though the stereotypical abusive heterosexual relationship involves an aggressive, controlling man and a submissive, co-dependent woman, Amber and Gary are an example of the opposite of that stereotype. Amber showcased this week just how controlling and abusive she can be, and Gary illustrated how much in denial he is about his relationship with Amber and how attached he is to her despite her verbal and physical abuse.

It becomes especially dicey when he begins to rely on Amber for a place to live, despite their not being in a relationship anymore. She yells at him, derides him as a bad parent (though she flips out if he points out she shouldn’t leave knives where Leah can easily get to them), and gets close to hitting him — though we see in clips for next week’s episode she does actually hit him.

Though Gary’s friend was an illogical douche last week, he actually had some decent advice and words for Gary, who he saw as being out of touch with reality. “Amber brings you down, Gary. She’s not healthy for you. You’re not the same Gary you were when I met you,” the friend tells him. “Right now, Amber beats [your] ass, treats [you] like garbage, calls [you] a fatass 24/7.”

But Gary, instead of denying those allegations, just says that Amber loves him. It so much fits the bill of an abusive relationship — Gary is abused emotionally, verbally, and physically, but he is convinced that Amber truly loves him and he is determined to keep his family together. He uses this drive to “keep the family together” as an excuse to go back to her, ignoring the noticeable abuse the friend sees.

Amber and Gary’s relationship highlights that though the stereotype is the man being the abuser, it’s not impossible for the woman to be the abuser in a relationship. If the tables were turned and Gary was getting ready to throw punches at Amber, there’d be a public outcry and people would wonder why the producers didn’t step in. But men are expected to be resilient, and Gary’s perceived duty to be the head of the household and keep everyone together supersedes his own self-worth and safety.

Amber’s violent behavior is also dangerous to Leah — Amber projects her outbursts toward Gary, but if Gary isn’t there as her metaphoric and literal punching bag, that means she could turn her aggression to Leah. Couples fight and cohabitation causes stress, but the fact Amber so quickly resorts to violence is not typical relationship behavior, but more indicative of how she generally handles stress.

2. Kids are not meant to be used as leverage

Perhaps it was because Ryan told Maci she didn’t care about Bentley, but regardless, Maci made a swipe at Ryan by replying that he’d better reword what he said or else she’d change his visitation with Bentley. “You’re going to see him whenever I say you can have him, or are you going to rephrase what you said?” Maci asked Ryan. Ryan declined to rephrase what he said.

I absolutely despise when parents use their kids in this way — last week Amber was telling Leah that Gary was “abandoning” her despite the fact Amber was actually kicking him out, and this week Maci is trying to use Bentley as leverage to get Ryan to do what she wants and say what she wants him to say. Bentley could see this as, “Dad doesn’t want to spend time with me,” when really it’s, “Mom uses visitation to keep Dad in check and stay in control.”

Maci and Ryan need to try to keep some form of healthy relationship for Bentley’s sake, and using visitation with Bentley as leverage or a threat is not the way to go about it. Again, a reiteration of last week’s blog, but though Maci would like to be the sole arbiter of when Ryan sees Bentley, Ryan could easily start legal proceedings to get the court to decide who gets custody of Bentley and when, removing Maci’s ability to use seeing Bentley as a way to get Ryan to do what she wants.

3. Being an adult sucks

Farrah’s trials and tribulations are a constant reminder that being an adult sucks — you have to deal with crappy situations on your own, and you can’t simply just ask your parents to make every unpleasant or difficult phone call for you. (Though sometimes your dad is nice enough to chew out a realty agent for you — thanks Dad!) But what parents can still provide is support and advice, which is equally as helpful.

Farrah sat down and talked with her dad about her finances, and he suggested Farrah try to claim some type of social security benefit for Sophia, as Sophia’s dad had passed away in a car accident before she was born. Never in a million years would I have known to do that — and I don’t know that many other young people would either. The value of a support system, especially when you’re living on your own for the first time, is huge.

And, as Farrah found out, you discover that crappy things happen and you become stuck. Sophia’s dad’s sister wouldn’t show up for the paternity test she promised to get swabbed for, and she wouldn’t answer her phone — Farrah wanted to drag her in via court order, but her lawyer informed her that wasn’t possible and could open up a new bag of worms about visitation and custody. As an adult, you find that things don’t always neatly fit into place and people don’t always do what they say they’ll do.

Teen Mom: Cycles of abuse, custody woes, toxic fighting

September 15, 2010

Last night’s Teen  Mom brought the usual drama — Farrah and her parents, Amber and Gary, Ryan and Maci — but was sprinkled with some happy vibes as Catelynn and Tyler got to talk to Carly on her first birthday, expressing that they were very happy that Carly was happy.

1. Dependency and Domestic Violence

Though Farrah and her mother’s relationship isn’t typically what comes to mind when one hears the phrase “domestic violence” (usually a man/woman come to mind, as in intimate partner violence), it carries all the tell-tale signs of an abusive relationship. Aside from the physical violence, the rollercoaster of emotions and the dependency that draws the abused person back to the relationship are classic and cyclical when it comes to domestic violence.

Farrah’s mom keeps a pull on Farrah by using her financial problems to her advantage, much like a male partner typically can do to an intimate female partner who relies on him for financial support. Farrah is not only working to support herself, Sophia, and get through school, but she also recently lost $3,000 after falling for a scam. This episode, Farrah’s mom offered to let her stay in the rental house across the street for cheap rent, also providing free baby-sitting when necessary.

Farrah acknowledges that her problems with her parents stemmed from them “trying to overcontrol” her, but she is easily lured to the cheap rent and free baby-sitting that goes with living across the street from her mom. This is textbook of an unhealthy, cyclical violent relationship because Farrah’s mom is using Farrah’s financial struggles to create a dependency — Farrah isn’t living near her mom because she wants to, but because it’s financially better.

Jumping back into the relationship is another textbook and unhealthy step in the path of domestic violence. In last week’s episode, after an intense therapy session, Farrah and her mom enjoyed a nice, civil lunch with baby Sophia. Whether because of the show’s editing or not, it seems like Farrah is now ready to jump back into the relationship with her mother right where it left off because of this one good encounter.

This can be dangerous and misleading — in abusive relationships, it’s common for there to be a rollercoaster of highs (there’s repentence, forgiveness, a honeymoon stage of being reunited) and then the subsequent lows (problems come back to the surface, fighting ensues, abuse happens again) because the problems are forgotten or pushed aside instead of addressed and resolved.

Personally, I think Farrah needs to live elsewhere if she can afford it — their relationship can’t honestly be fixed if she is also relying on her mother as landlord and childcare giver, because it’s something the mother holds over her head and can use as a means of control. Also, Farrah has her own issues to work out — like her inability to communicate, her instigating of fights, and her taking everything personally (even the car breaking down).

2. Staying Together for the Baby

I’ve addressed staying together for the sake of the child before when Ryan and Maci were having problems and their parents urged them to make it work for the sake of Bentley. Now, Amber is questioning whether she is settling for Gary because he is Leah’s father. “I’m not 100 percent sure I want to marry him,” Amber said. “I don’t want to live this life of regret. I don’t want to settle.”

Amber was trying on wedding dances, taking dancing lessons, and still she felt like something was wrong. Perhaps it was fueled by the blowout fight they had, but she’s got a point — if you’re not feeling totally committed to someone, should the baby always make you lean toward staying together? “If I didn’t have Leah, we would not be together,” Amber told Gary. Sure you want to try harder to make things work, but Amber and Gary’s relationship at times seems irreversibly toxic and full of resentment.

Kids are always better off in environments where their parents are happy, even if it means their parents being separated — at least having a custody schedule provides stability, which children need, unlike when Gary randomly leaves or gets kicked out of the house after a fight. Though Amber’s friend suggests that Gary is here to stay because he’s Leah’s dad, the old “well he’s always going to be in her life so you mineswell marry him” advice doesn’t make much sense in terms of quality of life and healthy environment for the child as s/he grows up.

Another problem with parents staying together “for the child” is that the child becomes a battleground/tool for the parents dislike of one other. They don’t like each other, and they use the child to get that point across, as Amber did when she told Gary to get his stuff and leave and then told Leah, “Daddy left you again.” You not only bring the child into a fight that’s only about the parents, but you cause emotional damage — if Leah were five and heard that, she wouldn’t know Amber was taking a swipe at Gary or that he got kicked out — she’d think her dad really was abandoning her without reason.

3. Custody, court, and ethical dilemmas

Maci decided that she was going to move to Nashville before Ryan could take her to court for joint custody of  Bentley, hoping to evade the 100-mile radius rule that would prevent her from moving there after Ryan took her to court (Maci currently lives in Chattanooga, 120 miles from Nashville, which would prevent her from moving to Nashville if the court ordered her to remain within 100 miles of Chattanooga).

There’s a dilemma here about how ethical it is that Maci skip town — mostly because she’s doing exactly what Ryan was worried about. Ryan was worried she would skip town and move away without having any ability to stop her, and here she proves just that — who knows if she would have even told Ryan, as he had to pry it out of her that she was moving to Nashville.

Maci seems so worried about Ryan getting joint custody, but I’m not sure why she is freaking out about it. Either she would prefer to have sole custody over Bentley, or she doesn’t want Ryan to have an equal amount of joint custody. It’s completely normal for the father to get some kind of joint custody, even if it’s just weekend visitation — all Ryan wants is something in writing so instead of Maci being the sole arbiter of custody decisions, the court is.

Something tells me Maci doesn’t believe people can change, but though she questions his changing level of involvement in Bentley’s life, she can’t change that he is Bentley’s father and has a right to see Bentley and be a part of his life. In other news, while I disagree with Maci picking up her life and moving to Nashville for Kyle, at least she isn’t moving in with him right away and recognizes the possibility it might not work out.

Teen Mom: Bitches, prom dresses, custody battles, compromise

September 9, 2010

This week’s Teen Mom brought the drama — Catelynn’s mom was possibly projecting anger over Carly’s adoption while prom dress shopping; Farrah’s therapist put her in her place and possibly made an impact; Gary was a total douche to Amber on her birthday; and Ryan’s taking Maci to court to see Bentley more/ensure Maci can’t move to Nashville. I’m going to try to use as many profane quotes as possible in this post.

1. “You’re being a bitch, bro.”

Gary’s friend illustrated just how powerful peer pressure can be — especially when it questions one’s masculinity. It was Amber’s birthday, and Gary agreed to watch Leah that night so Amber could go out dancing with her girlfriends (keep in mind Gary does not like to dance, as evidenced on the episode when he proposed to her again). Everything was going smoothly, all was surprisingly calm on the Amber-Gary front.

Until Gary’s friend started saying he was being “a bitch” for watching Leah and letting Amber go out without him. Instead of just doing something nice for Amber, the friend suggested that Gary “need[s] to say ‘f-ck you’ and be a man.” Gary takes this wise, wise advice and calls up Amber, demands to go dancing with her friends and says she needs to “spend time with [her] f-cking fiance,” and refuses to babysit Leah anymore. Then, when he gets home, the friend remarks to Gary, “You’re going to cower like a little bitch in a minute to watch Leah.”

This problem isn’t central to couples with babies. I can only speak for heterosexual couples, in which guys are often peer pressured out of doing nice things for their significant other because showing affection or that you care about someone is a “weak” feeling — and because these same guys associate being weak with being a woman, you are then a “bitch” because you aren’t standing your ground as a man, constantly making demands and controlling your significant other like a strong, masculine, powerful man should.

Beyond that, his friend associates taking care of his child as something weak and feminine, too. Why should Gary have to watch Leah at all? He’s a man — and not only should he not have to babysit his own daughter, he shouldn’t even be responsible for finding a babysitter. Problematic because it encourages the parent to be irresponsible, and it speaks to how that peer pressurer views parental responsibility as a father.The entire scuffle wouldn’t have happened without the provocation of his friend, though I’m glad Gary eventually overcame the peer pressure and babysat Leah so Amber could go out.

Both man-to-man and woman-to-woman peer pressure can be toxic to relationships. Friends feel the need to point out problems in the relationship that never were problems. Then the friends convince the person that XYZ action is a problem and that their silence means they’re getting walked all over, and the person instigates a fight. This is why (1) too much friend involvement in the relationship is unhealthy; (2) you need to learn to stand up to your friends’ advice sometimes; and (3) some guys need to realize that you’re not a “bitch” for being a responsible parent/decent human being.

2. “Rude bitch.”

Catelynn and her mom don’t have a great relationship these days — though they tried to have a nice day out prom dress shopping, her mom quickly turned rude, mouthy, and childish when Catelynn disagreed with her opinion about a dress Catelynn liked. Catelynn’s friend’s theory was that “she sees that [Catelynn’s] happy and actually out doing things and it just pissed her off.”

This combined with Catelynn’s theory — that because she didn’t listen to her opinion about Carly, her mom feels Catelynn doesn’t trust or put importance in her opinion about anything — hits the nail on the head. Not only does her mom feel slighted that Catelynn chose adoption against her advice and wishes as a mother/grandmother, but Catelynn’s happiness continues to prove that Catelynn made the right decision and continues to prove that her mom didn’t necessarily know best.

It’s unfortunate for Catelynn though, because her mom’s projections feed into other insecurities that Catelynn has. Instead of being mature, Catelynn’s mom is negative about dresses and the way Catelynn looks in them — though for her mom this is because she feels slighted about the adoption, for Catelynn it merely adds to body issues she has had ever since becoming pregnant. “I’m already self-conscious when I’m in those dresses, I don’t need my mom being like, ‘Ugh,'” she says, adding her prom dress shopping experience “got turned into a horrific nightmare.”

Catelynn’s mom’s attitude also shows how immature she is. Constantly calling Catelynn a “bitch,” she also mimicks what Catelynn says and makes snide comments under her breath — sometimes watching them interact, it’s as if Catelynn is the mom and her own mother is trying to be the defiant child that gets under the parent’s skin. I’m curious if this is always how her mom has been, or if the adoption sparked this childish attitude.

3. “I have no rights.”

Ryan has actually been making an effort to see Bentley more, even asking Maci if they could split the custody 50/50 instead of the current setup in which Maci has Bentley more. Maci suspects it’s linked to the child support Ryan has to pay, whereas Ryan’s parents also seem to be pushing Ryan to get more time with Bentley. Eventually, they talked face to face about it and Ryan let her know he was taking her to court.

Maci was infuriated, saying, “He wasn’t a dad the first year [Bentley] was alive. Why should I have ever let [Ryan] see [Bentley]? He didn’t do a damn thing to show he was a good dad.” Regardless of his past though, and regardless of his intentions, he does have a right to see Bentley. Maci is understandably upset that he didn’t show such motivation sooner, especially when they were together, and I also think she sees better father potential in Kyle — which does not negate the fact that Ryan is his father, and is showing initiative now to see Bentley.

Ryan’s frustration is that because Maci is the mom, she can do whatever she wants with Bentley, but as his dad, his parental rights are more limited. Maci feels like Ryan needs to earn time with Bentley and isn’t entitled to it. There is a major communication breakdown between them, and when parents are separated, communication becomes even more essential. This is unfortunate for them because they’ve always had awful communication — e.g. Ryan has to drag it out of Maci that she’s planning on moving, she’s keeping her resentment bottled up. When you’re separated you don’t have to make a romantic relationship work, but you do have to make a parental relationship work.

On a different note, Ryan was complaining about child support, though he really has no reason to — his calculation was he’d pay $80,000 by the time Bentley was 18 and that it was outrageous, though it really isn’t considering the cost of raising a child ranges from $124,800 to more than $500,000.

4. Boo. Yah.

Seeing someone finally put Farrah in her place was refreshing — not because Farrah is entirely in the wrong to have problems with her mom, but because she was complaining about how doomed her relationship with her mom was at a therapy session that Farrah herself invited her mom to in order to try reconciling! The therapist called her out on her body language and unwillingness to be open to a relationship with her mother, despite the fact she invited her mom there in the first place.

“You’ve got to take a step back and look at what you can do differently, too,” her therapist told Farrah. These words seemed to resonate with Farrah, as she was much more open and friendly with her mom after that. Farrah seemed to feed off getting pitied; I think she wanted people to feel sorry for her — which people do, as her mom is abusive and mentally unstable — and I think she wanted to bring her mom in and get that same sympathy from the therapist. Instead, the therapist basically said, “Yeah, your mom needs to change. So do you.”

It was an important moment because it introduced the idea of compromise. Farrah can’t expect her relationship with her mom — which was damaged before the domestic violence — to be fixed solely by her mother, as it will never be mended or changed if Farrah keeps resisting it.

Teen Mom: Relocating for romance, repeating rehab, etc.

September 2, 2010

In this week’s episode of Teen Mom, Maci decides to move two hours away from her hometown to be closer to Kyle, Tyler’s dad goes to rehab and Catelynn’s mom doesn’t handle it too well, Amber decides to go for her GED, and Farrah tries speed dating. (Doesn’t that cost money? Isn’t she $3,000 in the hole?)

1. Relocating for romance

Kyle and Maci have known each other for years and been dating for a few months, and Maci noted last night that they’ve “never spent more than like, a week together.” So what better way to test the strength of their relationship — which is currently long-distance as they live two hours apart — than for Maci to pick up and move to Nashville to be with Kyle? Oy …

I get that Maci is eager to make sure that Kyle and her work as a couple when they see each other all the time and not just when they see each other every weekend or every other weekend. She sees how well he gets along with Bentley and doesn’t want to waste her time with him if they can’t make things work living in the same city.

But they are also in the “honeymoon” phase — this phase lasts until at most the six-month mark, and it’s filled with happy times, passion, and few fights. Couples can mislead themselves into thinking that this phase is characteristic of how their entire relationship will be — and then a rude awakening comes when both people start to feel more comfortable in the relationship, start to live together, etc.

It’s not that the relationship necessarily becomes doomed and isn’t happy — but it becomes more multidimensional and doesn’t just focus on going out on dates and spending time together. Both people feel more secure in the relationship so they are more open about their feelings (especially negative ones); they’ve dated for a while so they notice more annoying habits; and if you live together, you see new sides to the person and need to deal with issues like finances and respecting each other’s space.

Anyway, I’m wary when people relocate for romance after such a short time of dating — Maci is transferring schools, leaving her job, and leaving her friends and family behind so that she can be near someone who she’s been dating for a few months. Between her and Kyle rarely spending a lot of time together and Kyle never having a girlfriend before, relocating is quite a leap of faith just to “see if it works.” But as Maci says, “Am I scared? Yeah. Do I really care? No.” 

It’s especially concerning also because Maci is leaving her support system behind — in Chattanooga, she has her family, Ryan (as much as he can be relied on), Ryan’s family, and her friends. In Nashville, she’ll only have Kyle.

Update: As my fellow Teen Mom enthusiast Erin points out, Maci also has several friends in Nashville.

2. Dealing with drug dependency

Tyler’s dad, Butch, went to rehab for his cocaine use, and the cyclical nature of drug abuse/rehab was highlighted. Butch is likely in his 40s and has been to rehab several times, and Tyler shows his frustration with his dad about his revolving-door relationship with rehab, asking if he’s finally going to stay clean and learn from rehab this time. His dad simply replies that he will use whatever tools the treatment center gives him.

“How sick and tired can you be if you’re still doing it?” Tyler asks in response to his dad’s complaining about drug use and rehab. He tells Catelynn that it’s the same cycle — his dad screwing up, going back to rehab, screwing up, going back to rehab, etc. Although rehab can be a revolving door for some, Tyler’s dad’s persistent stints in rehab could be attributed to the fact that he uses cocaine. Studies show that people in treatment for cocaine or opiate use have the worst success rates because the addiction is so strong

Tyler’s statement shows the disconnect between Butch’s feelings toward the addiction and his inability to stop the addiction, something that is difficult for family and friends to understand and sympathize with if they haven’t experienced addiction themselves. It’s frustrating for Tyler to hear his dad’s articulation and awareness of how bad his addiction is and the toll it takes on his family, but then watch him continue to use.

This is just speculation, but judging from her physical appearance and attitude, I wouldn’t be surprised if Catelynn’s mom (who’s married to Tyler’s dad) also uses cocaine. Catelynn has admitted that her mom was an alcoholic, but her outrageous behavior (screaming at Catelynn for not doing the dishes, the fight escalating though Catelynn doesn’t yell back) after Butch leaves for rehab makes me wonder if they have a relationship where they are both dependent on each other and on the drug.

3. GED vs. high school diploma

Amber was adamant about getting her high school diploma — not her GED — because she felt there was a stigma toward getting a GED. She said that people see you have a GED and immediately wonder what you did wrong or what you screwed up that forced you to get a GED and miss out on the diploma. Many articles online confirm this stigma, but they also agree that getting a GED is better than remaining a high school dropout.

And, as Amber’s counselor told her, employers are going to look at your education as a whole — if Amber wants her GED so she can continue to get a college degree, then employers will easily overlook the GED because they are most concerned with her college education.

Teen Mom: Scams, family tension, and the foundation of trust

August 18, 2010

Last night’s episode of Teen Mom kept the drama coming — Farrah got scammed out of $3,000 (still not sure exactly why she was wiring that money); Tyler told Catelynn she “disgusts” him; Maci introduced Bentley to Kyle; and Amber and Gary were … Amber and Gary.

1a. Learning Life Skills: When it comes to money, always double-check and be skeptical

Farrah is living on her own now, and she is learning the hard way that sometimes the only way to learn is from your mistakes. Farrah sold her car online, and the buyer sent her a check for $8,000. For some reason, she wired $3,000 back to him (the episode is unclear why, they just say it’s for shipping the car, which makes no sense) and later learned that the original check was bad, she was scammed, and the “buyer” got away with her $3,000.

Farrah is 18, and she is bound to make mistakes like this. What’s worse is that she lives on her own without any parents or support system wise enough to tell her it’s a scam — though considering Farrah’s attitude, I’m sure she would’ve sent the check anyway, just to defy her mom’s accusation of it being a scam. But the lesson here is that when it comes to money, you have to be careful.

Farrah should’ve made sure the original check cleared before wiring the person any money — really, you shouldn’t wire strangers money at all, but at least making sure the check cleared is a good start. If the person on the other end is insisting you not wait or that s/he needs the money immediately, be skeptical. It’s easy to be young and ignore your instincts because you aren’t sure how things work in the real world, but if it feels sketchy, it probably is.

Plus, I’m sure the guy offered way more than the car was worth, so Farrah was definitely down to sell him the car because it seemed too good to be true — if you’re thinking that, then you need to take a step back and wonder if it is. You’re a lot more susceptible to scams when money is tight, so don’t let the dollar signs overwhelm your instincts and better judgment.

1b. Learning Life Skills: Prioritizing needs vs. wants

Farrah’s car was fine — she just wanted a new car that had a sunroof and automatic locks. Typically, when you’re as cash-strapped as Farrah says she is, you sell your car out of financial necessity — you need to sell the car and use the money to pay for bills, or buy a cheaper, crappier car and use the profit to pay your bills. Nope, Farrah just wanted a sunroof.

Making the transition from high school to the real world means understanding how to prioritize — just last week, Farrah was calculating that she needed more than $1,000 to pay her bills. This week, she is intently focused on getting a new car — not because she needs a new car, but because she wants a new car. Even her friend Kristina finds this puzzling, questioning her selling the car before she even had a new one to replace it.

“I’m spontaneous like this all the time, but I need to quit because I have a child and I’m on my own now,” Farrah told her. Wise words, but not words she is actually following. Farrah is not just being “spontaneous,” which has a positive, fun connotation — she is being impulsive and reckless with her money and her main form of transportation. It’s not bad that she wants a sunroof — it’s bad that she convinces herself that she needs a sunroof and automatic locks, despite the pile of bills that should be taking priority.

1c. Learning Life Skills: “Where do I sign my check?”

For the second time in the history of Teen Mom, Farrah has asked where she needs to sign the check. Certain life skills really are only learned through experience — it seems like a dumb question for Farrah to ask, but there are lots of questions regarding money, bills, rent, landlords, etc. that you don’t think to ask about until you’re dealing with them directly. They don’t teach you about things like landlords scamming you in high school — that one you learn on your own.

Farrah getting scammed falls into this category, too — lessons you learn only from making mistakes. We’ve all had these experiences, and you feel really dumb at the time for not knowing how to do something, but you can’t beat yourself up about it — when were you taught how to write a check, deal with a landlord, or handle problems with your insurance company? Though Farrah, you’ve asked twice now, so I’m pretty sure someone has told you where to sign the check.

2. How trust is built

Tyler asked Catelynn to provide him with phone records to show that she was being honest with him and to rebuild trust. Last week, I talked about how that was a terrible way to build trust, and at the end of this week’s episode Tyler refuses the phone records. “I’ll just believe what you say, ” Tyler told her. “I think looking at those phone records is going backwards.” Aside from him then littering and tossing the phone records into the water, this was a great move on his behalf.

Except that the phone records did lead Catelynn to admitting to Tyler that she had tried to call her ex six times, talking to him two of those times. I’m not sure whether the phone records are recent or from three years ago, but the threat that Tyler would see the phone records seemed to push her to confess this information to him. So despite Tyler’s refusing to view them, the phone records policy got Catelynn to admit some information she had been keeping from him. I hope Tyler doesn’t use the threat-of-the-phone-records as a trust policy, considering it was successful here.

Tyler’s mom made a good point, however, of how your childhood and your past can affect your ability to trust in relationships. Tyler’s dad was in prison for a lot of his childhood, and he spent a lot of time lying to Tyler and/or making empty promises to him. “To me, lying is purposely hurting someone else,” Tyler told his mom. Because of his stance on lying — that it’s always malicious, because he felt his dad’s lying was always malicious — he originally saw Catelynn’s lies as nothing but direct attacks. We don’t always realize how much our past shapes or influences how we view relationships.

3. Do families need to get along to make relationships work?

Amber and Gary had another fight (surprise). But this time, it was about Gary’s brother (I think) not liking Amber’s parents. When Amber and Gary started discussing their wedding and saying that Gary’s family could stay with her family, the brother immediately opposed staying with her family before qualifying his answer by saying he just didn’t want to stay with Amber’s dad or mom. You can imagine how Amber reacted to this. She stormed out of Gary’s mom’s house, where they were having Easter dinner, and walked home.

There’s obvious tension between the family members, which adds stress to any relationship. Would it make or break a relationship? That depends on a few things: How close emotionally the person is to his/her family (which will determine how offended s/he is by comments — Amber was extremely offended); how close in proximity the families are (e.g. how often they see each other); how strong the tension is, e.g. is it a general level of annoyance that can be ignored or is it confrontational and open yelling and screaming every time they see each other?

The range of whether families need to get along is wide — there are minor differences that are easy to look past, such as different senses of humor, and there are major differences that are impossible to look past, such as different religions — which in some cases will get people disowned by their families. Families don’t have to get along, but it obviously makes the relationship easier — or in some cases only possible — if they do.  

4. What it means to date a parent

I really like that Maci took the time to spell out for Kyle not only what he needed to expect as someone dating a parent, but what she expected of him as someone dating a parent. She took her time before introducing Kyle to Bentley and that she made sure they got along before going further with their relationship. But, she also let him know that dating her wasn’t also signing up as Bentley’s new dad.

“I don’t want you to feel that if you are unhappy you can’t leave because of him,” Maci told Kyle. I find Maci to be extremely mature, and this statement is just one example. She lets him know upfront that yes, dating her means also getting along with Bentley and understanding that Bentley is her number one priority, but like any relationship, they shouldn’t only be together just for the sake of the baby. It’s that notion that almost led her down the aisle with Ryan, and it’s nice to see that she’s addressing it with Kyle right off the bat.

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

August 11, 2010

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.