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by cathyjwilson
SEPTEMBER 22, 2010 2:01PM

Teen Mom: Women as abusers, kids as leverage

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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.

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