As somewhat embarrassing as it is to admit, I love MTV’s the Jersey Shore. I was born and raised in the Garden State and am proud of it—do not believe everything you see on TV. However, I refused to watch the show’s first season because I assumed that it fed into the stereotype that NJ consists of nothing but trashy, orange, guidos and guidettes. My suppositions were not incorrect but I now cannot miss an episode and those who watch it with me must be silent so I can hang on every word. In no way are these people respectable role models or admirable human beings, they are tasteless, promiscuous people with misguided concerns and their beliefs and behaviors appall me. I am baffled that they are able to maintain their job at the T-shirt shop when they do not lift a finger to help customers, talk back to their boss, and leave work to get booze. Moreover, they do not seem to practice safe sex and I presume that all of them have at least one STD. Nonetheless, I do not watch the show because it is quality programming with empathic characters; I tune in each week to be entertained, have a good laugh, and feel better about my life.
This week’s episode was one of the most intense of the series as Ronnie and Sammi’s tumultuous relationship erupted and appears to have finally come to an end. The two have been on and off since the show began in 2009 and it has been a bumpy ride. Every episode’s plotline centers around one of them cheating, lying, or doing something to irritate one another. Sammi seems to always have a puss on her face and does not know how to exist without being miserable. If she is not screaming at Ronnie or clawing at one of the girls in the house, she is crying about how miserable her life is. Each week they break-up, make-up, and get in heated arguments that often result in a physical altercation. This season alone Sammi has slapped Ron in the face, he has thrown her belongings out onto the deck and dragged her bed out with her in it, and he has smashed all of her possessions including her undoubtedly expensive glasses. In this week’s episode the fighting was so out of control that the other guys in the house had to hold them back from one another because they were taking swings at one another.
Despite how unhappy they both are with one another and the obvious unhealthy nature of their relationship, they stay together and one has to wonder why. In the reunion episode from last season all the other cast members were asked their opinion on Sam and Ronnie and the cast agreed that the two should break up because while they are great as individuals, together they are toxic. The couple defended their love and sat hand-in-hand while their closest friends reiterated their beliefs that it would be best if the two split. Well, they should have listened, because this season was the most violent and confrontational of all and the two did everything imaginable to sabotage their own relationship.
Believe it or not, these two reality stars’ real life drama actually inspired an intelligent thought and left me thinking about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. While we as an objective audience are vividly aware of how harmful and negative their relationship is, Sam and Ronnie have no idea because they are so enmeshed in it that they have lost sight of what is normal and cannot see things clearly. I have a good friend who married a man after just a few months of dating because he swept her off her feet with gifts and affection thus she believed she had found her prince charming. He slowly cut her off from her personal world and only allowed her to live in his. She had to quit her jobs, stop seeing her friends, barely see her family, and stay cooped up as a house-wife at age 22. Two years later, after he had broken all of the doors in the house with his fists, publically humiliated her by screaming that she was a whore for 20 minutes in a bar then subsequently dragging her to a cab and threatening to kill her, and scarred her face by smashing it with a mirror, she worked up the courage to leave. She endured over a year of daily suffering, self-doubt, self-blame, and both emotional and physical pain before she was finally able to see what everyone who cared about her had seen for a long time—that for her own sanity, safety, and health she needed to get out.
An abusive relationship (emotionally and/or physically) is an unimaginable situation to those of us who have never been in one; and, while walking away the moment things get violent or frightening seems like the most logical solution, it is just not that simple. Despite the fact that abusive couples consist of individuals who verbally and/or physically assault each other and may appear as though they do so out of hate, the majority of the time they truly love each other, this love just manifests in catastrophic, dysfunctional ways. Sometimes one member of the relationship has a mental illness like bi-polar disorder that leads him/her to behave irrationally. Other times abuse is resultant of the environment in which one was raised and the only way the person knows how to act when he/she loves someone is to fight because that is what his/her parents did. Regardless of the reason, staying with someone who is abusive is never good. Staying will not save him/her, it will only drag you down. Things will not get better on their own or with time and will only escalate as the years go on. Getting out allows one get him/herself better and hopefully can motivate the abuser to seek counseling or other professional help.
While on the Jersey Shore, Sammi and Ron’s fighting is entertaining and sometimes humorous, the show is reality TV, no reality. I do not doubt that the two actually dated and loved each other but the conditions of their relationship were scripted to help instigate such situations and the cameras undoubtedly influenced their behaviors. In the real world, such violence is never funny and even in last night’s episode their relationship went from engaging to alarming. Hopefully Sammi will stay off the show for good, not just because she is one of the most grating people I have ever seen but because staying in that house and perpetuating a toxic relationship will only destroy her and him in the end. Being apart from one another and the cameras should hopefully help them move on, reevaluate and improve their lives, and eventually enter healthy relationships with new individuals.
At the risk of sounding like a public service announcement, if you think that you or anyone you know may be in an abuse relationship, please speak to someone (a trusted friend, family member, or professional) or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233).
I would love to hear people’s comments on the episode and healthy/unhealthy relationships in general as well as people’s personal stories if you are willing to share.