July 11th, 2023

Celebrities Don’t Understand Boundaries

I certainly don’t want to turn into a celeb gossip blog, but this whole celeb drama is bringing up a lot of bad takes about boundaries, gaslighting (my least favorite pop psych term), and just general relationship nonsense that I see all the time, so no surprise that celebrities are dealing with the same drama (they’re just as flawed as the rest of us!). Oh, and another thing I struggle to ignore, bad therapy! So, let’s look at Jonah Hill and his texts to Sarah Brady.

First of all, I don’t care for celebrities, or for keeping up with celeb news. I know Jonah Hill from Superbad? I don’t follow surfing so I didn’t know who Sarah Brady was, and I can’t even care enough to look up their relationship history. They broke up (awhile ago) and Sarah Brady recently posted some screengrabs of text messages they sent each other. It’s not a great look. I don’t often let clients pull out their phones to show me videos or text messages, because it usually does not capture the whole context of what is going on, it is just a snapshot. So, I can’t weigh in on who is good or bad here, or what the relationship was like most of the time. I can comment on the content shared, because Jonah Hill here has a fundamental misunderstanding of boundaries. One text reads, “If you need surfing with men, boundaryless inappropriate relationships with men, to model, to post pictures of yourself in a bathing suit, to post sexual pictures, friendships with women who are in unstable places and from your wild recent past beyond getting a lunch of coffee or something respectful I am not the right partner for you. If these things bring you to a place of happiness I support it and there will be no hard feelings. These are my boundaries for romantic partnership.” Yikes. There’s a lot there. First, boundaries are not something you put in place for other people, your boundaries are for you and you alone. You don’t do boundaries to people, boundaries are for you, and if people break your boundaries, then you have an opportunity to act accordingly, not expect the other person to change. So, like, if this text is a breakup text, cool, these are my boundaries and they are not being respected so I’m out is totally fine (I don’t love some of the language here, but still, in theory, fine). But he’s trying to use boundaries here as something for his partner to react to, and that’s backwards. It’s not “here are my boundaries, please adjust” it should be “I’m adjusting because these are my boundaries.” And this is where people start calling it out as gaslighting, which, yeah, if this is a pattern of behavior, for sure. But that is a distinction I feel is important, just little snapshots of texts isn’t necessarily indicative of a larger pattern, it can just be a difference of perspective or genuine missed communication, but if this is a normal occurrence in a relationship, then yes, gaslighting. But one instance isn’t gaslighting, it is about a pattern of behavior. Some later texts seem to suggest that much of what attracted Jonah to Sarah was what he’s complaining about later, literally seems like he sent her DMs based on finding her pics attractive while she’s surfing, so there’s also some shifting expectations (positive spin) or outright hypocrisy (less positive spin), which I do think makes this lean towards some gaslighting. 

Additionally, at the end there, the whole “if it makes you happy cool I support it” is clearly false, and I hear language like this often. If this, then I’m cool, when in fact the evidence is showing it isn’t cool. Just own your own shit. Dating a professional surfer then being insecure that they post social media pics in a bathing suit seems to either be the least realistic expectations ever, or more likely, just about insecurity. And hey, it happens often, new relationships are on rocky ground, exes or friends who could be romantic partners or have romantic intentions can bring up a lot of anxiety, but that conversation looks a lot different when it is about mutual respect and getting needs met. Boundaries aren’t designed to work as ultimatums because they aren’t for other people’s behavior, they are for the person who sets the boundary. Core concept here. 

The other thing that definitely comes up is the idea of respect. Jonah says “I respect your skill and your surfing. I respect how you want to present yourself. I respect that you’re hot and beautiful. And I respect however you want to live. But I also respect myself…” It goes on from there. This isn’t respect, this is trying to not look bad saying that you want the other person to change on your behalf. “I’m working on being cool with this” is different than “because I care about myself you need to change.” Don’t be in relationships where you’re trying to change the other person, your happiness is up to you, and you can’t control other people’s actions or emotions, so, control your controllables (which is just yourself, not others). 

Now, the therapist(s ?) in this story seem like doofuses. And to be clear, part of therapist ethical standards is to not throw shade at other professionals (which is weird, but that’s a separate topic). That being said, seems like the therapist was not working to promote growth and healthy change, they may also not understand boundaries. I’m instantly skeptical of “therapist to the stars” type conman jobs (but if you’re a celeb who is wealthy beyond imagination and need a therapist, hit me up, lol). I will say, sometimes in couples therapy, there is one clear person who is not sold on therapy, and if you don’t get their investment, they won’t stick with the therapy. So, therapy can be this delicate balance of keeping the investment high from both partners so that you can do the actual work. No way to know if this is what was happening, but it’s at least possible. I try to not be on anyone’s side in therapy, honestly I think I do my best work when both clients are mad at me, or when they both love me. It’s a tricky balance to not let the relationships in the therapy room create weird alignments, and therapists who aren’t trained well to do couples work struggle with this. So, find a good couples therapist if you’re doing couples work. You might love your individual therapist, but they might be a garbage couples therapist if they aren’t trained to do couples work. 

So, don’t spend too much time focusing on the lives of the rich and famous, and remember that your boundaries are about your behavior, not about changing other people’s behavior. And just assume if you put it in writing, someone has a screenshot of it.