40. The Boundary Controversy Going Viral with Jonah Hill and Sarah Brady

Jonah Hill and Sarah Brady

Have you heard about the viral text messages going around between Jonah Hill and Sarah Brady? Well if you haven’t yet, go look it up and listen to this episode! Because there are some major boundary conversations that need to be had around these text messages.

Mary and her sister Chime, talk about whether these text messages from Jonah are him setting boundaries or not? They talk through some scenarios of how negotiating in a relationship can be helpful if you do it correctly. So are you team Sarah or team Jonah? Listen in to hear how Mary Brown, The Boundaries Coach feels about this scenario!

Main Episode Takeaways

  • What does it really mean to set boundaries
  • We only set boundaries for ourselves
  • The time when boundaries most often fail

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40. The Boundary Controversy Going Viral with Jonah Hill and Sarah Brady

Mary: Have you heard about this recent boundaries commotion buzzing around the internet? This controversy about Jonah Hill and Sarah Brady. 

Chime: Yeah, girl, I’ve heard about it. It’s all over the place.

Mary: Oh yeah. What’d you hear? 

Chime: Well, this is what I heard. I heard that they dated a while back, I don’t know, 2021, 2022, they broke up and then a year later she posts all of these snapshots of his text messages to her, some of hers too, and is calling him narcissistic and misogynistic and emotionally abusive and all of these big words. And there’s a lot of controversy about who’s using therapy talk and boundaries talk appropriately and who’s not. Since you’re the boundaries coach, I think we should talk about it.

Mary: Absolutely. 

So, quite the fuss on the internet. The heart of this controversy is Jonah trying to set boundaries in the relationship and people are in uproar. There’s a lot of debate about the word boundaries, and it’s moved from social media and to mainstream news, and folks have been asking me about it.

Chime: Well, it goes back to what people always have a difficult time with boundaries. Is this boundaries? Is this trying to control someone? Is it not boundaries? And so I think people just don’t really know like, what are boundaries? Is this boundaries? Is this an appropriate way to talk about boundaries? So we should dive in.

Mary: Let’s dive in. Here’s what I think. Like let’s take a look at this text message. We’ll talk about how people are responding to it, and then maybe give our own verdict. 

Chime: Okay. Well, I have the message. There’s now to preface this, there’s lots of messages that she posted. This is all posted from her. We don’t know how truthful it is. This is alleged post from him to her from a long time ago. 2021, I think. And so we’re just gonna go with the assumption that it’s accurate and within context. 

Mary: So these are alleged text messages. We don’t have their entire communication. We don’t know Jonah’s side of the story. These are alleged, but go on please.

Chime: Okay. So allegedly Jonah texts sarah quote, plain and simple. If you need surfing with men, boundaryless inappropriate friendships 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 or 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. My boundaries with you are based on the ways these actions have hurt our trust, unquote. 

Mary: Woo. The tea has been spilled.

Chime: I’d have some feelings if someone sent me that. 

Mary: That’s right. I mean, I see why people have some strong opinions about this. 

Chime: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of talk about boundaries in there, and is that appropriate use of boundaries? We’re gonna talk about that. But then also there is a little shaming, I think. I think he’s shaming the things that she’s doing. There is some, if you do these things, I’m not it for you, a little bit of an ultimatum. 

Mary: Yeah. There’s so kind of two main camps, right? Yeah. We got team Sarah and Team Jonah. So let me give the gist of what I hear out there. Okay, here’s the gist. Team Sarah is accusing Jonah of being emotionally abusive and using this therapy language, like the word boundaries, to control her. And team Jonah is defending his right to set boundaries for his romantic partnership to decide who he’s in a relationship with or not, and even when he wants to stay or end the, the relationship. That’s just the gist. There’s a lot more complicated layers to unpack here. 

Chime: Okay, well let’s, let’s play devil’s advocate here. I’ll be team Sarah and you be team Jonah.

Mary: Okay, let’s go. You start team Sarah. 

Chime: Okay. Over here in Camp Sarah, we think it’s in the two thousands here. It’s not the 18 hundreds anymore. You can’t tell women what to do and what to wear and who they can be friends with and what genders they can be friends with and all of those types of things because you can’t do that anymore. Also Sarah was a surfer before they got together. Professionally surfer and model. Before they got together, they get together, he’s got some feelings about it. And so he says, well, you can’t do those things anymore cause they don’t make me feel good. Which is crazy, crazy that you would ask that of someone. Also, he’s giving our ultimatums, if you don’t change these things of who you were and who you are, then I’m going to end this relationship and that there’s some emotional abusiveness to having these ultimatums and their dialogue and conversations with each other. So he is threatening to leave her. He also is, I believe, older than she is. He has more fame than she does. He has more money than she does, so there is inherently a power shift in that relationship that favors him. He has more power in that relationship. And so he’s using that and some therapy language against her. Also in camp Sarah, she believes that this is her truth and she is allowed to share it in any way, shape, or form that she wants to because this is about her. So she can put it on social media. She can do it a year later and any way she wants. 

Mary: Whoa, good perspective taking over there on Team Sarah. I think you did a great job. All right, so lemme share a little bit about what’s going on over here on Team Jonah’s side of things. All right, team Jonah. We think people in a romantic partnership get to negotiate the terms and conditions of their relationship. We see Jonah’s text messages as asking her to consider his feelings, prioritizing their relationship, and an attempt to communicate what he needs in the relationship to repair their trust. Although his words are probably hard to hear, we don’t think they were actually abusive. We believe that all people, including Jonah Hill, get to choose who they want to be in a relationship with and who they do not want to be in a relationship with. And we get to change our minds about that at any part of the relationship for whatever reason. He doesn’t have to deal with this anymore, and he’s trying to respectfully end this relationship team Jonah. Some of us think that it’s actually reasonable to ask our partners not to post sexy pictures of them selves or to friendships with the opposite sex. We think that it’s not fair that women are actually encouraged or celebrated for setting boundaries, but if men do it, then they’re being accused of being emotionally abusive. So over here on Team Jonah, we think that Sarah’s the one who’s out of line for posting these private conversations onto Instagram and we question her intentions because it’s a year later and Jonah and his current partner just had a baby. So the timing is suss over here. 

Chime: Yeah. The timing, that’s, that’s one thing.

Mary: Suss over here on Team Jonah. So it seems that Sarah might be the one who’s using therapy language by calling Jonah Narcissistic and is the one who’s publicly shaming him for trying to set boundaries by jumping on this bandwagon of cancel culture, which is just not cool.

Chime: Yeah. All right, so. I think you nailed it. I mean, there’s definitely two teams and camps there, so what’s the verdict? Who’s right? 

Mary: Ooh, the Verdict. Well, I see both sides. One thing that’s happening here is that there’s a big misunderstanding about the meaning of the word boundaries. I’ve been saying this for years. In fact, I talk a lot about it on episode two of this podcast called What Boundaries Really Are. Hey, listeners, you haven’t listened to episode two, or you haven’t listened to to it for a while. Go back and listen to episode two because it’s really good in helping you understand what boundaries are, what they’re not. Anyway, boundaries are the limits and guidelines that we set for ourselves that determine what we will and will not participate in, or simply what’s okay for me and what’s not okay for me. So here’s the key. We set boundaries for ourselves. We don’t set boundaries for other people. We don’t set boundaries on other people. If boundaries could talk, they would say, this is what I’m willing to do and this is what I’m not willing to do. Boundaries would not say, this is what you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do. 

Chime: So that was his problem. Right. Mm,

Mary: That is the problem. So what I see in these text messages is Jonah trying to negotiate the relationship agreements, not actually setting boundaries, but it’s just not going well. Like he’s trying to communicate that he’s no longer willing to participate in this relationship with Sarah, but he doesn’t really have the skillset to navigate the conversation in a healthy way. And of course, this conversation is emotionally painful for her. 

Chime: So I agree, but what do we do with this? I mean, if our partner is making choices that make us feel insecure, is that a time to set boundaries? 

Mary: Well, these are actually two separate things. So if I’m feeling uncomfortable in my relationship, then first I have to get curious with myself about what I’m okay with and what I’m not okay with and why this is bothering me. That’s my work to do, and I wanna do that from a place of self-compassion and really ask myself like, what’s going on? What’s the matter? How come this is bothering you? I might talk to a trusted friend, or I might work with a coach to try to get clear about what my boundaries are for myself and the relationship. Because I have to understand what I need and what I want and what I’m willing to accept or not accept. This was what Jonah should have done in the beginning, right? And then after I decide what my boundaries are, I can decide if I wanna have the conversation with my partner about it. And in that conversation, we can make requests of our partners, and then they get to decide if they’re able to, or willing to honor that request or not. And the process of like, sharing, asking, answering can be really helpful and really healthy in relationships, and it usually works unless we get to an impasse that’s non-negotiable on both sides. And sometimes we do have to decide if this is a relationship that we’re willing to be in or not. Where I see the boundaries most often fail is that, there’s a boundary conversation and the boundaries communicated, and then there’s some acknowledgement or some agreement, some level of agreement but then there’s no plan to really follow through. And the follow through plan is kind of the what makes it stick or not. But our plan to follow through can’t be a control move or a punishment or an ultimatum. That’s where things start to feel terrible. When we feel like the follow through is really controlling. The plan to follow through needs to be, how can I show up and respect myself? How can I keep my emotions regulated? What’s my practice of self-care? So this all really comes down to the skillset of setting and upholding boundaries. And boundaries, like I’ve said many times, is a learned skill. And this is actually really good news because it means that everyone can learn it and I can teach people.

Chime: So how would this go better? I mean, reading that text message, it didn’t feel great for me, and I’m not Sarah in that relationship. Like that message didn’t come across particularly respectful or loving. So if you were gonna coach Jonah, how would you do it boundaries coach?

Mary: Ooh, that’s a good question. Okay, so if I were to coach Jonah, this is gonna be fun. I think I would start by helping Jonah get clear about what his boundaries are and working towards reframing them to really be his boundaries for himself. So instead of saying things like, no posting pictures of you in a bathing suit, I might ask Jonah questions like, okay, what’s okay for you and your relationship? Is it okay for you to post pictures of yourself in a bathing suit? We might have to get really clear about like what bathing suit pictures are okay. And what bathing suit pictures feel not okay. And I mean, if you are a professional surfer, it does seem like your work clothes are gonna be bathing suits. So there’s, there’s something inherently tricky about that. So like whatever feelings are coming up for you, like, is it okay for me to feel this way? Right. And if so, like what’s okay for me as Jonah, right? To process those feelings, right? So is it okay for me or not okay for me to manage my feelings of, let’s say insecurity or whatever, jealousy or envy or things like that, in a way that, like what ways are okay for me to process that feeling? Okay. So is it okay for Jonah to request that she not post bathing suit pictures or not? Like if you were to make this request, Jonah, what would your intention be? Okay. And are you willing to negotiate an agreement about this if your partner is not willing to kind of honor your requests? Are you willing to work through your thoughts and feelings about this? Are you willing to end the relationship over this Jonah? Okay. So those are, 

Chime: So what I’m hearing, Mary, is you’re saying he’s definitely got some insecurities and feelings about the pictures that she’s posting, and so he’s gotta do the work of am I okay to lean into these? Am I okay to broach my insecurities with her? Am I okay to request something of her because of these insecurities? And so that’s the work that he has to do, right? Like, my insecurities are a problem in this relationship and what am I gonna do about it? 

Mary: Yes, those are Jonah’s boundaries are like, okay, so I’m feeling insecure. What’s okay for me and not okay for me about how I handle this feeling of insecurity. What’s okay and not okay for me about the requests that I’m making of my partner. And what’s okay and not okay for me, Jonah, if my partner is not able to negotiate my requests in a way that’s gonna feel comfortable for me.

Chime: Yeah. Right. So it is healthy to say I’m insecure, and it’s significant enough that I can’t continue the relationship because my insecurities within the relationship are not making me feel good. 

Mary: Yeah. So if I were to coach Jonah I mean, I would maybe coach him towards a conversation similar to something like, Hey, Sarah. I love you. I’m feeling insecure about these photos of you in bathing suits and really just asking like, are you willing to negotiate some relationship agreements about these? Here’s my request. Are you able or willing to agree to that? If yes, then maybe we agree and move on. Probably there’s gonna be more of a conversation about how we negotiate some of these relationship agreements and how swimsuits are part of a profession and how do we, you know, figure that out. And then if we get to an impasse where my client, Jonah, is not willing to budge and his girlfriend at the time, Sarah is not willing to budge, then we may need to say something like, I respect you and I also respect me, if we cant agree on this, then I will end our relationship because I’m not able to manage my feelings in a healthy way within this relationship. So his boundary is not about her wearing bathing suits. His boundary is about him not being able to stay in a relationship where it’s too hard for him to manage his feelings.

Chime: Hmm. Yeah. That totally makes sense. And I think that this is really hard work because you know, a lot of times we wanna just to be able to have a relationship be easy and it’s not always true. And we do bring a lot to the table. Wow. Okay. Well, let’s dive into Sarah and her boundaries in this relationship. What about those? 

Mary: Well, we don’t know a lot about Sarah’s boundaries in this relationship. Like I even wonder, does Sarah have boundaries in this relationship? Like what? What’s going on here, Sarah? 

Chime: But you know, if we go back a little to some of the other parts that I read in a Newsweek article, there was some text messages between them where he’s asking her to remove photos and she did. So it sounds like she didn’t want to remove the photos. She felt like they were okay. It didn’t seem like, you know, she wasn’t drunk posting the photos and he was like, Hey, did you mean to do this? It seemed intentional. So how does that play into her boundaries? 

Mary: Yeah, I also saw a post on Instagram where that, like where she’s posting a picture of herself in a swimsuit, and the caption said something about like, reviving this pic I took down by the request of a narcissistic, misogynistic person. So it’s implying that she had taken down some of the pictures of herself in swimsuits because Jonah was uncomfortable with it. She had done that really to try to appease him, and now she’s kind of reclaiming her choice to be able to post things. But 

Chime: There’s some people pleasing. I hear it and I see it.

Mary: Yes. That is the people pleasing and we all know people pleasing doesn’t usually work long term and often leads to resentment. 

Chime: She sounds resentful. 

Mary: Yep. She does sound resentful. 

Chime: She sounds a little more than resentful. She’s a little pissed. She’s mad. 

Mary: Yeah, it’s a really good question. Like, Sarah, what were your boundaries in this relationship? Like what were you okay with and what were you not okay with? And. Maybe Sarah thinks it is appropriate to post pictures of herself in a thong swimsuit, and maybe she,

Chime: Wait. I like thong swimsuits. I like all the butts. If I had a real cute butt, I’d be posting pictures of myself in a thong swimsuit. 

Mary: Oh man. I know you do like the butts out. I You’re much more comfortable. Oh man. Well, let’s wrap up here. So what will we learn from this internet controversy about boundaries? 

Chime: Well, I think it’s interesting to me. I mean, my knee jerk reaction is feeling similar to how Sarah feels, where it’s like, I can post what I want. If I want my butt out on the internet, I’m gonna do it. And you shouldn’t tell me what I can and cannot do. But I think going through this, I realized those are my boundaries in a relationship. So if a partner said, Hey, I don’t like it when you do this, my boundary would be, I’m not okay. That’s not an okay request for me. And like I’m not okay in a relationship where someone’s gonna ask this of me. It seems like Sarah wasn’t able to communicate that. She tried to abide by the request and then it felt terrible and then she just was reactive.

Mary: Yes. And so our boundaries are for us, we get to decide our boundaries and then once we’re clear about our boundaries, then we come to the table in a partnership and see if we can negotiate the agreements of our partnership. And that’s where this went wrong, in my opinion. 

Chime: Yeah. And I also think too, like having love and respect for Jonah, like I don’t agree with his insecurities needing to have like a relationship agreement, because I just wouldn’t be okay with it if I was in a relationship with him. But as love and respect for Jonah, he’s allowed to feel however he wants. He’s allowed to say, hey, this relationship isn’t working for me cuz I can’t manage my feelings in it. And I think he did try a little bit to communicate that and say like, it’s not working, and I think maybe this should be the end. It just kind of went on too long. He didn’t have the follow through. He tried to communicate, but he was a little shaming in it. He, you know,

Mary: a belittling a little bit to me. 

Chime: Yeah. Yeah. He didn’t do the best job communicating, even though he had a little bit of knowledge to be able to communicate. He just didn’t do it great.

Mary: Yeah. I mean, I think some of the lessons around here are like, we believe that people are valuable. We believe that you get to decide what boundaries are right for you, and that breakups are hard, right? But they don’t have to be full of abuse and full of name calling. There doesn’t have to be like, this person’s right and this person’s wrong. Really it’s when we can be mature and adults and say like, this is my boundary. This is how I’m comfortable showing up in a relationship and, and I love and appreciate you, and this is how you’re able to show up in a relationship. Then let’s negotiate if this relationship is gonna work for us or not work for us. And I wish that they would’ve been able to do it in a little bit more of a skilled fashion. And so for listeners, let’s wrap up here. So what are some of the boundary topics that have come into play that you might wanna consider for yourself and or for negotiating in your relationships? So we got how we dress and how our partners dress, right? What else? 

Chime: Butts out

Mary: Butts in for me. All right. Who we’re friends with and who our partners are friends with, how we navigate, you know, friendships while we’re in this relationship, that’s an important one. What else? 

Chime: What your profession is. I mean, she was a professional surfer. He was somewhat okay with it, but not really. Who you work with if you’re working with opposite genders and what that feels like to your partner. What we would consider sexy pictures online. 

Mary: What pictures we post of ourselves or of our relationship online. 

Chime: Mm-hmm. How we communicate with our partners.

Mary: Yeah. Sharing our text messages. Is that something that we are okay with or not okay with in our relationship or kind of private and public sharing? Yeah. And then ultimately, like how we decide if we’re gonna continue a relationship or end a relationship. So here’s the message friends, when it comes to your boundaries, you get to decide. I encourage you to think about these things, ponder some of these boundary topics for yourself and for your own relationships, and decide what’s okay for you and not okay for you.

Chime: All right, Mary. Talk to you later, girl.

Mary: All right, and listeners, if you want help clarifying your boundaries, preparing for a difficult conversation or making a plan to follow through, please reach out to me. Boundaries are a learn skill and I would love to help you with them.