‘If your partner is talking to you like this, make an exit plan.’
These were the words pro-surfer, Sarah Brady, wrote alongside screenshots she uploaded to Instagram, showing a series of text messages she alleges she received from her now ex-boyfriend, actor, Jonah Hill.
One conversation appears to show Jonah criticising Sarah for posting images of herself in a bikini (again, she literally surfs for a living).
In the screenshots shared, Sarah says she’s deleted some pictures, before Jonah replies that it’s a ‘good start,’ but that she still ‘doesn’t get it’ and he’s ‘made [his] boundaries clear.’
In perhaps the most widely shared post, Jonah allegedly lists aspects of Sarah’s behaviour that crosses his so-called ‘boundaries’.
According to the text messages these include: surfing with men, modelling, ‘boundryless inappropriate friendships with men’ and ‘friendships with women who are in unstable places’.
He adds that ‘these are my boundaries for romantic partnership.’
Each message from Jonah is written in what many having dubbed ‘therapy speak’ – the actor recently released a Netflix documentary, Stutz, in which he shines a spotlight on his therapist, Phil Stutz, and his methods.
The term ‘boundaries’ is used on more than one occasion – but Sarah has called out the ‘misuse’ of the term, and others on social media agree, with some accusing the actor of emotional abuse.
One Twitter user wrote: ‘Jonah Hill is a great example of that old saying, give a man some therapy, and you heal him for a day; teach a man therapy words and you feed his manipulation for a lifetime.’
Signs of emotional abuse
Dr Rhianna McClymont, lead GP, and Madeleine Gauffin, Licensed Psychologist and Psychotherapist at Livi, the digital healthcare platform, shared warning signs to look out for when it comes to abusive relationships.
- Your partner constantly criticises you. Constant negative remarks about you or the things that you do can be really damaging to your mental health and make you feel that you’re never good enough. Similarly, while arguments are common in relationships, the blame shouldn’t always be put on you, so watch for your partner repeatedly saying things are your fault.’
- They humiliate you. ‘Another sign is your partner shaming you in front of other people, whether that’s family, friends or even members of the public. Such humiliation is undermining and can destroy your self-esteem.’
- You’re the subject of cruel jokes. ‘It’s not ok if you are constantly the butt of the jokes and they are hurtful or cruel. Your partner may tell you that you’re over-sensitive if you get upset, but that’s just another form of abuse.’
- They gaslight you. ‘Gaslighting is where a person makes you doubt yourself – your memories, your judgement, your perception of things, for example. Your partner might insist that you said or did something when you didn’t or deny saying things that you know they said.’
- They isolate you. ‘They may try to isolate you from your family and friends, making you lose perspective and grow more dependent on your abuser.’
- They emotionally back mail you. Your partner might also use emotional blackmail to get you to do things that you don’t want to do. They might play on your fear, guilt or compassion to force you to do something, perhaps making you feel that you are indebted to them in some way.’
Therapist, Emma Kenny, told Metro.co.uk that a boundary only exists in a healthy relationship if both parties agree to it.
She said: ‘The thing about boundaries in a relationship is that they’re to be agreed by both parties.’
Emma did stress that boundaries are crucial to have – but they must be a team effort.
‘It is excellent to have boundaries, and to set them when you get together,’ she says. ‘It’s something that most couples fail to do, but when you set your expectations, they help you to navigate and negotiate a really healthy relationship.
‘It’s about knowing what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable, and it’s about both parties being transparent about those expectations.
‘If someone falls short, you can call that into question, you can address it, revisit it, or agree to change those terms.’
But, as Emma explains, boundaries have to be clear and transparent – to both people.
‘It’s not a boundary if one party makes a decision that the other party is unclear on, didn’t agree to, or was fully unaware was a requirement, and it’s then used to throw back into the face of that partner,’ she says. ‘Because then it’s falling more into the category of coercive control.
‘Neither party can use those boundaries to control the other person’s behaviour if it’s at the detriment for another person’s happiness.’
And when it comes to the Jonah Hill situation, Emma shares her own opinion. ‘He’s taking his own vulnerabilities, and masking them by using the word boundary.
‘I think he’s using the word boundary in a really inaccurate and inappropriate way. He was using it because he wanted to make it feel like it was a grown up, adult way of communicating.’
So, if you want to set healthy boundaries, how do you do it?
‘First of all, know your absolutes,’ says Emma. ‘The deal breakers are really pivotal. It might be emotional adultery, no contacting the opposite sex on private messages, no solicitous comments on social media. These are all understandable parameters.
‘You need to both sit down, agree terms and conditions, and revisit them regularly.
‘Even if a boundary has been put in place, it doesn’t mean its permanent. As you grow, develop and trust forms, some of those initial parameters might need to be redefined.
‘It’s an ever-growing, ever moving set of rules around the safety and sanctity of your relationship.’
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