"Don't Look Up" World Premiere© GettyImages

Jonah Hill’s Texts With Ex Reveal A Toxic Relationship Issue

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

The Internet has been rife with discussions about covert misogyny amongst millennials and toxic ‘therapy-speak’. All this is thanks to a series of screenshots shared by actor Jonah Hill’s former girlfriend Sarah Brady.

The surfer who dated Hill in 2022 shared screenshots of text messages allegedly shared between the couple when they were dating with the caption, “This is a warning to all girls. If your partner is talking to you like this, make an exit plan.”

Brady’s ominous warning is because of the horrifying contents of the text messages. The messages begin with Hill requesting Brady to remove certain images from her social media. Brady agrees to delete the images but expresses that she wanted to keep one as it was “her best surfing video”. She offers to change the cover image if it would make him feel better, to which he replied, “Yes, one that isn’t of your ass in a thong.”

The actor then goes on to share a list of demands of behavioural changes he wanted in Brady, including asking her to stop surfing with men and posting pictures of herself in bathing suits, as it violated his boundaries.

The text from Hill read, “If you need:

-Surfing with men

-Boundaryless (sic) 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.”

Hill clarified that these boundaries are “based on the ways these actions have hurt our trust.”

Other texts between the two show Hill urging Brady to “step up and cut s**t”, adding “These people don’t get your time or your kindness at the sacrifice of mines (sic).” On her Instagram Stories, Brady suggests that “by ‘these people’ he meant any friend of mine that he hadn’t personally approved of.”

While Hill has received support from the Internet, many women have come forward to share their own experiences with their former partners where their ex had tried to use ‘therapy-speak’ as a way to manipulate and control them. Some even revealed that they were made to feel like the bad guy in if they didn’t comply.

Is ‘therapy-speak’ making us selfish in relationships?

To understand the problem with Hill’s texts and him resorting to use the word ‘boundaries’ to force his way of thinking on to his girlfriend, you need to understand what ‘therapy-speak’ means and why it’s becoming an issue, especially in regard to emotional abuse.

Essentially, ‘therapy-speak’ is when people start commonly using terms like like ‘boundaries’, ‘self care’ and ‘toxic’ in conversations. While these phrases can be useful in identifying your own issues and help you communicate what you’re feeling in a more precise way, experts have also noticed it being used to justify self-centered and potentially abusive behaviour.

Relationship expert and author Shahzeen Shivdasani agrees that the term ‘boundaries’ was misused in the conversations between Hill and Brady and adds, “Back in the day, people used to get away with bad behaviour in relationships because there wasn’t enough emphasis put on it and people were afraid to talk about it. So I do think it’s amazing now that it’s on the forefront and it makes people more aware. But yes, in every situation when something becomes widely know, it can be misused too.”

Shivdasani emphasises that setting boundaries in a relationship is not a bad thing, in fact it’s a healthy practice but it’s often misunderstood. “The best way to do that is to have an open and honest discussion with your partner about your needs, always being able to be respectful and always trying to treat every discussion as it is. Not me against you, but us against the problem.”

Jeff Guenther, a licensed professional counsellor who has millions of followers across TikTok and Instagram, shared an interesting insight into the issue through a video on his social media. According to him, some men use ‘therapy-speak’ on social media to make themselves look more emotionally intelligent and empathetic.

“Sometimes when people are doing the sort of ‘therapy speak,’ it reads like a script, and it feels kind of hollow. You’re using emotional words or psychological words, but they’re not very empathetic, and instead they can come across controlling or manipulative.”

In Hill’s case, he uses the term ‘boundaries’ to dictate how he wanted Brady to behave if she wanted to be in a relationship with him without taking into account Brady’s feelings about the issue or leaving any space for mutual discussion on their relationship’s boundaries.

While it’s great that with each generation, the stigma around therapy is getting obsolete, it has also allowed systemic inequities of our patriarchal system to pervade the supposedly safe space and arm misogynists with a language that gives more validation to, what could be, manipulative and controlling demands.

What do you think of the issue?