Did you see the latest Jonah Hill controversy with his ex-girlfriend?
She shared their text exchange on Instagram, and while they both brought up some good therapeutic points, each of them handled the situation in a poor manner for varying reasons.
Since many listeners have written in wondering what I thought about this exchange, I figured I’d dedicate an entire episode to it. What Jonah did wrong, what he did right, and what he should’ve done in this situation if he was more mature and further along his own therapeutic process.
In this episode, besides revealing what Jonah Hill should’ve done, I’m also going to cover what healthy boundaries are and why they’re so important to understand. Why you need to get clear on your values and standards before looking for a partner. And most importantly, why you need to allow for grace when evaluating other people.
Show highlights include:
- The “room temperature water” reason why picking a high-quality woman is the single most important thing you can do in your life (0:20)
- How using passive aggressive sarcasm when communicating your boundaries backfires and can even make your partner despise you (9:26)
- Did you see the Jonah Hill controversy with his ex-girlfriend? Here’s what Jonah should’ve done instead… (14:24)
- The single biggest mistake men make in the earlier stages of their relationship that all but guarantees your relationship won’t become a happy and healthy 50-year marriage (17:41)
- Mark Manson’s “F Yes, or No” rule for deciding with certainty whether your relationship will last or not (even if you’re still in the honeymoon phase) (23:28)
- The weird way you owe being a player or pickup artist now to your future wife (25:18)
- How simply staying curious about your feelings and emotions can prevent massive arguments and fights from erupting in your relationship (29:59)
- How to have tough conversations with your partner without coming across like an icky controlling boyfriend (34:31)
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in relationships, attraction, success, and fulfillment. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: “We become what we repeatedly do. Science has shown, almost always, people do what they want when they want and justify their actions later. That’s why it’s important to find a woman of character who is naturally inclined to integrity, loyalty, and honesty.
“Because a woman’s character is of utmost importance, a woman’s past decisions and actions matter. In fact, her past matters almost more than anything else because it reveals a character that she has been developing and has developed during her more formative years. A woman may want to change what she does now, but an adult woman will find it incredibly difficult to change the habits of thought and action that have created who she is now, and the same is true of men. A man may want to change how he is now, but an adult man will find it incredibly difficult to change the habits of thought and action that have led to who he is now. [01:19.8]
“Like hot or cold water eventually reverts to room temperature when no external forces are present, so a person returns to his or her base character level when no external forces are present. If you choose to be a woman’s external force to exact a temperature change within her, don’t be surprised when she reverts to her room-temperature character the moment you’re not around.
“Study good character. Decide which character traits are most important to you. Learn the signs of good character and study harder to learn how manipulative people mimic these traits when they do not possess them. Discern clearly and without apology. Recognize your own immaturity. Actively work to heal, grow and mature. [02:09.8]
“Detect, protect and celebrate people of good character, for they are exceedingly rare. Discern, reject and shun people of low character, for they are like vampires, predators or parasites driven by consumption and will consume their victims. Above all, know that a person of character and a person of horrible morals are often indistinguishable at first glance. Only the wise and mature among us committed to attaining the experience and knowledge to discern one from the other stands a chance of reaching his or her full potential, lasting happiness and true fulfillment.”
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology podcast, and I’m David Tian, your host. What I just read out is an updated version of a piece that I recorded almost 10 years ago and the updates are true to what I had just covered in the Barbie movie review to try to decenter it from a male-centric point of view. [03:10.1]
The original that I shared about 10 years ago was all about identifying a woman’s character. A woman’s character, but, of course, the same goes for men as well. It’s equally important, if a woman wants a happy life and a successful marriage, to be able to discern good character in a man. You can find the original version of this on my YouTube channel, and it is under the title, “Seek Good Character.”
Even though now I would prefer to update it with more gender-inclusive language, it’d be a lot more troublesome with all the great graphics that went into it, so I will leave it as is and mention or remind people of the date on that video, and hope there is enough grace to allow me to mature and develop over time in that, too, having the grace to allow people to develop and be in an earlier stage of development is one of the points I want to cover today in looking at this Jonah Hill incident. [04:07.4]
This is, again, in response to a listener comment and request, asking for my thoughts on the Jonah Hill text exchange with his ex-girlfriend from late-2021, December 2021, that was shared by her in July 2023. When I looked into it originally, I thought there wasn’t going to be much to it and I wasn’t sure whether I’d devote an episode to it, but the more I looked into it, the deeper it got.
In fact, I recorded about 30 minutes last week on this and had to scrap the whole thing, because in the middle of recording it, actually almost toward the end of recording it, I had realized that I missed some crucial points and it would be easier to just start from the beginning, so here we are. And I’m pretty sure I missed the window that this was being discussed in the news, but it’s a great illustration of some very important concepts to understand and get good at if you want to be successful in a long-term relationship. [05:08.8]
It’s also another great illustration of the difference in strategy and approach if what you want is to date with a view towards the successful long-term relationship versus just dating casually with no other end in mind, just getting lots of dates and lots of sexual encounters, maximizing the amount of sexual encounters and optimizing yourself and your character, developing your character, so that getting lots of sexual encounters is easier for you. It’s actually a very different project from approaching dating with a view towards creating a successful long-term relationship.
In this episode, I’m not only going to cover what I think Jonah Hills should have done, and if you ever find yourself in that position, the situation that Jonah Hill found himself in at the end of 2021, what would be better for you to do. I’m also going to cover what healthy boundaries are and why they’re so important to understand, and why standards and values, and getting clear on what your standards are and what your values are, is even more important than understanding what boundaries are. [06:14.6]
Then, hopefully, I can hammer home the need for grace in approaching or evaluating other people, because we’re all at our own developmental stages, and if people aren’t allowed to make mistakes and be in less mature stages, and to look back on their lives 10 years later and see their things that they didn’t do as well as they would have now, like I just did with the opening of this, and improving that.
And who knows? Maybe 10 years from now, we’ll see far more and better ways to improve that piece, which, by the way, before I forget, was inspired and adapted from a very old manosphere blog, way back in pre-red-pill time when it was just the manosphere, Return Of Kings and that level of the blog, and it was by a blogger who went by the name Solomon II. Thinking about how far or the history of that piece, coming out of manosphere, pre-red-pill manosphere, adapting it even then for where I was about 10 years ago, and now picking it up today and adapting it again. [07:18.4]
First, let’s get the facts of the case. I’m going to be reading out some of the texts that were exchanged here and these were shared in Jonah Hill’s ex-girlfriend, who is a professional surfer, Sarah Brady’s Instagram stories. I’m reading them out because it took me a while to find the original sources, the actual primary sources, because all the news articles around it, these sort of gossip articles, just summarized what the reporter said was in the slides, but I wanted to see what was really there, because I am an academic and we were trained to always go to the primary sources.
I know that is out of vogue now because people will just ask A.I. to summarize a book or they pay some other company to do it and they just blindly trust that that source is accurate in the summary instead of relying on their own critical thinking to go to the actual primary documents. So, I’ll be reading out from the original screenshots that Brady shared, so that we’re all on the same page here and then I’ll talk about what Jonah Hill should have done. [08:17.1]
Okay, so Sarah Brady’s first screenshot, she puts, at the top, a caption: “This is a warning to all girls. If your partner is talking to you like this, make an exit plan. Love y’all! Call me if you need an ear.”
Okay, so it starts with Sara Brady sending a text to Jonah Hill that says, “All the posts I removed from my page,” and it looks like there’s a screenshot there, but it’s cut off. Jonah Hill responds, “Good start. You don’t seem to get it. But it’s not my place to teach you. I’ve made my boundaries clear. You refuse to let go of some of them and you’ve made that clear. And I hope it makes you happy.” By “some of them,” I think Jonah Hill is referring to some of the photos, I suppose, he asked her to take down from her Instagram.
Then he’s got a screenshot of one of her photos surfing, and then he texts her, “Respect however you want to live your life you only get one. Sort of done with explaining myself.” [09:10.5]
She replies, “3 removed, not the video yet, it is my best surfing video.” She’s referring to the screenshot he just sent her. I suppose he’s telling her to take this one down, and he had told her to take it down, but she didn’t take it down. She says, “not the video yet, it is my best surfing video. Would you feel better if the cover frame was different? Any more specific ones that bother you?”
He replies, “Yes one that isn’t your ass in a thong.” In case you haven’t detected it, Jonah Hill is a lot more passive-aggressive so far in these two screenshots than she is. There’s actually a skill to communicating your boundaries and sarcasm is, generally, not an effective way to communicate, if you want the cooperation of the other person. Okay, so he says, “Yes one that isn’t your ass in a thong.”
She replies, “Not a thong but k.” [09:57.0]
Then Jonah Hill replies, this was a really long reply, “Plain and simple: If you need:” And then he writes a list out in point form.
“ – 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.” So, if you need any of these things, I’m 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 based on the ways these actions have hurt our trust.”
Then she wrote in the caption of the screenshot, “See the misuse of the term ‘boundaries’?” [10:45.2]
Then he continues, “You’re right we can’t do surf social things or develop trust until you consider me and make decisions that give regard to our relationship. I have been vulnerable as possible and I am telling you I am needing you to step up to the plate. Which you can. I am sure of it. But these losers don’t get your time if you want me. Straight up. It’s consideration. I respect your love of surfing but I respect myself as well. And your love of surfing and being in those situations and lack of awareness are not mutually exclusive. This isn’t me. I have my own issues that I own. If you want marriage and family you can’t use the 25 card.” I suppose she’s 25 years old. “Step up and cut shit. These people don’t get your time or your kindness at the sacrifice of mine.”
And in the screenshot she wrote, “I don’t care for your misogyny.” Then also “by ‘these people’ he meant any friend of mine that he hadn’t personally approved of.” This seems to me that it’s definitely not misogyny. He doesn’t hate women here, but there certainly is a lack of alignment on values.
Then in the next screenshot, and there might be some texts missing between these two screenshots, but, anyway, in the next screenshot she shared, Jonah Hill says, “Oh and modeling which is the last profession I would be with as a partner.”
She replies, “Thot pics.” T-H-O-T. [12:00.6]
Then he replies, “But LOL must be hard feeling so trapped.” Again, passive-aggression and sarcasm here is not helping.
Then she replies, “Well maybe you should’ve asked me more about what I do for work before you decide to date me then. A little late now,” and that is a great point that she makes. They had been dating openly, publicly dating for about four months at this point, and so they’d probably actually been dating for six to nine months, and he is only now sending her a list of what he’s looking for and maybe only now cottoning on to the fact that she is not that. Or, more likely, his standards and values have changed since they first started going out and she maybe presented herself in a way that was like her on her best behavior, so to speak, and maybe he was blind to it and didn’t see it. He didn’t maybe discern well enough.
That’s all conjecture, but what we do know is six months or about four months into the open public relationship, he’s sending her a list of what he’s looking for and trying to enforce it, and she’s saying, “This isn’t me,” and it would have been a lot easier and better if he had come out with his standards, values and boundaries before they started getting committed to each other. [13:13.1]
Okay, then he replies very passive-aggressively, “Keep taking me for granted. Go model! It’s a fulfilling life you’ll love it. Real depth and substance and sustainability for relationships. But actually I’m [done] with this convo.”
Okay, and so that’s what Sarah Brady shared, along with this caption, “sharing this publicly now because keeping it to myself was causing more damage to my mental health than sharing it could ever do.” So, she’s sharing his private texts to her to make herself feel better now.
In another slide, Brady credited an excerpt from a Teen Vogue article in which a woman was asking for advice about her partner telling her she couldn’t wear a bikini to the beach. Brady captioned the screenshot, “Teen Vogue did for me what couples therapy did not.” [13:59.8]
Brady also said that Hill used his experience in therapy as a way to control her. She wrote, “I too struggle with mental health. It’s been a year of healing and growth”—“a year” of healing and growth—“with the help of loved ones and doctors to get back to living my life without guilt, shame and self-judgment”—she doesn’t have self-judgment, but she’s judging others—“ for things as small as surfing in a swimsuit rather than a more conservative wetsuit.”
Okay, so that’s what we’ve got. Now, the questions that were posed to me about the Jonah Hill incident was “What are boundaries? Did he use them right?” so I got caught up in understanding boundaries here. But I think even more instructive for my listeners might be “What should Jonah Hill have done instead?”
That piece I read out at the very beginning of this episode was about good character and there was a paragraph in it, and I’ll just refresh your memory, “Like hot or cold water eventually reverts to room temperature when no external forces are present, so a person returns to his or her base character level when no external forces are present. If you choose to be a person’s external force to exact a temperature change within them, don’t be surprised when they revert to their room-temperature character the moment you’re not around.” [15:10.6]
I thought that was a great analogy. By the way, I credit Solomon II here. What Jonah Hill is attempting to do here is to tell her which Instagram photos and videos to take down, and he’s trying to pressure her to do that. In other words, he’s trying to be that external force to force her to change her behavior. But that’s awful. It doesn’t work and it’s actually violating her boundaries.
What he should have done is figure out what his standards and values are before he gets into the relationship. For instance, it seems like he wants a woman who isn’t posting photos of herself in a thong, or at least what he thinks is a thong, and she doesn’t model and she doesn’t have a certain lifestyle, she doesn’t hang out with a certain type of people. If those standards of values were clear to him before he even meets her or met her, then it would be pretty obvious what he should do. He should part ways. This isn’t going to work, because this is the way that you are or have chosen to be. [16:09.6]
He mentions things like that, so he does use some good-sounding phrases, sprinkling in some therapeutic or therapy phrases and words, like boundaries. In preparation for this episode, I watched his great documentary on Netflix about his psychiatrist, his therapist, and the documentary is called Stutz, and you see in that documentary how much he’s been going through in terms of his mental health.
He must have been wrapping up the filming of it around the time of these text exchanges, it’s not clear, but what is clear is that, during this period, and still now, I assume, he’s going through a lot of internal change and, hopefully, we can call this growth. It’s in the direction of improvement. So, it’s very plausible to me that when they first met and started dating, he wasn’t clear on what his standards and values were. He’s coming out of Hollywood, and then in the text, he’s coming off a lot more conservative. [17:03.0]
He’s insulting modeling as a profession, but he’s an actor. I agree with him that in modeling, it’s really hard to maintain your integrity and there are a lot of temptations that are thrown at you to resist. It just makes it that much harder to stay in a relationship, a committed one. But acting is just as bad for that, if not worse.
So, big time kudos and respect to all those in Hollywood, acting, who have maintained their marital commitments and have relationships that are growing and maturing in strength. That’s definitely the exception. It’s quite plausible to me that Jonah Hill was still figuring things out when he first started going out, and towards December 2021, he’s finally figured it out: “This is what I want and you, the way you’re acting, is not what I want.” But instead of parting ways, because simply I’ve grown in a different direction from where you’re at right now, he instead tried to take responsibility for her actions, telling her what to do. [18:03.1]
The first point that I’ve been making is that it’s really important if you want to be in a happy, long-term, 50-plus-year relationship that you are not the external force, that when you’re not around, she’s not going to do that thing that you’ve been pressuring her to do. And, man, have I been there, right? You don’t want your girlfriend to dress too provocatively, because, of course, that’s what caught your eye in the first place, but now that you’re together, you don’t want her to dress too provocatively.
When she’s with you, yeah, she will cover up a bit more, but then when you’re not there, guess what’s happening? On one of the girls’ nights out, she’s flaunting it and even more so than she normally would, because this is one of her rare chances to do it, so she’s going to go even further than she normally would, like when most American kids finally get hold of alcohol legally, they just go overboard at 21 years old because now it’s a really big deal. [18:55.0]
If you want a successful long-term relationship, you’ve got to have a clear idea of what you want in your partner and then allow whomever you are with to show their true colors. You want to give them that freedom, that autonomy to be however they are.
And here’s an even more advanced thing that I recommend to men who are more mature and strong and their own confidence and so on, who aren’t super nervous about her leaving him or being rejected or anything like that. Here’s a more advanced thing. Don’t even tell her explicitly what your standards and values are, because sometimes, as soon as you’ve told her, now she knows how she ought to act in order to get your favor and approval, and now you’ve already started exerting an external force. Now you’ve spoiled it in a way where you don’t really get to see how she is naturally at this stage in her life. It muddies up the waters. It makes it hard for you to clearly discern her character. [19:49.7]
Now, again, the caveat, especially if you or she is in therapy, allowing room for this person to grow, mature and change, and to recognize that they have done and parts of them, and maybe you’re only seeing one or two of these parts—and especially if somebody is doing any kind of experiential therapy like IFS therapy and they’re really committed to the process—you’re going to see massive change when their higher self or true self comes online and the protective parts are able to relax more, and then their higher self is able to be there for their inner-child parts. This is a huge change in the person.
But if you’re sticking around, hoping and waiting for that to happen, and only when this person consistently changes into the person that you want them to be—and I’ve been there, waiting, waiting years for this person to stay on the course and consistently be a good girl, for instance—you’re making a huge mistake and you’re not really loving that person the way they are. You’re waiting until that person changes into the one that you would really like and then you’ll commit, and that’s actually not love. [20:55.6]
You know when you love someone, and when you’re ready and you have the right mindset to commit to a 50-plus-year marriage, when you see the things that annoy you about this person, maybe things that you don’t like that you would prefer were a bit different, but you still love the person just the way they are.
And, yes, just like for yourself, there are things that you could improve. You could get stronger, faster. You can get smarter or whatever, right? These are things that you can improve about yourself, and then you’d like yourself maybe even a bit more. But loving yourself unconditionally means that you love yourself just the way you are right now with all your flaws and mistakes and weaknesses, or perceived weaknesses.
And it’s the same when you love someone else. There are things that you would prefer that they change for your own subjective preferences, but you can accept those things the way they are now, and even if they never change, you can put up with it and you love all of the parts of that person just the way they are now. And two things are true: you can love all the parts, the way they are now and accept them, and you could encourage them and cheerlead and support them when they want to grow. [22:03.5]
A more pure example is unconditional love for a child or for a pet where you love them just the way they are, but you also like it and encourage and support them when they want to learn new tricks for the pet or when the child does better in school, gets better grades or works hard at something and gets a trophy or something like that. That’s great and maybe you will like that even more, but that doesn’t increase your love for them because then your love for them would be conditional on them doing that thing.
Now, can Jonah Hill and can we be mature enough to admit that we don’t love the person we’re dating? And that’s okay. Again, 90 percent or more of relationship success is in mate selection, is in partner selection, and that is exactly what Jonah Hill is not allowing Sarah Brady to do. He’s not giving her the space or the freedom to be herself, or maybe he has and she has shown her true colors, at least at this point in her life at 25, and he’s still telling her what to do. [23:03.8]
This is already a mistake, because she’ll go and take these down—even if she took down that other surfing video he requested, she takes it all down—she’s only doing that at his request and now he will need to do that for the rest of their relationship, and she will feel trapped and manipulated and all of that because she’s giving in, and that’s something that her therapist should empower her to not do, to not let herself have her freedom and autonomy taken away in this way.
What Jonah Hill should really be recognizing is what my friend, Mark Manson, put in a very memorable way in a viral blog article. The title is “Fuck Yes.” It should be “Fuck Yes, or No?” Fuck Yes, or No? Already for Jonah Hill recognizing very explicitly, because he’s written it out, that this clearly isn’t a fuck yes for him, and the same for Sarah Brady. The fact that he’s doing this for you, to you, is definitely not a fuck yes. So, then the alternative is clear. It’s a no for both of them and they should amicably part ways because they’re just at different places in their lives and want different things. [24:05.3]
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And a woman at 25 years old in these circles, but she’s not allowed to live it up and explore? She’s going to be wondering for the rest of her life, because this is her. There’s definitely parts of her and you can say that this is her character. This is part of the character of her system that she wants to have fun and live it up in this way.
And this is what I tell guys all the time: if there are parts of you that are tempted to live it up like a player and you don’t allow them to explore that, guess what’s going to happen? In your 40s or maybe even earlier, you’re going to have a midlife crisis where these parts are going to rebel against you, because they never got to have any fun and they sacrificed all of this fun. For what? For a relationship and a marriage that’s really hard now? [25:41.7]
I see this over and over and over, and so what I recommend to guys is to get it out of your system and get it out of your system as early as you can, and that’s what I would recommend to girls, too. If there’s parts of you that want to live it up like that and maybe show off your body, do some nude modeling or whatever it is, right? The hedonism and pleasure of youth. Yeah, I was there. If there are parts of you that are genuinely curious about it and really want to do it, and you have the opportunity—most people don’t have the opportunity because maybe they’re not that good-looking or they don’t have the social skills to do it. But if you do—and you have the desire to do it, then to be fair to yourself and to your future partner, you should get it out of your system now. [26:21.5]
Now, Jonah Hill is suspecting, he sees, he’s actually named it out loud or on the texts that she is in that place in her life. Then instead of giving her the freedom and autonomy to go and work that out for herself, allowing her the time to grow for herself, and to amicably, and understandably, part ways with her– and from his vantage point, it will seem like he’s in a more mature place than she is and, I mean, the thing to do is to be the bigger person now. [26:50.3]
But, clearly, he’s not that much further from where she’s at because of all these passive-aggressive jibes and the sarcasm that he couldn’t help himself from inserting into their conversation. He’s very hurt about all of this, but he’s not mature enough yet and courageous enough yet, maybe not experienced enough yet, to recognize the sign of the thing that he’s not wanting right now—and to use the language of that opening piece, that he’s not recognizing the bad character, from his perspective, the lack of good character so far in this person right now—and to say it’s okay and to break up and allow her to go on her journey, wherever that leads her, and allow him to go on his. Instead, he’s now moving into violating her boundaries.
I’ve said this a few times now, so let’s get clear on what that is. The best expression, the clearest expression of healthy boundaries is, again, from my friend, Mark Manson, and he is borrowing how therapists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, in their book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, and how they cash out boundaries in terms of responsibility. [27:57.1]
Mark adapts that and puts it in very clear language, “Healthy Personal Boundaries = Taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions, while not taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of others,” and I would nuance that or I would adapt that to say, not taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of other adults or basically non-dependents.
I think parents definitely do have responsibility for the emotions and actions of their dependent children, especially when they’re very young. This is a sort of Frankenstein problem, it gets much deeper, but we can sidestep that by just adding that word “adult” others in there, because when we take responsibility for the actions and emotions of other adults, we are what is called infantilizing them. We’re turning them into infants. We’re treating them as if they don’t have the ability to take care of themselves, and so we treat them like a parent would treat a child and we’re infantilizing them. [28:54.6]
Okay, so let’s take that and apply it to this situation. Is Jonah Hill taking responsibility for his own emotions? Is he taking responsibility for her actions? Here’s what it would look like or sound like if he were observing healthy boundaries, and this is a subtle difference from what he actually said. This is what would be going on in the mind of someone who is taking responsibility for his or her own thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and not taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the other adult.
For Jonah Hill here, let’s say he has finally gone to his girlfriend’s Instagram account and started scrolling through her past posts, and he starts to see photos and videos that bring up for him uncomfortable feelings, for whatever reasons, hopefully reasons he understands from his past that maybe have to deal with jealousy or insecurity and he’s actively working on those for himself, and he’s already decided that he doesn’t want to have to deal with this going forward in the future. [29:59.0]
So, he sees her posts on Instagram and he starts to feel these feelings that are uncomfortable, and he pauses and he says or thinks to himself, Hmm, I wonder where that comes from. Oh, I remember working through these issues with my therapist, where these might come from, and these would be excellent to bring up in my next therapy session. But from the work I’ve done already on this and the reflection that I’ve already done on this past world or past life when posts like this were incredibly common and were standard, and from my reflection, I had decided that I don’t want this sort of energy in my life anymore. So, while I will continue to do this work in my own therapy sessions for myself, and I’ve also decided that I’ve grown out of this phase and don’t want this energy in my life anymore, and if it turns out that Sarah is still at that stage or wants to explore that further, then I will take responsibility for my own self and remove myself from this relationship. [31:01.7]
Let’s take a “three strikes and you’re out” kind of approach, and so maybe if this is the first time it’s coming up for him, he might think, I wonder if she just doesn’t know what I’m now looking for in a relationship and in my life, and I wonder whether she also has grown out of this phase and that these posts no longer reflect where she’s at in her life now. Hmm, maybe I’ll go check with her to see whether I am perceiving this correctly.
Then when he goes to her, he takes responsibility for his own responses to the posts that he saw, so he brings up to her maybe something like this. “Sara, when I saw these old posts of yours, what came up for me was XYZ, XYZ thoughts or feelings or emotions, and I’m just letting you know what’s going on for me.” In his mind, when he takes responsibility for himself and not for her. What that looks like is “Hmm, I’m going to stand back and wait and see how she responds. Are these posts an accurate reflection of what she wants to put out there, and am I accurately perceiving where she is in life and what her values are, and what she wants to have more of in her life?” and that’s taking responsibility for his own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. [32:17.7]
Now, notice, so far in this scenario, I’ve only detailed what he’s doing, what he’s thinking, what he’s feeling, because that’s his responsibility. Now he puts it out there and however she responds is her responsibility. Now, let’s go into her mind and let’s assume that she has healthy boundaries, which neither of them really do here. But let’s assume that she has healthy boundaries, and what does it look like and feel like from the inside when she takes responsibility for her own thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and doesn’t take responsibility for his.
She hears him explaining this to her and, at first, maybe she’s a little defensive or maybe thrown off. Maybe it’s been a long time since she had looked through her archive of Instagram posts, so she hadn’t thought about it for a while. But she cares for Jonah and learning that he’s feeling this way when he sees these posts makes her a little concerned. [33:07.8]
When she looks at the posts that he’s mentioned, she’s not very particular about any of them. Those were from a while ago and she’s not particularly attached to any of them, and if it hurts him and she’s neutral on keeping them or deleting them, and because now it hurts him, that swings it in favor of just deleting them. She’s like, Yeah, I’ll just delete them, because I don’t really get that much pleasure out of it.
Maybe let’s quantify it for us nerds. Let’s say she recognizes she gets three out of 10 units that have pleasure in keeping them, and let’s say it’s five units of pain for her to know and see that Jonah is in pain when he sees those. So, the pain of seeing Jonah in this state outweighs the pleasure of keeping the posts, so she’ll just delete those posts. [33:53.1]
Now notice what’s going on in her mind is she’s taking responsibility for her own thoughts, feelings and behaviors, her decisions for whether to keep the posts or not. Notice in this scenario also, to remind you, Jonah has not told her what to do. He has simply shared what’s been going on for him in case she didn’t know that, and now that she has this information, this new data, she can add this into the mix and make a new decision or state her old decision of keeping them. In the scenario I’ve laid out, she has decided that the pain of seeing him in the state outweighs the pleasure, the little bit of pleasure that she gets from keeping these old posts.
Okay, so here’s where it gets toxic, right? There’s this one surfing video that she really likes and that he doesn’t like that still triggers him because it reminds him of his promiscuous past where people cheated and lied to each other, and this was associated with the world of modeling, and I would say, also the world of acting, and so he doesn’t want anything to do with that. Now he’s seeing that she has something to do with that and he’s wondering whether she wants to continue to have something to do with that. [34:57.8]
For her, that video, let’s say, brings seven out of 10 units of pleasure in watching it or rewatching it, or having it represent her on that platform or whatever, and the pleasure she gets from keeping it now outweighs the pain that she feels in knowing that it brings Jonah’s some pain. If she has healthy boundaries, then she takes responsibility for her own decision to keep that video, and in her mind, it could be that “That’s too bad that it hurts you, but I’m going to take responsibility for my own decisions and I’m going to keep this video.”
Okay, so far, so good. In the scenario that I’m laying out here, Jonah didn’t tell her to take any posts down. He just shared, “These are the posts that when I look at them, they make me feel this way. I just thought maybe you would want to know.” Okay, so far, they’re taking responsibility for their own feelings, thoughts and actions.
Now, here’s where it gets more toxic. Jonah then insists that she takes down that video against her wishes. Not only is this a bad strategy, practically speaking, as I’ve already laid out in terms of character, but it’s also now violating her boundaries, because he’s now taking responsibility for her actions. He’s explicitly telling her what to do. [36:10.6]
That’s actually the icky part of it that I think when people are looking through these screenshots and hearing about this scenario, this is the controlling boyfriend. It’s one thing to state that you don’t like something. It’s another to then command the other person to adhere to what you like, and to drop what they like.
But I was going with the three strikes and you’re out. So, imagine that was just the first time and he shared it, and let’s say that she took everything down, including that video. Then let’s say another thing comes up and he’s listed some more, like she has these friendships with women who are in what he calls “unstable places” from her “wild recent past.”
Let’s pretend that that is Strike 2 and he finds out that she went on a girls’ night with some wild friends who did drugs and hooked up with random guys and she stayed out till 8:00 in the morning, and when she comes tumbling home that morning, he’s like, What happened? and she explains it to him. [37:07.6]
In his mind, if he has healthy boundaries, what he might be thinking is, Hmm, I don’t want this energy in my life anymore for myself, and if she’s bringing that into my life, then in order for me taking responsibility for my actions, that means I will remove myself from this relationship, hmm.
Again, maybe this is only Strike 2, so maybe she’s not aware that he has made these decisions in his own life and what he wants in his life, and maybe hasn’t made that clear. So, maybe, again, he’ll just share with her what’s going on for him and he will say, without taking responsibility for her actions and thoughts and emotions, he’ll just share what his thoughts and feelings are upon learning about this wild night out, and she is free to do with that information what she will. [37:55.6]
Maybe then she also– let’s take a realistic example, right? Usually, when you go on a bender like this or you’re hungover, you’re like, I totally regret that. We went way overboard. I’m not going to do that again. So, that’s quite understandable that she might then assuage his anxieties about this, even though that’s not her responsibility, but maybe she agrees, just so we can set up Strike 3, okay?
He’s got two strikes and he’s like, A little bit of red flags. I see some small red flags going on here, but it seems like she is adjusting for them and this is enough. So, this is a realistic scenario, there aren’t going to be any successful relationships where there’s also passion, where you won’t have to navigate the sorts of things where you’re a perfect match all the time, because if you were, and I’ve covered this in other episodes, there would be a lack of chemistry and passion, because you’re just mirrors of each other and that would just create a good friendship, but no chemistry.
Anyway, you have these differences in preferences and what you want for your own lives, but as he shares them, maybe she just didn’t know, and now that she knows, it’s all the same to her, so she’ll just drop whatever that behavior is or those posts, and she’s taking responsibility for her own actions now that she has this new information. [39:10.0]
But, again, he’s not telling her what to do. He’s not taking responsibility, commanding her, what to do as a result of his emotions. Violating your boundaries would be something like this: “When you do this, I feel bad, so you have to stop doing it.” Right? That’s now taking responsibility for that person’s actions.
Instead, you should take responsibility for your own actions so that when that person does that, you can remove yourself from that relationship, leave. Again, this is a relationship between two adults in a free world. Again, you could leave or you could take responsibility for your emotional responses, and maybe you think that they’re out of proportion, so you do that work with your therapist or with the therapeutic process on your own. That’s taking responsibility for your own stuff.
But let’s say that there’s a Strike 3, and let’s see, I’m just going to pull from his list, so I’m going to assume that the transgressions have already happened. That’s why he knows that he doesn’t like these. Let’s say that Strike 3 is that she has “boundaryless inappropriate friendship with other men.” [40:08.0]
Maybe she’s maintaining these friendships with guys who clearly like her, are trying to hit on her, trying to get with her, and in the back of her mind, she knows this—or at least, it’s his view, right? In the back of her mind, he thinks she knows this, but she stays in friendship with them. Maybe she’s going to bars one on one with them late at night, or maybe she’s hanging out at his house or their houses, one on one, watching Netflix or something till 11:00 or midnight, or whatever. Or maybe when Jonah is out of town, they’re over at her place and maybe they’re cuddling on the couch, but she insists it’s just a friendship. I don’t know, I’m just making this stuff up, just going off of “boundaryless inappropriate friendships,” right?
Then he finds out and this is Strike 3, and maybe he thinks maybe she’s just really naive about how this works and what they’re up to, and so maybe he then shares, again, what’s going on for him, “When this happens, I feel this, just so you know,” and then let her respond. [41:05.0]
Let’s say she gets really defensive and freaks out and says, “No, you can’t tell me what to do. You can’t tell me who to hang out with,” okay, and so then he goes home and reflects on this, and then the next day, he realizes that this is the third strike or this is too much. He now takes responsibility for his own self and decides what he’s going to do for himself, and not take responsibility for her and her actions and decisions and feelings.
For him, he’s going to take responsibility for himself and he will remove himself from this relationship, because it’s not the relationship that he wants. What he does not do is go and tell her what to do and start to control her and start to put a chastity belt on her, metaphorically speaking, maybe—definitely not literally speaking, right? [41:51.1]
Here’s actually where it gets tricky. Sometimes Jonah is saying things that are actually therapeutically healthy, like after he writes out his list of point-form things that he needs in a relationship. He says, “If you need XYZ, then I am not the right partner for you.” Okay, fair enough. “If these things bring you to a place of happiness, I support it,” he says. “And there will be no hard feelings.” Okay, that’s great.
But then where it gets toxic is all the places where he tells her what to do. Pretty much right after that, he says, “This isn’t me. I have my own issues that I own.” That sounds great. But then he says, “If you want marriage and family you can’t use the 25 card.” Okay, that’s his opinion. “Step up and cut shit.” And then he gets really passive-aggressive and sarcastic, and what I feel here is behind the therapy-speak, he’s got all this pain and resentment, and he probably feels like he got duped.
But, actually, she then replies with the best point. “Well maybe you should’ve asked me more about what I do for work before you decide to date me then. A little late now.” So, now we’re throwing blame at each other and we’re now out of the area of boundaries because everyone is just telling each other what they should do and, of course, then violating each other’s boundaries. [43:05.8]
Take responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and do not take responsibility for the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of other adults—adults who have difficulty understanding this intuitively and understanding healthy boundaries. And I was there, too. I had to really learn this and it took a few months.
Actually, in addition to Mark Manson’s wonderful blog posts on boundaries, instead of going to the Cloud and Townsend book, because it’s heavily Christian—so if you’re Christian, then you would love Cloud and Townsend. Just go to that first. But if you’re not—in addition to Mark’s boundaries article that you can easily find on Google, I also recommend the classic book on boundaries called When I Say No, I Feel Guilty. It’s got this sort of cheap copywriting title, but it’s actually a really great book and the beginning is actually really deep, getting into some toxic shame issues and the underlying issues there. Then it gives some really great techniques for asserting yourself and asserting your boundaries in ways that are effective. Jonah Hill and Sarah here would have done very well in studying that book. [44:08.4]
By the way, also, the entire therapy style of nonviolent communication (NVC) teaches you some great assertiveness techniques and has some great teachings on healthy boundaries.
Okay, and just as we’re closing, I want to address what it seems most people online focused on mistakenly. They were focusing on the content of the standards that Jonah was laying out, things like “If you need: surfing with men, boundaryless–” etc., etc., and the response seemed to be “How dare you tell women what to do?” Actually, Jonah was violating her boundaries and telling her what to do, like “Take this video down. Take this post down,” so that’s definitely the ickiness part of it.
But Jonah Hill and everyone else in the free world is allowed to decide for themselves what their standards are. For instance, if I want to have a wife who is open to jazz music, because I just love jazz music, I have the right to do that. If it turns out you hate jazz, we will part ways. We could still be friends, maybe, but we’re definitely not going to be lifetime partners. [45:10.0]
For those liberals out there, take an example of if you’re a Muslim, a devout Muslim man, and you want your wife to wear a hijab and that’s on your list or if you just want her to be a devout Muslim, like if you were a Christian and you wanted to marry a Christian. Are you going to go and tell this Christian, “No, you can’t be looking for that,” right? Or “No, Muslim, you can’t be looking for a woman who is devout as well and wants to wear a hijab”? Of course not, right? That would be absurd.
In a free world, everyone’s free to decide for themselves what their standards are and what they’re looking for in another person. So, don’t get lost in that debate about criticizing him or her on what they’re looking for in a partner. They’re entitled to do that. In fact, Sarah had the best response. Not challenging his standards or what he’s looking for now in December 2021 in a partner, her response is “Well maybe you should’ve asked me” or “maybe you should have figured that out before you decided to date me.” Fair point, and that is the thing that he should take away. Why weren’t her standards and values clearer before they started dating, and why didn’t he figure that out sooner? [46:13.8]
This is a year and a half later, so hopefully, during this time, Jonah Hill has figured it out that you and I should figure out what we want in a partner before we go and meet potential partners, and then to figure out ways of quickly evaluating and bringing out whether that partner has these things naturally. If they’re deal-breakers for you, you should put that out there as soon as you can.
I know this is already very advanced for most of the guys in my current listenership, because they’re struggling even with anxiety on a date, just knowing what to say, being afraid of being rejected, her not liking him and all that stuff. If you’re focused on getting her to like you, you’re definitely not in the mindset or the space, mentally and emotionally, of being able to evaluate her. But that’s where you’ve got to go. That’s where you’ve got to grow, if what you want is a successful relationship in the long term. [47:06.0]
Because I know these guys who are more immature, who are struggling even with anxiety on the date are going to ask the question of “How do I do that? How do I figure out whether she is the way that I want?” it’s going to be really hard for you, because you’re full of nervousness and anxiety. Your mindset is in the wrong place where you’re the one being evaluated. You’re the one afraid of rejection, so you’ve got to address that first, your neediness first.
If you’re needy, you’re not going to be able to hold the line on your boundaries. Actually, if you’re needy towards attractive women, it’s not even clear whether you will have clarity, objective clarity around what your standards and values are, around where to draw your boundaries. As always, the first order of business and the most important terms of the 80-20 rule, that’s going to take up or make up 80 percent of that effectiveness. It’s addressing that neediness, and the best way to do that is through the seven-step therapeutic process. [48:00.8]
To recap, what I’ve covered here is what Jonah Hill should have done instead if he had healthy boundaries, and we looked at what healthy boundaries actually are and how important it is to get clear on your standards and your values, what you’re looking for in a life partner.
As well, I just want to remind people of the importance of a charitable interpretation of others, grace, which means allowing others to be in a process, to be on their journeys, to be at an earlier or a more immature developmental stage than maybe where you are or where you think you are, and to allow them the time and room to grow into whatever it is they need to do. That grace is what’s most lacking in cancel culture and it’s also what’s most needed in this process, the therapeutic process of addressing the toxic shame underlying the core insecurities. [48:57.4]
This came up in the reactions I’m seeing after I posted that Barbie movie review, or, rather, analysis, how many guys are judging the Ken characters and not appreciating the beautiful growth that they showed as secondary characters to Barbie, obviously, in the movie, where they were growing. I’m thinking, in a future episode, to address that, the developmental stages of the Ken character, because it actually mirrors what should be going on for most guys who are struggling with women.
Okay, thanks so much for listening. I hope this has helped you in some way, and if it has, please share it with anyone else that you think could benefit from it. Let me know what you thought, I’d love to get feedback. In fact, this whole episode started because of feedback, so I love to read comments. I feed off it. Let me know what you think. And subscribe on whatever platform you’re listening to this on.
Thank you so much. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [49:58.0]
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