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Hey Jonah Hill, Here’s What Healthy Boundaries *Actually* Look Like, According To 3 Experts

Up until this past weekend, Jonah Hill was kind of a legend. He was in everyone’s favorite movies, like 21 Jump Street and Superbad; he even officiated Adam Levine’s wedding in 2014. However, this weekend has changed Hill’s status from iconic to infamous, to say the least. 

On July 7, Hill’s ex-partner Sarah Brady posted screenshots of an alleged conversation between her and Hill and called him out for being “emotionally abusive,” the Washington Post reported. According to the texts, Hill asked Brady to stop posting pictures on social media when wearing a bathing suit (despite being a professional surfer), stop surfing with men, and stop having “friendships with women who are in unstable places,” among other demands. 

“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 and you’ve made that clear. I hope they make you happy,” Jonah wrote in one message. 

Her Campus reached out to Hill’s team for comment on the messages, but did not hear back at the time of publication.

The latest celebrity drama has seemingly caused some confusion over what manipulation actually is, with men like Stirling Cooper, a well-known adult entertainer, tweeting “Men should kick a woman to the curb if she oversteps his boundaries.”

In case anyone needed a reminder of what healthy boundaries look like, I spoke with four relationship experts — Dr. Easton Gaines, Alicia Krasko, Kalley Hartman, and Michelle English — about how to establish a healthy boundary, and here’s what I learned about the process. 

So, what are boundaries anyway? 

When looking at Hill’s texts with Brady, it can be easy to assume that boundaries are for other people rather than yourself, but this isn’t true. 

“Put simply, boundaries are for your own behavior, not for the behavior of others,” says Dr. Easton Gaines, a holistic, clinical psychologist. “When boundaries are weaponized, they are no longer serving their intended purpose of creating a safe and respectful space for each member of the relationship.”

Essentially, boundaries give you the ability to determine what actions you are or are not comfortable with and help shape how you engage with those activities. Although relationships are built on mutual respect, not everyone will respect or understand your boundaries. But, because boundaries are for your actions and emotions, you can’t use them to control how much or how little someone else respects you.

“By focusing on your own behavior, you create a foundation for personal growth and well-being, regardless of how others may respond,” Dr. Gaines says. 

No matter what, the biggest takeaway is that boundaries are meant to have an impact on you, the person setting boundaries, not your partner. 

How do I establish a healthy boundary? 

The first step is to be open and honest with yourself, what exactly is it that you’re looking for? Maybe it’s time to take up some journaling, meditation, or other mindfulness activities to determine what you want out of a boundary.

Next, it’s time to have that same conversation with your partner, which can be very hard for people who are people pleasers, says Alicia Krasko, a personal relationships coach.

“Typically early on in relationships, people are more agreeable ‘go with the flow,’” Krasko says. “After a while, it’s sometimes hard to keep doing that.” 

In this stage, it’s important to use “I” statements to explain that these boundaries are something that would help you, rather than controlling your partner. You should also avoid actively blaming your partner for things because, again, boundaries are for your actions rather than theirs. 

Establishing that boundary might be easier said than done for some people who are people pleasers. 

“Maintaining a boundary is hard for some — it’s easier to revert back to people pleasing,” Krasko says. “They will become overwhelmed [or] burnt out from setting all the boundaries and keeping track of them.”

When you’re unsure of what steps you should be taking to make sure your boundaries are appropriate or effective, it’s essential to speak with a therapist for guidance. 

Therapy talk: when is it appropriate and when is it condescending? 

Therapy is an individual process for everyone, and therapy talk can be a double-edged sword, says Michelle English, LCSW and the co-founder and executive clinical manager at Healthy Life Recovery.

“On one hand, it can help people express themselves and understand each other better,” English says. “But on the other hand, it can be used as a weapon to manipulate or criticize others if not used responsibly.”

Not all therapy speak is manipulative, for example, “focus on using phrases such as ‘I feel’ or ‘I think’ to express your own thoughts and feelings rather than trying to impose those on others,” says Kalley Hartman, an LMFT at Ocean Recovery

There is also a dialectical behavior therapy method called DEARMAN to avoid using therapy speak in a harmful way, Dr. Gaines added. 

DEARMAN explains that it’s important to describe the situation or behavior that concerns you, express your feelings and emotions about the situation using “I” statements, assert your needs, desires, or boundaries calmly and respectfully, reinforce or highlight the positive outcomes or benefits that would arise from the other person respecting your needs or boundaries, stay mindful of your goals and intentions throughout the conversation, appear confident and maintain a calm and confident demeanor during the conversation, and be open to negotiation and finding mutually agreeable solutions, Dr. Gaines says. 

Healthy boundaries are essential to every relationship, but when you start to feel they’re more controlling than they are helpful, it’s time to speak with your partner (and possibly therapist) about it. When speaking with your partner, it’s important to use “I” statements to describe how you truly feel, and to provide examples to help them better understand how you’re feeling. 

Remember, Hill is an example of what happens when boundaries turn controlling, and his behavior is not how you should approach boundaries, especially when it comes to your partner.

Julia is a national writer at Her Campus, where she mainly covers mental health, wellness, and all things relating to Gen Z. Prior to becoming a national writer, Julia was the wellness intern for Her Campus. Outside of Her Campus, Julia is a managing editor at The Temple News, Temple University's independent student-run paper. She's also the Co-Campus Correspondent of Her Campus Temple University, where she oversees content for all sections of the website. Julia is also a student intern at the Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting, where she works on the data desk and is assisting her editor in building a database. She has previously interned at The American Prospect. In her free time, Julia enjoys going to the beach as much as possible, watching reality TV (specifically Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules), and editing stories.