The Many Ways Ryan Adams Manipulated Women Are Familiar to Me—I Experienced Them, Too

His textbook tactics are now coming to light through a New York Times investigation

(Photo: Getty)
(Photo: Getty)

Years ago, during a vulnerable time in my life that followed the dissolution of a serious relationship, I started dating a guy who was super charming, very attentive and quite handsome. As the weeks went on, I began to see his behaviour change. His 65 text messages a day (how he or I got any work done, I have no idea), were becoming too much. He started making terse comments, didn’t reply to a text where I said I missed him while I was away on a girls’ weekend, and he began questioning my decisions and generally talking down to me, making me feel like I couldn’t trust my own thoughts or feelings. It all came to a head, when about five months into our courtship, he sent me this text, regarding a haircut I was thinking about getting: “Are you sure that’s the right cut for your face shape, Michelle? Or are you being too ambitious?” (I remember it verbatim, because who wouldn’t?!)

That was almost a decade ago, and aside from brushing off the experience by making quips about my dating history with my pals, I hadn’t thought about this guy much since then. But this week, when allegations of manipulative, abusive behaviour and sexual misconduct against singer-songwriter Ryan Adams surfaced, it sort of came flooding back. According to the story in the New York Times, Adams’ ex-wife Mandy Moore said that while they were together he diminished her music career, telling her she wasn’t a real musician because she didn’t play an instrument. He would also write songs with her, she said, implying that they could be for her album, then give the songs to other female musicians on his roster. According to Moore, Adams even told her not to work with other producers on her music.

Moore and Adams were married for six years. In my case, I was lucky enough to have a few good friends who could see, pretty much right away, that something in the milk wasn’t clean. One of my dearest pals and work colleagues saw our message thread and immediately urged me to tell him to f*** right off, also encouraging me to send all his belongs to him via courier and never speak to him again—which I listened to.

He reached out to me only once after we parted ways. He had received a “malicious” email from me (my account had been hacked and was sending out spam) about a year later, and he thought he should let me know about it. His word choice even then was clearly meant to manipulate me into feeling badly for him, or into engaging with him on some level. I really don’t know, and thankfully at that point I didn’t care, because his manipulations could no longer get to me. But right after I ended things, I was so confused and hurt by what had gone down, I wavered for a few months about whether or not I had made the right choice to no longer be with him. But the more distance I had from that relationship, the more I knew I could trust my gut. It also helped that, post-split, an acquaintance came forward with an eerily similar story about dating the same guy several years earlier.

These tactics can seem innocuous when you’re dating a person but begin to add up to feelings of inadequacy and a low sense of self. And I see myself in the women who came forward against Adams. No, my ex wasn’t dangling a lucrative career in front of me, but the idea of being with someone—anyone—at the time seemed better than being lonely. His comments began chipping away at my sense of self and leaving me questioning my feelings. I think he could sense that vulnerability in me when he first took interest in me and used it to his advantage.

And while red flags such as these only seem obvious in hindsight, seeing them now through the lens of #MeToo will hopefully help vulnerable people feel like they have a say in their relationships and how those relationships may affect their life—because they absolutely do. And I am so thankful that those red flags became evident to me early on and the relationship didn’t progress past a few months. But clearly the emotional damage was done, if a decade later I am left thinking about this guy who should totally be relegated to just the list of dudes I once dated.

The phony apology

Were there signs along the way that each woman accusing Adams could have spotted to avoid being with someone like him? Of course, and apparently that’s one of the reasons this particular group of women (including Moore, his ex-fiancée Megan Butterworth and several more) got together and decided to come forward—to help women realize that they are not alone in these types of situations. One clear way to see Adams’ manipulation tactics, is through his apology itself.

Adams released a statement to the New York Times and on Twitter where he said: “I am not a perfect man and I have made many mistakes. To anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally, I apologize deeply and unreservedly.” (He also appears to deny allegations in the Times story that he pursued an underage teenage fan, exchanging graphic text messages and exposing himself to her in Skype chats—for which there could potentially be legal charges.)

“But the picture that this article paints is upsettingly inaccurate,” he continues in his statement. “Some of its details are misrepresented; some are exaggerated; some are outright false. I would never have inappropriate interactions with someone I thought was underage. Period. As someone who has always tried to spread joy through my music and my life, hearing that some people believe I caused them pain saddens me greatly. I am resolved to work to be the best man I can be. And I wish everyone compassion, understanding and healing.”

What is clear from his statement, is that Adams doesn’t really mean to apologize at all—when will people realize that any time there is a ‘but’ in an apology statement, you are not really owning up to anything, hence making said apology null and void? He even goes on to talk about how this whole situation “saddens him” [insert eye roll here], which is clearly meant to garner him some empathy from fans and the general public.

The break-up manipulation

Before Moore and Adams got married, they broke up over Moore’s fame. Adams released a statement to OK! Magazine at the time, saying:

“Unfortunately I am allergic to paparazzi and have found the best antidote to that sort of nonsense is staying behind the guitar and typewriter, staying close to my support group of friends and band mates and not engaging in activities that prevent me from taking care of myself or others,” he says. “I found the entire speculation and subsequent photographs and intrusions terrifying and only wish to live as normal a life as possible, so that I might always remain punk as f*** AND sober.”

As Lainey Gossip points out, Adams was being manipulative, releasing a statement to the press saying that he wanted to avoid the press (um, really?), hence why he was breaking things off with the “Candy” singer, whom he also called “genuinely sweet.” To try to get back together with Moore, he later posted a secret message on his website that included a list titled “Top 10 Ways to Be a Gentleman.” If this doesn’t have shades of Offset all over it, what does? A public apology such as this is only meant to curry favour with an audience wider than whomever it’s intended for. It’s clearly not meant as a true reconciliation.

Diminishing someone else’s experience

Last fall, when Moore should have been enjoying life in engagement bliss—the This Is Us star married musician Taylor Goldsmith in November—she had to deal with an emotional outburst from Adams, who took offence to a Glamour story where Moore stated that she married the wrong person the first time around. Out came a barrage of tweets from Adams, likening their marriage to the “spiritual equivalent of a soggy piece of cardboard” and saying he was too high to remember their union. Let us not forget they were married for six years, practically an eternity by Hollywood standards. And his lessening their relationship on such a public forum was yet another way he was trying to rewrite their history to suit himself. Her claims that she was in an unhealthy relationship have more meaning now that we know what we know.

Public humiliation

After breaking things off with Adams in 2018, Butterworth was also the victim of online abuse by Adams. According to the New York Times story, Adams posted photos of Butterworth, also a musician, to his Instagram account with the caption “Get it while it’s hot, folks. [Butterworth] IS SINGLE.” Adams has suggested that his attempts at humour in the past have been misconstrued, like in his apology to Moore over the soggy cardboard comment, but shaming someone publicly for ending their relationship to you is not just an attempt at getting a laugh. It speaks to how he was trying to humiliate her for walking away from him. Instead of being introspective or taking time to think through his actions, Adams seems quick to condemn those that have hurt him, a sure sign of volatility, quite publicly.

There is more at play here than just some mean back and forth between exes. Adams has admitted that he has dealt with mental health issues and has had problems with alcohol and drugs. And those should not be taken lightly. But they are also no reason to allow someone to treat you as less than human. And until Adams and all his counterparts can finally own up to their bad behaviour, it’s important to highlight their nefarious actions and to demand more from men in the public eye, and just men in general.


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