- Netflix released the second season of hit-thriller series ‘You’ in December and people are once again horrified about its protagonist’s obsessive way of loving people.
- Love addiction specialist Becky Whetstone told Insider she suspects that Joe Goldberg’s behaviour and way of expressing affection may be related to an underlying love addiction.
- Warning: Major spoilers for season two of “You” ahead.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season two of Netflix’s “You.”
Joe Goldberg, the protagonist of Netflix’s ‘You,’ is troubled, to say the least.
Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley, falls in love with random women, narrates his own thoughts as he stalks them and isolates them from their friends, and literally builds a glass box to contain his victims, who he sometimes kills.
But underlying all the blood and gore, Goldberg’s unhealthy fixation on those he loves might be attributable to a surprisingly common condition called love addiction – a desperate need to find someone to love unconditionally fuelled by the irrational fear of being alone or being rejected, according to The Ranch Treatment Centres.
Becky Whetstone, a relationship therapist and love addiction specialist, told Insider that she suspects Goldberg may have love addiction because of his compulsive need to be unconditionally loved by the women he pursues at all costs.
This is particularly evident in the way he initially projects perfection onto his love interests throughout the series – what Whetstone describes as a prominent sign of love addiction.
“He’s making them his higher power,” Whetstone said. “[He is] making up that there are all these wonderful things that are either way exaggerated or not true.”
People with love addiction struggle to understand reality and oftentimes have trauma in their past
Certain personality types have a predisposition towards love addiction.
That being said, one of the primary external causes of love addiction, according to Whetstone, is something called “mother hunger” – a desire for an unconditionally-loving mother that was absent in childhood.
“We’re figuring out now that almost all love addicts had a distant relationship with their mother,” Whetstone said. “100% of my love addicts had a distant, non-nurturing mother.”
Numerous flashbacks in “You” reveal that Goldberg had a complicated relationship with his mother in which she abandoned him for long stretches of time, insinuating this is a reason for his violence.
Like Goldberg, love addicts may act on this mother hunger by trying to fill the gap with loving, or becoming addicted to, someone.
Love addicts struggle to understand reality, which can be dangerous at times
Whetstone said diagnosis of love addiction typically relies on five factors: perfection of reality, dependency, boundaries, self-esteem, and moderation.
One love addiction red flag is being out of touch with the reality of the relationship with the person they’re addicted to, like Goldberg is for much of the series. Love addicts also have low self-esteem, stemming from the fear that the person they are addicted to will eventually leave them.
These two factors combined can lead to love addicts acting erratically based on their own perception of reality by breaking boundaries, becoming dependent on the person they are addicted to, and not understanding what a healthy relationship looks like in moderation.
In a love-addicted relationship, a person’s desire to find love makes them unable to understand the reality of how their partner is feeling about them or how their actions are impacting the person they are addicted to. And this can have serious consequences, like in the storylines of “You.”
While the average love addict isn’t going to build a glass box to keep loved ones imprisoned, addicts can still exhibit behaviours like stalking, emotional abuse, and violence.
“A lot of these abusive men are love addicts with mental disorders,” Whetstone said. “They stalk, they chase down, they threaten. They can be very dangerous.”
But in the end, their search is aimless because love addicts don’t actually want love in a real way, so it’s impossible to have a mutually loving dynamic.
“On the conscious level, they get overwhelmed by intimacy and closeness, but the underneath layer of it is they’re terrified of being abandoned,” Whetstone said. “If a love addict were to get somebody to love on them the way they want them to, they wouldn’t know what to do with it, it would freak them out.”
Though it’s underrepresented in media, love addiction is more common than you might think
In a recent interview with Vice, Badgley said that the obsessive toxicity embodied by Goldberg lives in everybody. He’s not entirely off base.
Love addiction is often treated as a non-issue, with tongue-in-cheek jokes about the condition made on shows like Netflix’s “Love.” It’s actually common and has serious consequences, with 3 to 10% of the population grappling with some form of pathological love, according to Psychology Today.
People can recover from love addiction through treatment programs and therapy, but the process can take at least 7 years, according to Whetstone.