I’ve been re-watching the first season of the series “You” on Netflix and I have reflected a lot on the main character of the show, Joe Goldberg. Do most of us have a little Joe Goldberg inside of them that comes in relationships? Maybe we do, maybe we don’t but I know I definitely do. When it comes to love, Joe is obsessive and act crazy and impulsively when his anger and rage are provoked during a relationship; this has been who I have been in most of my relationships. Joe is a man that will stop at nothing to be with Beck, the girl he is obsessed with.
When Joe Goldberg meets Beck, his potential love interest, he makes it a point to stalk her on social media to find out more about her. Beck puts all of her life out there on social media and Joe use that information to weaponize himself to get near Beck. I’m not gonna lie, when I’ve met someone I’ve liked; I get a bit obsessive like Joe. I will do a google search on them and try to find out more about their life and what makes them tick. I’ll scroll down through years of their social media to try to get an idea about who they are in case I start talking to them or there is a “chance encounter” between us. However, unlike Joe I won’t go as far as to stalk them like he does. I do however know that gnawing and yearning feeling to try to get to know someone better if I feel like they could possibly be the “one”. Joe is obsessed with love and finding the one and I can relate to that. The alternative of never finding the one is a life of solitude and well that’s lonely and sad and no one wants to feel like that. Society puts such importance on romantic love that we are conditioned to think that life without it will be empty and meaningless. Most of us want to be with someone that feels like home; we want to feel like belong to somebody. This is especially true for those of us with severe abandonment issues that stem from an unstable childhood. We want to make up for the emotional void in adulthood by trying to find a sense of belonging in another person. Joe makes a few vague references that there was neglect and abuse in his childhood. Joe gets obsessed with Beck to fill that emotional void. Like Joe, I’ve done that with the majority of my romantic partners. I got obsessed with the idea that they completed some part of myself that I was missing. In the past three years, I even thought that I was poly-amorous because it made sense to use multiple partners to fill that void and if it didn’t work out with one; there was someone else to turn to. Now I’ve realized how unfair that is to put on someone else; I should be able to complete myself and not rely on someone else for that.
Another thing that Joe and I have in common is that we idealize our romantic partners. Joe idealized Beck right away and placed her on his pedestal. Throughout the series he acted she was a princess that needed to be saved from herself. I have done the same thing in relationships; especially in the beginning or if I’m dating a “nice guy”. I’ll write in my journal how he is all of this goodness and that I don’t deserve him. I’ll also accommodate to their idea of what they want in a partner even if I’m not true to myself. I do this in order to not lose them. I’ll swallow that words that should have been said and arguments that should have happened in order to “not rock the boat” or be accused of being dramatic. In the end, it doesn’t work and I either implode or explode or both things happen.
Another thing that I have in common with Joe is his wrath of anger and rage. Joe’s wrath of anger and rage is felt by those that stand in the way of him being with Beck, his true love. He kills Beck’s love interest in the beginning of the series and later on kills her best friend who is secretly in love with her. While I don’t kill people; I understand feeling that kind of anger and rage that makes you want to punch walls and destroy almost everything around you. It’s the kind of rage when you see red and forget that your impulsive actions upon acting on that rage will or could have dire consequences for you or people close to you. It’s the kind of rage where your empathy button is broken and all you think about is yourself. My anger manifests itself by going into self destructive mode or taking it on others. I went into self destructive mode in 2018 when I realized that my marriage couldn’t be saved. That year I experimented with drugs, almost became an alcoholic, and was super promiscuous. More than once that year, I got myself in unsafe situations with that could have had dire consequences. Also, if I think that something or someone is standing in the way of me being with the one I desire; I will feel extreme anger towards that person or thing standing in my way. Sometimes this could even be the partner I have at the time if I feel that they’re not giving me the same intense energy I’m giving them. I did this with my on an off love, C. For a while, I would go crazy on him via text if I felt like I wasn’t getting enough attention or validation from him. I remember one time, I even texted him that I didn’t think that he would care if I died. I do want to mention that unlike Joe, I do have healthier methods of coping with my anger and rage like writing and exercising. I could publish a few books with my angst ridden and angry poetry.
In the latter part of series, Joe tries to break out of his destructive and violent patterns by letting Beck go without drama or violent behavior. He even continues seeing his therapist. He does however start dating his next door neighbor, Karen Minty right away. It’s obvious that Joe cannot be alone and needs another person by his side to define him. I understand this all too well. I use to be the type of person to jump from relationship to relationship because it was easier to use someone as a distraction and to fill the void the previous partner left behind rather than try to do the hard work of healing on my own. One good thing about Joe’s relationship with Karen is that he’s not obsessed with her and it’s seemingly healthy. He does however question it and feels like something is missing. When Beck comes back into the picture, he cheats on Karen with Beck and eventually breaks up with Karen to be with Beck. At this point, Joe is convinced that Beck is really the one for him. Being with Beck gives him an “adrenaline” rush of “love” that he doesn’t experience with Karen. I’ve been at that place a few times in my life. I was in a couple seemingly healthy relationships throughout my 3 year situationship with “C”. Both guys knew I was still seeing “C” on and off and it was okay because both relationships were poly. I think that I kept going back to “C” during those times because there was and always has been a level of adrenaline rush and excitement that I have felt with him that I don’t feel or have felt with other partners. Also, contrary to popular belief about polyamory; I felt lonely and thirsty for affection at times in those poly relationships and well, when “C” was available, he helped with that loneliness and thirst. People like me and Joe try on healthy relationships for a bit and while at first it seems fine, we get bored. I wouldn’t say that it has so much to do the other person being boring per-say; I think it has to do more with people like me and Joe having a constant need for excitement. We both crave the excitement, adrenaline rush, and chemistry that comes from that person that we feel that we have a unique connection with even if that person is unhealthy for us. That unhealthy connection is really a trauma bond. I could even go on to say that Beck has a trauma bond with Joe like me and “C” do. We learn throughout that series that Beck has her own set of issues that could easily make her trauma bond with Joe.
At the end of the series, Beck finds out who Joe really is and is horrified and tries to leave him and because of that he ends up locking her in a glass vault for a while trying to convince her that he’s not this horrible person and that they are meant to be together. He keeps telling her that he did all of these horrible things in order to be with her. This does not work and he ends up killing Beck. Joe would rather have Beck dead than her abandon him. Joe’s severe abandonment issues along with perhaps an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness make him act crazy and impulsive in the moment. While I don’t go and lock my partners in glass vaults or kill them during a breakup; I’m definitely not easy to deal with. I take breakups super personal and start this cycle of grief that involves sadness, guilt, shame, anger, and rage. All of this involves hating them, hating myself, and wanting to die. I do don’t do this with all of my breakups; just the partners that had a huge presence in my life. Like Joe, a breakup triggers ALL of my abandonment and rejection issues from the past. However, unlike Joe, I implode on myself and not explode on others. Thanks Quiet BPD-lol.
Writing this essay has been super introspective for me in examining how much I can relate to a character as problematic as Joe. It is almost scary to think that we have so much in common. I do want to point out that while I have deep empathy for Joe; I don’t at any point condone any of his problematic and violent behavior from the stalking to the manipulation to the killing. While I’m not a prime example of how to behave in a relationship; I do have to say that at least I know how to reign my emotions enough to not cause physical harm or immense emotional trauma to my former romantic partners. Well, if I had to be super honest with myself; the verdict is still out as to whether or not I’ve caused immense emotional trauma to any of my former partners. I don’t make it habit of keeping in contact with any of former romantic partners except my husband who I have kids with. The way I see it; the demise of a relationship is traumatic enough and trying to do the whole awkward friendship stage after just adds to the trauma and slows down the healing process. Writing this essay has also made me think that maybe my soulmate is probably someone like Joe Goldberg. Haha, just kidding. Honestly, writing this essay has opened my eyes to how I really need to continue my journey of unlearning unhealthy patterns and really fall in love with myself. I also need to embrace solitude for a really long time and learn to look for the magic within myself instead of another person.