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Explaining love addiction with a sociopath

According to Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, romantic love is an addiction. The drive to find a romantic partner is buried deep in the brain, and biologically intertwined with the brain’s reward system, which is linked to wanting, motivation, focus and craving. To hear Dr. Fisher explain this, watch the video.

Dr. Fisher points out that when you love someone and are rejected, the addiction is worse. Not only do you continue to feel the intense romantic love, but you love your beau even more. Your love becomes an obsession. It turns out that the brain system associated with rewards becomes even more active when you can’t get what you want.

So what happens when you fall in love with a sociopath? Why is it so difficult to emotionally disengage from a sociopath, even when you have discovered what they really are? I’ve spoken to many people who know, on an intellectual level, that they are involved with an exploiter. They absolutely understand that they must end the involvement. But they can’t.

The following letter from a Lovefraud reader is a case in point. We’ll call her “TammyLynn.” The other names have been changed as well. I will comment on her case, and why it’s so hard to break away from a sociopath, after her letter.

TammyLynn’s letter

I’ve just turned 41. I was married in 1996 and separated from my husband, David, in January 2009. All during this time, my best friend was male (I’m female). Jeremy and I became close, and when I separated from my husband, I pretty much went straight to him.

Jeremy was everything to me. The PERFECT man. He had almost no flaws — I trusted him 100%. I told him my secrets, relied on him. We both worked in law enforcement, so I really thought he had the same values.

Fast forward to March 2012. He got arrested for embezzlement from our own agency. (I had been off work for two years at the time for an injury.) We were broke, or so I thought.

After the arrest and a lot of questions on my part, I finally discovered Jeremy had been cheating on me. He denied it until I showed him printed proof at the jail. Yes, I still went to see him.

Jeremy owes me over $27,000. He insists he will pay, but his money is locked up in his divorce. (This part is true because I got power of attorney and was able to view all finances and that’s how I found the other girls.) He’s now in prison and considered a “con” by the media.

Money is an excuse

I need the money— I also know it is an excuse, because once I get the money, I keep telling myself I will cut ties, but I miss what I thought we had. My brain is smart, I’m educated, but my heart is totally stupid and broken.

I love David, my husband, but we don’t have the same relationship. With Jeremy, it seemed expertly loving, exciting. Said the right things, etc. Although I love my husband and he is stable, I miss the relationship with the sociopath. I’m humiliated, angry, my kids were also devastated, sooo incredibly sad.

EVERYONE is telling me to run. But even David, my husband, and family, tell me to “con the con” to try to get some of the money back. I’m just not good at it everyday. Some days I feel like I can con him, others not so much.

Jeremy believes that we will get back together after prison, even though I have told him we won’t, that I do not trust him (God I wish I could). I know I am attractive to the opposite sex, funny with a kindhearted personality. Kids, old people and dogs are my favorite things in life. I feel pathetic and stupid.

Why can’t I convince myself?

Why can’t I just convince myself what my brain knows???? I don’t get it. And why does he seem to think it should all be understandable because of his own “mental breakdown that caused him to do horrible things.” His words, not mine.

My experience with the sociopath was so entirely different from what my reading, investigating and what I’m hearing. It’s like reading about a totally different person. I’m having a tough time making a clear parallel to the same guy. The guy I loved is NOT what I’ve now been exposed to. It does not seem real. My heart is not recognizing this. My brain says no way, never again. So sad.

I don’t care if you post this, if I could read responses, or if you will take the time to tell me not to be a dummy. I just need other people to help me with my backbone lately. He will be out in a few months, I know I will not be with him, I’m just asking for help with my thinking — he’s messed me up big time.

Donna’s comments love with a sociopath

First of all, I think it’s fair to say that Jeremy is a sociopath. He swooped in when TammyLynn was vulnerable. He pulled her into a relationship that was both personal and business and then embezzled from the business. The fact that Jeremy is now a recognized con artist and in prison is telling.

But notice how TammyLynn described Jeremy he was “the PERFECT man. He had almost no flaws.” This is the impression that Jeremy wanted to create for her.

Sociopaths engage in calculated seduction. They figure out what you are looking for, turn themselves into that person, and then declare that the two of you are soul mates, destined to be together.

Notice what else TammyLynn said about this man “With Jeremy, it seemed expertly loving, exciting. Said the right things, etc.” Jeremy undoubtedly engaged in love bombing, overwhelming TammyLynn with attention and affection. This level of adoration is exhilarating, and most likely intensified TammyLynn’s feelings of love. The normal, stable love of her husband just couldn’t measure up.

Sociopaths are different

I don’t know of any fMRI brain studies about sociopaths and love, but researchers at an SSSP conference that I attended did present information about how sociopaths’ brains are different. Maybe some of the deep brain mechanisms that Dr. Fisher described do not operate the same way in sociopaths. I do know that sociopaths do not form bonds the way the rest of us do.

Although sociopaths are great at convincing us that they love us, it is all deceit and manipulation. They are not capable of complete love, love that involves truly caring about the welfare of another person. Sociopathic love is fake love.

Because they don’t bond, sociopaths are capable of unceremoniously dumping us when they’re bored, or when a juicier target comes along. We, however, can become obsessed with regaining what we thought we had, even though it was a mirage.

By the way, I wonder if Dr. Fisher screens for deception in her Chemistry.com online dating site. I’ve heard from people who say they’ve met sociopaths on Chemistry.com along with Match.com, Pleny of Fish, and every other dating website.

Advice for TammyLynn

TammyLynn knows that Jeremy is a con artist, but she is still feeling the pull of romantic love. This is because of the changes her love for Jeremy, which is real, have made in her brain.

The solution is to realize that leaving Jeremy requires breaking an addiction.

TammyLynn must have No Contact with Jeremy. She must stop all communication with Jeremy luckily, he’s in prison, so that should help. Then, like anyone kicking a drug or alcohol problem, she needs to take it one day at a time. Promise herself she will not contact him today. Then make the same promise tomorrow. And the same promise the next day. The longer she stays away, the more his grip on her will dissipate.

Unfortunately, it sounds like she’s not going to be strong enough to “con the con.” If she tries to deal with Jeremy directly, she will be drawn back into his web. He’ll use the pity play on her, telling his tale of woe about his “mental breakdown.” I am certain Jeremy knew exactly what he was doing, and is expressing remorse only because he got caught.

Even if TammyLynn retains an attorney, just having to think about a legal case will keep Jeremy, as Dr. Fisher says, camping in her head.

I’m all for holding sociopaths accountable. But in this case, it’s more important for TammyLynn to rebuild her life. She may have to take her lumps and walk away from the $27,000.

To learn more about why loving a sociopath is addictive and how to overcome it, see my webinar, Why it’s so hard to get over loving a sociopath and how you can recover.

Lovefraud originally published this story on June 24, 2013.


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8 Comments on "Explaining love addiction with a sociopath"

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My situation with ‘Anthony’ was strikingly similar. TammyLynn should realize that with the restitution and court costs Jeremy will be obligated to pay upon release, he will likely be judgment proof for a number of years. If she does pursue a civil judgment, which typically lasts for ten years but varies by jurisdiction, she can keep renewing it until he becomes solvent.

I just hope that she is able to regain her ‘sanity’, because that is truly the greatest loss when dealing with a psychopath. As you have said many times, getting our heads on straight again has got to be the top priority in healing and moving forward to a life of peace and contentment. I truly wish her all the best.

these men really ARE an addiction; I know (now after many years of divorce) that I would have done (and almost did)anything to please him, make him smile and love me. It appalls me (now) how I refused time and again, ANY advice, counsel, warnings to leave him, stay way, go away. The TRUTH often stared me in the face, but I was blinded..Countless times, I did think of leaving, letting go, dumping him..but in the actual moment of saying NO; I would weaken and give him more chances, and excuses..

Interesting video of Dr. Fisher.

Dear Donna,

Sadly, I think TammyLynn experienced “limerence,” which usually occurs during the first two years of a relationship, sometimes growing into love, sometimes not.

Donna, your advice to TammyLynn is spot-on, and I hope she follows it. She needs counseling from a counselor that understands sociopathology and be in a support group with other survivors of sociopaths. She needs to remember she is fighting an ADDICTION to the sociopath!

Dr. Helen Fisher was EXCELLENT, but I wish she included limerence and sociopathology in her discussion. You can count on my reading and viewing everything she has to say!

Was very helpful to read this article, especially now–for me. In the past week, i believe that i finally (i hope!) can move on from my entrapment with a socio/psychopath. Its been so hard to break free, although i know how bad “Joe” really is–after finding his other life online with many ‘ladies’. It helps for me to conceive of this as a physiological addiction that i just need to break. I can really relate to TammyLynn saying “my brain knows he is wrong for me, but my heart just won’t let go”. He was so good in the beginning….. After being completely no contact for one week, i feel my “self” and sanity returning.

What helped me was threefold.
First, I forced myself (as painful as that can be) to remember all the bad things. Our minds automatically remember the good, and our minds try to protect us from pain, but dealing with the pain, remembering every attack, every lie, every demeaning act actually helps get you through the greiving process. Cry if feel like it, get mad if you feel like it, and vent to get it out of your system. Don’t fall back into the good feelings those first months or years because that was a lie and a manipulation. The pain was the truth.
Second, educate yourself and your loved ones (support system – whoever that is for you) about personality disorders. Donna has a lot of helpful interviews, webinars, books, and related links. The more you read the more certain messages bring you clarity. The more clarity you gain, the easier it is to forgive yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read “I feel so stupid” which echoed my own thinking. They are expert liars, manipulators, actors. Your only flaw is in being a kind hearted, trusting, loyal, and forgiving human. Think of them as being sub-human to better distance yourself.
Third, make YOU a priority. Meditate, therapy, massage, eat better, exercise, vitamins like Bcomplex to help adrenal fatigue, sleep, and most importantly…. know that you may never get back to the person you were before your involvement with a disordered person AND THAT’S OKAY! Who you are becoming now is stronger and wiser and totally awesome. You deserve a better life. The disordered person will never change. Their life will never be better. But you can overcome and you will!!
Wishing all peace and strength and clarity!

In my case I also felt like my own vanity got in the way of my seeing him, and the situation, for what it really was. I kinda felt like I was too smart to have something like this happen to me, and I was going to ‘beat it’. That kept me trying to overcome his obvious mental and emotional void-of-a-personality. But once I swallowed my pride I was actually the one who let him go, cut all contact.

And I still felt like I was needing him like a line of cocaine. It was very confusing. Our bodies just get all tangled up with hormones and neurotransmitters, and we feel such loss and desperation.

It was the most humbling experience involving another human being I have ever had. The experience, not the sociopath, made me a much happier, more centered, and realistic person. I think having my ego deflated made me decide not to pump it up again with false ideas and assumptions.

Hi after 10 months of implementing NC with my ex narc alcoholic. He stops by my job to drop a note on my windshield apologizing for his selfish behavior and for lying to me.then to say However he did not cheat on me in the physical sense.that i hope i could forgive him . and wished me the best. Anyway i happen to be lying down in my car at lunch and just got up and saw him so i got out. He told me he left a note. Says Be well. And speeds off in his car! What kind of an apololgy is that?

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