Love not lovefraud

Within the last 6 months, I received word that my ex-husband (still in prison after having destroyed my life) pledges undying love for me. One of the most disturbing after-affects of a relationship with a sociopath is confusion about love. As part of my own healing, I resolved to study the scientific literature to understand what is known of the nature of love. I will summarize my findings here but also please visit Ability to Love.

Attachment is what causes us to stick together

Although there are many other species that live solitary lives, humans are social creatures. That means we stick together. Scientists have called this tendency to stick together “attachment.” Attachment is part of love. It is that part of love that makes us feel compelled to be with those we love.

The interesting thing about attachments is that they are strengthened by fear. This is why sociopaths induce fear in their victims. This fear makes the victim cling to the sociopath all the more. This clinging is a compulsion and has nothing to do with feelings of affection.

Another interesting thing about attachment is that it survives mostly independent of pleasure or pain. How often do married people temporarily feel anger or even hatred for each other, yet they do not separate? This pleasure/pain neutral quality of attachment allows us stick together even during times of conflict.

There are people who do not form attachments with others. These people are generally known as hermits, but psychiatrists call them schizoid. Notice that sociopaths form attachments. They are not hermits. They feel compelled to seek out the company of others. The quality that distinguishes sociopaths involves what they do with those to whom they are attached. This observation lead me to the understanding that love is much more than attachment, or the compulsion to be with another.

The other ingredients of love

Love involves feelings of affection. I still don’t know for sure whether or not sociopaths experience fleeting feelings of affection. I believe they might. I have observed people I thought were sociopaths enjoying affection, both in my personal life and in my practice. If sociopaths do experience affection, the inherent joy is very small in comparison with the pleasure they get from having power over others. Therefore, love is more than attachment with occasional affection.

I have come to understand that in addition to attachment and affection, love is defined by the presence of empathy and caretaking behavior. It has been well documented in scientific studies using brain imaging that sociopaths do not experience empathy. Studies comparing sociopaths and non-sociopaths reveal that the brain areas that are responsible for empathy are silent in the sociopath.

The caretaking behavior that is part of real love is different from the kindnesses that are part of sociopathy. Sociopaths do show kindness when it suits their purpose. In fact, the presence of perceived kindnesses by sociopaths toward victims leads to the development of Stockholm Syndrome in victims. The caretaking behavior associated with love is constant, enduring and self-sacrificing and not just an occasional purposeful gesture.

The lesson of love

If there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of being the victim of a sociopath, it is coming to this deeper understanding of love. To understand love is to understand what it is not. Thankfully, love is not the empty promise of a manipulative sociopath. Love is attachment, affection, empathy and self-sacrificial caretaking behavior. When I tell my children, and others close to me that I love them, I mean it in every sense of the word. I mean it with the deepest of understanding and commitment. I have vowed to teach my children about what love is. I have also vowed to expect real love from everyone I allow into my life from now on.

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4 Comments on "Love not lovefraud"

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What a great blog. I have noticed in studying these people, that so many say I love you so easily, and so quickly. My sociopathic ex was different. The only person he would say it to was his son and even then the boy had to say it first, and when he said it back, it was insincere. He almost seemed annoyed to have to say it to him. He was antagonistic. So when he wouldn’t say it to me, he made it seem like he wasnt saying it, just to get my goat. He actually used to say “The only person I’ll say it to is (son’s name)” I said “What about your mom?” he said “Nope, I won’t say it to her either”. He and his ex wife were together off & on for a few years, one day he told me he never loved her, he shrugged and said he just stayed for the sex.

Once again, What I mistook as sarcasm & antagonism… Was just an outright evil, cold heart. There is no attachment, even if they make you think there is. They absolutely cannot love.

Thanks for Lovefraud! That’s all I can say. I have been recovering from my relationship with – I call him “the psycho” for 4 months now. I’ve had great advice, and have done my homework, and my sleuthing. Most of the time I feel pretty good again in terms of my recovery from the abandonment and the (what I later learned was) emotional abuse.

Still…from time to time, my resolve softens, softening somewhat less each time….and I experience feelings of loss for the companionship of this person.

What is confounding, is that some of the insight he would impart on me regarding myself would be dead on. Insight about what I was lacking or seeking, or how I was handling my situation at home with my partner, etc. Really bright insight…and sometimes, yes, I doubt myself and my conclusions about him being so evil.

Of course, I remind myself he spent time in prison, and he led me on and how he led me on to continue having a relationship with him.

I hate any time I spend thinking about him because I know he is not thinking about me. Still, I wish he were. I start to have those “what if I ever spoke to him again” imaginary conversations and then force myself to stop wasting my time because that conversation will never happen.

My psycho has finished with me utterly. And based on what I’ve read here, that is probably lucky for me!

Anyway, this post about what love is is another great boost at just the time I needed it. I am already in a long-term relationship that I am working on. The psycho was my one and only affair. It is easy to be confused by someone who can lie about love so convincingly, or someone who can have such penetrating insight into your personality.

I am glad to turn to Lovefraud to stay grounded about what kind of person I had been dealing with. They are truly baffling people…but they don’t deserve any reverence for their complexity!

Still strong here, thanks!

The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm wrote a slim little book back in 1956 called “The Art of Loving.” He says:

“Love is the active concern for the life and growth of that which we love. Where this active concern is lacking, there is no love.”

I read the book many years ago. It’s probably worth reading again.

Liane, this blog, your words, have touched my soul. You have provided me with the explanations, descriptions and answers I have been searching for my entire life. Thank you.

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