Sociopaths and love

If you’re like most Lovefraud readers, you’re here because you were romantically involved with a sociopath. This person probably declared love for you repeatedly, exuberantly and convincingly. Then the individual lied to you, betrayed you, cheated on you, abused you and perhaps even threatened you.

You were left stunned, distraught and devastated. How could someone who loved you treat you so badly?

A letter Lovefraud received recently might help you understand why that person’s love was so shallow:

I have read several articles on your site out of curiosity and boredom over the past few weeks, and I agree with almost all of their content. If I weren’t a sociopath I would probably find some of those articles useful. In my opinion, however, you seem to have missed one important point about us. I’m not blaming or criticizing you for this, because it isn’t your fault. This point is that we can love in some way.

It isn’t some intense feeling. You aren’t “attached” to the other person. It is more like a different way of seeing a person. They stop being just another background character in your life, who does things for you and who you occasionally have conflicts with. Instead, you enjoy their company, feel protective and possessive of them, and become very disappointed if they die or otherwise fall out of your life. Another sociopath, a friend of mine, once told me that he felt a similar way for his girlfriend, and he was surprised that I could relate to this.

What I think is strange about this version of love is that, for me at least, is that I had the same feeling for a close friend who has since died, my pet guinea pig, and a boyfriend who I became bored with and broke up with. In the latter case, I felt disappointed when I realized we had nothing new to talk about, and we had fallen in to a rut. The disappointment was over by the time I formally broke up a few days later.

This particular sociopath equates “love” with “enjoyment.” From her point of view, if the enjoyment is no longer in the relationship, neither is love.

Other sociopaths equate love and sex. When they say, “I love you,” what they are really saying is, “I want to have sex with you.”

So sociopaths may not always be lying when they say, “I love you.” Sociopaths may think they do love you. They simply don’t know what the word means.

Three parts to love

What exactly is love? Poets, playwrights and songwriters over the ages have struggled to describe the sensation of falling in love, and the pain of losing love. No matter how beautiful the language,  words are often inadequate. We just know love when we feel it.

Scientists have also tried to explain love. Philip R. Shaver and Mario Mikulincer wrote a paper called A Behavioral Systems Approach to Romantic Love Relationships: Attachment, Caregiving, and Sex. Their explanation of love is useful for us because it illustrates why sociopaths can appear to be in love, when they really aren’t.

Shaver and Mikulincer say there are three distinct components to romantic love:

  1. Attachment you want to be around and spend time with the person you love.
  2. Sex you want to have physical relations with the person you love.
  3. Caregiving you want to take care of the person you love. You are concerned about his or her health, wellbeing and growth.

Real love has all three of these components. Sociopath, however, only experience two of them.

Sociopaths fail at caregiving

Sociopaths experience attachment they definitely want to be with you, especially in the beginning. And they certainly want sex.

But sociopaths are not capable of true caregiving. They really are not concerned about you, your future or your fulfillment. Sometimes they seem to be taking care of you, but it’s not because they actually want what is best for you. Sociopathic caregiving is all about manipulation and control.

This is why love with a sociopath is so confusing. They do actually want to be with you. The sex is often extraordinary. They sometimes pretend to take care of you.  And sociopaths can keep the act going for a long time—until you are no longer useful to them, or they lose interest.

Another email

I never replied to author of the above email there is no point in engaging a sociopath. So about a week later, she wrote again.

At this point, I’m sure that if you were going to reply to my letter, you would have by now. Why haven’t you written back? I considered writing it from the perspective of a normal person, but I figured that you would see through it if I began with “My friend has this disorder and SHE said…” Do you think that just because I’m different from you that I deserve to be ignored? It isn’t my fault that I was born a certain way. You could have just as easily been born a psycho. Would you ignore normal people because you think you’re better than them? I don’t. I know that both types of people—and we are both people, I hope you aren’t so deep in your own world as to think we aren’t—have their merits, strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives that are worth considering. Don’t you agree?

Actually I don’t agree. Yes, it’s sad that sociopaths are born with the genetics for the disorder, and often grow up in difficult, even abusive, environments. But when someone says she’s a sociopath, and sounds like a sociopath, I have a choice on how to respond. I’ll play it safe and stay away.


Comment on this article

68 Comments on "Sociopaths and love"

Notify of

I can vouch for the “long lost Daddy” affect.

Psychopaths generally treat their children either of two ways. They either make them their “golden child,” or they make them their “scapegoat.” A child whose other parent is wise to them will likely become shunned. The knowledge of that parent is not what they want following them around in their life and they need to sever themselves from the child who parrots that view in order to make a new conquest.

Unfortunately, abandonment can easily cause cleaving to the parent later in life, regardless of the values you attempt to instill. Psychopaths are charmers, and when they decide they want to charm your children, they will. The chemicals that cause trust and love in their brain can also cause attachment and longing for a parent who abandons. I have this situation presently in my life. But back when my son was 6, he would have behaved similarly to the daughter of Freedom.

As my son grew up, there was no shared information about emotional predators in the media. Had I been raising him today, I would have made sure he understood about the behavior of psychopathy to whatever extent that information could be absorbed at his maturity level. If I had read Dr. Leedom’s book, Just Like His Father, back then, I would have made adjustments in how I dealt with his father’s total withdrawal from my son’s life.

Abandonment of a child teaches the child how to abandon and that abandonment is acceptable behavior. So even though you wish that you never have to talk to or face the other parent again, that could be the most harmful thing you could do to your child’s moral development.

The presence of the offensive parent in your child’s life can give you the opportunity to help them understand the lack of empathy and true caring that they witness. You need to be especially careful to supply loads of tenderness, nurturing and emotional support. And you need to be totally informed about how predators operate so you don’t get sucked into the vortex.

None of us intended to parent a psychopath’s child. But because we did, the message we send to our children can’t be to respect the other parent no matter what. Loving them does not mean respecting and obeying them if they are morally disordered.

No matter what you do to raise your child, they will have a difficult path to maturity because of the impact of genes and interaction with a disordered parent. All you can do is the very best you know how. The rest is in God’s hands.


My personal experience turned out to be the opposite ofyours jm. Because I was left with 5 abused (physically and emotionally) children, I felt it imperative to explain to them that their bad tempers were a result of their abuse as opposed to their basically being “evil” individuals. At the samew time, I also tried to give them a lot of love and care and teach them good behavior. As teenagers they were all smart, healthy and ideal children. However, later in life,their abusive dad’s claims became accepted as reality. They therefore claimed that I had always told them their dad had been abusive and they turned against me. Having no money for counseling help, I raised them the very best way I could under the circumstances. They all went on to become quite successful in life, one even becomming a pediatric endocrinologist but somewhere along the way, they too became psychotic…perhaps froim a combiination of genes and a dog-eat-dog society which tends to promote psychotic behavior. My point is that there is no way a caring parent can predict how their parenting ways may affect their offspring.
On the other hand, my ex daughter-in-law raised her son never raferencing his dad’s psychotic behavior but now at the age of 21, the son is gradually learning that his father’s affection was only skin deep. His father recently remarried a gal who has two sons and has therefore all but abandoned his own son. She is watching very closely to see if her loving son begins to show psychotic traits like his father. So who knows what is the best way of bringing up the child of a psychotic? I will be watching now that my grandchildren are entering the workforce. The same age when my wonderful children began showing psychotic traits!

Send this to a friend