Sociopaths and the three components of love

Man with sick girlfriendLast week, my husband, Terry Kelly, and I traded colds. I got sick first, and Terry made chicken soup and did what he could to make me feel comfortable.

Then, despite my best efforts to keep my germs to myself, Terry got sick.

By this time I was feeling better. So I went to the store and bought cold medicine, tissues and orange juice, because I’d used everything up. I made him chicken soup. I even made him a pot of chili.

As I did all this, I noticed a warm feeling within me.

It was the joy of taking care of someone I loved. I was concerned about his health and wellbeing. I was happy and energized to help him.

It was a feeling sociopaths never experience.

Three behavioral systems of love

When we talk about romantic love, what exactly do we mean? We may associate it with excitement, or a warm, squishy feeling about someone special.

But Drs. Philip R. Shaver and Mario Mikulincer, social psychology researchers, have explained romantic love in a way that’s helpful for people involved with sociopaths to understand.

Psychologists have come to believe that human beings have innate motivational systems, also called behavioral systems, which have evolved over millennia to help the species survive. Shaver and Mikulincer suggest that three of these systems are involved in the experience of romantic love: the attachment, sexual and caregiving behavioral systems.


Attachment, Caregiving, and Sex within Romantic Relationships: A Behavioral Systems Perspective, by Mario Mikulincer.

Real love

For non-disordered people, real love, therefore, has three components:

  • Attachment attraction, the compulsion to be with the person we love
  • Sex no explanation necessary
  • Caregiving the desire to take care of the person we love

Sociopaths only experience two of these components. They definitely feel attraction, at least in the beginning of the relationship. And they definitely want sex. Usually lots and lots of sex.

But sociopaths do not experience caregiving. They really have no desire to take care of anybody not you, not their kids. They are only concerned about themselves. They do not think about what will benefit someone else.

Fake caregiving

In the beginning of your relationship, you may have seen what appeared to be caregiving. The sociopath was always doing things for you, or buying things for you.

This was not authentic caregiving. It was a seduction tool as the sociopath was reeling you in. He or she appeared to be concerned about you and your welfare, but it was an act. You may have noticed that once your were hooked, it stopped.

In fact, one of the big telltale signs of a sociopath is how this person behaves when you need help. Unless a sociopath has a specific agenda, a payoff for helping you, often he or she cannot be bothered.


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Unfortunately, cruelty is not just reserved for romantic relationships. Even children can exhibit callous cruelty toward their parents.

I had a bout with cancer. Fortunately, it turned out to be minor, but at the time I received the news, before the testing cleared me of further harm, I had no idea what to expect. My son, who I’ve subsequently understood to have BPD and inclined toward “splitting” with loved ones, had pronounced me “persona non grata” in his life.

A few years prior, he’d made a comment to me that I took to heart. His at-the-time girlfriend had been crestfallen to hear that her mother had cancer surgery and didn’t tell her. She found out third hand. My son’s take on the matter was, “I don’t think her mother really loves her very much.”

Being mindful of my son’s sense of the “betrayal” his girlfriend had experienced, I decided to reach out and tell him what was happening. I didn’t want my son to have a moment’s doubt as to whether or not I truly loved him. He had cut off my phone and my email, so I went to call on him at his office which was just around the corner from where I lived.

The receptionist was very pleasant. I asked for my son and she inquired who I was. I told her I was his mother. She called him and said, “He’ll be right out.” For the first time in 2 years, I was about to see the son I adored.

He walked past me to an outer vestibule and motioned me to follow. When I passed throught the doorway he held for me, he said, “You need to leave.” I told him that I loved him and that I had just come to let him know I was about to undergo cancer treatments. He said, “Leave,” and walked away.

That’s the last time I saw my son. It’s been over 3 years.

My son is the result of rape by fraud. I’m convinced that his father is a psychopath, and our son has a combination of his torturous genes mixed with the pain of his father’s abandonment.

I’ve attempted to make sense of the sorrow I endured by writing my story and recently released it. It’s called Carnal Abuse by Deceit and it’s available on Amazon. I truly hope it will enable others to understand and recover from the deep emotional turmoil that accompanies falling prey to an emotional predator. I also hope to galvanzie a change in society’s concepts about rape by fraud, and bring about criminalization of the behavior.


Oh, and there is more. 13 years into the marriage, I feel like I’m in a time warp. I have three young kids now, 4,6, and 8 years old. I work outside the home and I do EVERYTHING concerning the home. and I volunteered at school for the kids. I was basically getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Did he care? NO he did not. I came down with a terrible cold and cough. Um, NO chicken soup for me. No grocery shopping, no nothin’ . I went to the doctor and they said I had adult whooping cough. I could barely hold a conversation with anyone without uncontrollable coughing. To be honest, I don’t think he really even noticed I was sick – or he minimized it. IF asked today, he would not remember. The point is: I was very sick. It was then that I became a stay at home mom. Then he would ask, “What do you do all day?” After explaining a few times I quit trying. He’d say, “If I was home, I could whip this place into shape in an hour or 2” I got piles and piles on emotional and mental abuse. I was never enough. I knew in my heart that the kids could be happy (they were), homework done, house clean, cars washed and waxed, bills paid, yardwork done, an awesome meal on the table, as glass of wine at the door, a sexual marriage bed waiting………. and something would still be wrong!

What kept ME going… just as you say, the joy and warm feeling I experienced from my children and the roller coaster ride of it with a sp spouse. I couldn’t give him up. I tricked myself into thinking that the good times outweighed the bad – when in reality, I knew it was dismal. Then I told myself just be happy with yourself, the way you are and the focus on the children. So it was like living as a single mother in a legal marriage with a business partner (who was taking from the business via expense report reimbursements from business travel charged to our joint credit card).

The last mammogram I ever had during the marriage went like this. I told him I have a mammo today. He shrugged his shoulders in a flippant manner. That night I said, “Don’t you want to hear about my mammo result?” He said, “Oh did you have a mammogram today?” I literally thought he was mental. Just don’t even try anymore…. I knew I was with someone who just wasn’t capable of caring.

About 6 months before the marriage ended I literally had a true panic attack. Up until then I really had no idea what true anxiety or panic was. My heart rate was over 200 doing nothing and racing erratically at that and no matter what breathing or calmness I tried – I could not overcome it. I knew I had to get to the ER or I was in real trouble. He did notice and offered to take me. I told him NO, unless you want everyone in the ER to know about you and your abusive ways. I said, “I am going to tell on you. I’ve had enough.” He got out of that car so quickly. My daughter took me. They determined it was atrial fibrillation. My blood pressure was also higher than it had ever been. That episode put me into a just witness and “document” mode. I started a diary of all of his BS and it was 7-8 months later that I finally got the courage to file for divorce.

I am so glad I got out. Yes, I also figured out he had a mistress for the last 5 years of the marriage. I’m really glad he did, because it gave me the reason to quit feeling sorry for him (as he so often wanted me to do). Was I mad at the mistress? Yes… but now, I am grateful for her. She helped improve my life in a way that until I knew about her, I wasn’t mentally strong enough.

I wanted to divorce just based on the emotional and mental abuse, but I just couldn’t fathom the loss of my intact family. Now, I see the hurt and disappointment in the kids, but it is still better than staying in a fake relationship that wasn’t going to change.
Thank you Donna, Thank you lovefraud. This blog brought me more peace and understanding than any counselor, self help book Or friend….. and I have some very good friends 😀

Reading these stories, so similar to my own, has convinced me to write my own.
What healing it is to know you are not alone, but your experience is shared by so many in such similar ways.
These stories are like fingerprints left at a crime scene all pointing to the same suspect.


Yes, I think you hit on a point. I remember during our 1st child’s pregnancy taking the class (childbirth prep) and the instructor mentioning that some men take advantage of this time in a woman’s life to take advantage of her/be abusive. I remember being disgusted and open verbalized this to my husband – and then it happened to my at the end of my 3rd (and last) pregnancy. I would like for the instructor to have done a 5 minute expanding on telling women that calling the police is exactly what should be done. I don’t know if it would’ve brought him back in line or not. Maybe for a short time, but I do feel that all the years he stacked up atrocities in poor treatment that it seemed embolden him more and more. At the end, I recall through a river of tears and anger saying, “just how much do you think I could take?”

All these stories are basically the same. Careless, cold hearted creatures. I was often so afraid of him but what if I called the police? He was the police and they would take his word before mine. I always thought divorce is wrong, divorce is for ever and my faith would not support divorce. Talking to my pastor definetely changed my opinion on that. He said”God took him out of my life so I can have peace”. It makes slot of sense. Divorcibg is difficult, divorcing a sheriffs deputy is going to war. And yes I am glad for his little mistress. She literally saved my life. I will forever be thankful to her. Having an affair with him might be different than actually “being ” with him. I also thought this was a marriage. Now I know it wasn’t. Nothing about it was a “marriage”. Even my child was little and was hurt he had no mercy. He called him “cry baby”. And now he wants a relationship with my 19 year old son who found nude photos of his father and his mistress on our home computer. What “father” would do an act like this. No matter how he exchanged nude photos with the co worker/deputy, they should have never been on our home computer. What a respectable police officer he is. I am astonished how many similar stories are here on this website. It does take time to see a clear picture of this craziness. Now I know what I am dealing with in this divorce. And I am ready for it.


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