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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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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