By | January 17, 2019 5 Comments

Why sociopaths can’t love

caregivingOne winter, 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, because sociopaths can’t love.

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 includes caregiving

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.

Lovefraud originally posted this article on Dec. 2, 2013.

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This is so true! It’s also interesting that even when they are *fake* taking care of you, it just isn’t right. There is always something off about what they do, how they do it. I have two examples.

He made me dinner, made a big production out of doing it for me because I was exhausted from work. He asked me what I wanted, made a list, went shopping. He took forever to get back from the store. Then he came home and made something I did not request, prepared it poorly, and was put off that I only picked at it.

Then one time I was sick and stayed home for several days. During a phone call I told him I craved lemon cookies. So he brought them over. He praised himself for being so thoughtful, and demanded that I also give him the highest praise for his amazing care! I didn’t feel too well, and only managed to get one down, and then fell asleep. During the next hour he, literally, ate the other 24 cookies in the package.

I just found when he was faking it he never got it quite right. It never felt like what it was supposed to feel like, and it required energy from me (in the form of praise and adulation) whenever he was ‘thoughtful’.

Tracy Boback

I had a 6 month old baby at home. I had a 103 degree fever with flu and stuck in bed barely moving. I begged him to stay home to take care of the baby so I wouldn’t get her sick. I will never forget the degree to which I literally begged because I was in tears asking for help the first time in my life. He refused because he had plans for the day. He left us alone for over 6 hours why he was doing his activities all over town. I’m proud to say although that event made me disgusted with him as a person, it helped me identify that he truly never cared for either of us. I filed for divorce later that year and the divorce took longer than our marriage lasted. Again because he never truly cared for either of us. A much happier life that I am narcissistic free and using a parallel parenting plan for our child.


when we were dating, he would disappear for a day (or 2), with little or no explanation. it would turn out, that he was having ‘issues’ with his bi-polar meds. when he’d reappear, there would NO discussion as to what was going on. None of my business, he said. (in hindsight, he was afraid I would dump him, if I knew the full extent of his mental issues, and or his lithium intake)..when I got sick once (norovirus, after I moved into an apartment), he showed up, turned pale when I told him I was sick to my stomach and left. Didn’t see much of him for several days, save once, when he showed up with an order of cheese frenchees from a local King’s Food Host. Otherwise, until I was better, he stayed away. (made a BIG deal about missing sex). That was the extent of his ‘love, caring’. Otherwise, it was all about HIM. As for ‘romance’; in HIS mind, that meant sex and more sex. It took me years to figure that out. It wasn’t hearts/flowers/bling/restaurant meal..just sex.


So very true… At first he was attentive, caring, always asking if he could pick up something for me at the store or bring me something from the kitchen, giving me sweet gifts for special occasions. After he moved in I was constantly taking time off work to take him to eye appointments and disability hearings. He never accompanied me to any medical visits, saying he couldn’t see well enough to drive. I paid for him to travel to Colorado for my family reunion. He decided to visit his “sick” Mom when I wanted to spend a week with my sister. (Found out later she had never been sick.) He gave me socks for Christmas, I gave him a $200 jacket. Valentines Day I got a small box of cheap candy (I was on a diet). He ate it all. Toward the end he completely forgot my birthday and two weeks later, after my knee surgery, when I was not supposed to walk for two days, he dropped me off at the house and left. His excuse? “I have to get back to work to supervise things.” Truth – he had to get back to his new honey. He was gone for a week. I was stuck in bed for 24 hours until my daughter in law rescued me. So – care giving is and always was on his terms, for his convenience.

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