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:
- Attachment — you want to be around and spend time with the person you love.
- Sex — you want to have physical relations with the person you love.
- 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.
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.