Can Sociopaths Love or Even Fall in Love?
Can sociopaths love? Can sociopaths fall in love? If you truly know and understand the sociopath, then you know these questions are almost laughable.
Sociopaths often act like they are in love. To the outside world, it looks like they love. Given that a definition of a sociopath is a person who lacks empathy and has antisocial personality disorder, apart from others and separate from the rules and norms of society, it's odd that someone like this can look like they're truly in love. Sociopaths are nothing if not confusing, partly because sociopathic traits and characteristics contradict each other at times. Upon closer examination, though, it makes perfect sense to ask, "Can a sociopath fall in love?"
Can Sociopaths Love?
If we manipulate the definition of love the way sociopaths manipulate people, then sure, sociopaths can love. To truly make this claim, though, we have to give love a definition that suits us in this moment. Don't worry, we can act like a sociopath and redefine it to our liking anytime we so desire.
When love is a tool to be used to trap and manipulate someone, sociopaths can love.
When love is said easily by the lips but not felt by the heart, sociopaths can love.
When love is a feeling of fascination or power rather than an emotion, sociopaths can love.
When love is a shallow lie told for personal gain rather than an expression of connection, sociopaths can love.
When love is synonymous with sex and sex is nothing other than momentary and meaningless physical pleasure, then sociopaths can love.
When love is a word rather than a feeling, sociopaths can love.
When love involves pretending, playing a role to gain something for yourself, then sociopaths can love.
To a sociopath, true love is a love of
- playing and winning his/her version of the game of life.
A sociopath can put on a great show and act in loving ways. He can pretend to love and to care, and you have no idea that he's constantly assessing which of your buttons to push and when to push them. She can gush and express her love and devotion. But truly, can sociopaths love?
When love is a deep and complex emotion, a feeling of fondness, tenderness, bonding, and connection between human beings, no, a sociopath cannot love.
What is Loving a Sociopath Like?
The sociopath is a social predator who charms his way into people's lives. He slithers his way in because he has a greater purpose; he senses the opportunity for personal gain. Thus begins his game. To win trust and ensure naïveté, he begins courtship. He pretends to love because he wants love in return. He cares nothing for the feelings of love but instead wants love as a manipulative tool.
The best way to receive love is to give love, and the sociopath sets out to give and receive. Loving a sociopath has been described as wonderful and exhilarating (Buttafuoco, 2009). Because a sociopath shapes her persona to match that of her prey of the moment, loving a sociopath can feel like finding a soulmate. She is a perfect fit in every way. (Look at these famous sociopaths.)
To be in love with a sociopath can be full of laughter and fun, so much so that ignoring the odd personality traits that pop up from time to time becomes second nature. Says Mary Jo Buttafuoco (2009), "...I stuck it out during the bad times, because the good times were fantastic."
Eventually, the honeymoon comes to an end. The sociopath gets whatever he was after in the first place, and then he rapidly becomes bored. Constantly needing thrills and stimulation, he drops the charade and moves on. This can happen suddenly, leaving the victim, who thought she/he was in love, shocked, hurt, and confused.
It is absolutely possible to be in love with a sociopath. Can a sociopath love back? Yes, but only by his own definition of love, a manipulative, uncaring, unemotional kind of love.
Last Updated: 21 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD