— Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.
Can someone with sociopathic tendencies have emotional attachments? Can sociopaths truly love, or is it just a facade?
Truth is, sociopaths have no real attachments to anyone. They treat others as objects and can be most hostile even to their closest friends and family.
At least that’s what most of us think.
While science does not know everything about sociopathy, researchers believe that their inability to love people may be related to adverse childhood experiences, like abuse or neglect when they were young.
That abuse, which they could not defend themselves from, could have resulted in an inner rage, which they often use as aggression to justify their destructive behavior toward others.
A more socially relevant question is, can romantic love cure sociopaths? Can someone’s love fix them and help the sociopath fall in love?
And, can they love someone very close to them, like their family?
Table of Contents
The Truth About Sociopaths And Love
Love is too complex an emotion to understand perfectly for any one of us. For sociopaths, the concept of love is even more confusing.
So, can sociopaths love, and if they can fall in love, what love looks like to a sociopath?
Can Sociopaths Love?
Yes. Sociopaths can love, but their interpretation of love differs from that of a non-sociopath. Sociopaths usually view love as a feeling of fascination or power rather than an emotion. They may also see love as a shallow lie told for personal gain rather than an expression of connection.
Love involves empathy, caring, positive regard, and personal sacrifice toward others. And those aspects of love are mostly incomprehensible to a sociopath.
While sociopaths lack empathy, have disregard for other person’s feelings, and are manipulative in nature, however, they may be capable of forming attachments and relationships.
However, sociopathy exists on a spectrum. So, these people vary in their ability to express/suppress their sociopathic traits, and their ability to love and form attachments.
Moreover, research suggests sociopaths may equate love with sexual acts, which they often view as momentary and meaningless physical pleasure.
Can Sociopaths Fall in Love?
Yes, sociopaths can fall in love even if they struggle to understand and express their “tender” emotions in a normal way. However, their version of love may be more like an obsession or infatuation rather than a deep emotional connection.
They may become fixated on someone and feel a strong need to be around that person all the time.
Sociopaths often use “love-bombing” and gaslighting tactics to make their target fall for them.
However, they often cannot maintain this facade for too long.
Do you know about high-functioning psychopaths, who hide among us but do not show violent tendencies except when under extreme pressure?
What Love Looks Like To A Sociopath?
To a sociopath, love may be difficult to recognize as compared to the non-sociopaths. Sociopaths may also see and use love as a tool to get what they want, rather than as an expression of genuine affection.
Sociopaths may say certain phrases to the people they love, such as “I can’t live without you” or “You’re the only one who understands me.”
However, these phrases are often empty and rather have manipulative undertones to get the other person under their control.
A sociopath is someone with an antisocial personality disorder (APD), but not all sociopaths are found in seedy, crime-infested places or prisons.
Some of them live with us in our society, holding down jobs and having successful relationships.
But they will always lack empathy and have a disregard for the feelings and rights of others. It is in their very nature.
As one expert notes,
“Sociopaths can be very successful in their careers and personal lives, but their relationships are often superficial and short-lived. They may be charming and charismatic, but they lack the ability to truly connect with others on an emotional level.”
Impact of Sociopathy on Relationships
Sociopaths face a lot of problems in their relationships. (To be honest, who doesn’t have one these days?)
People with sociopathic tendencies have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships.
Their lack of empathy and inability to connect emotionally with others is what prevents them from genuine intimacy, understanding, and trust in relationships.
Sociopathy and Intimacy
Intimacy is an essential component of any healthy relationship. However, sociopaths struggle to form intimate connections with others. They may engage in sexual relationships but lack the emotional connection that characterizes intimacy.
Sociopaths are insincere and incapable of emotion and empathy. Their love admissions are learned responses. Their doting words don’t always match their actions. They can beat up someone who tries to entice their target person away, but they cannot sacrifice themselves for that person.
Power struggles abound in sociopathic relationships, and the sociopath uses whatever it takes—charm, intimidation, and violence—to win.
Winning is all they show their love for.
Sociopathy and Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and feel what the other person is going through and read the thoughts and emotions in their mind.
Sociopaths lack empathy, making it difficult for them to connect with others on an emotional level.
But they painstakingly learn how to express empathy, and can pick up the clues from the other person’s gestures and expressions to change tier body language and facial expressions.
This lack of empathy, and fake empathy, can lead to a relationship built on a boggy marshland.
They have no real attachment to anyone and treat others as things.
Sociopathy and Trust
Trust is a crucial component of any healthy relationship. However, sociopaths have a difficult time building and maintaining trust. They may lie, manipulate, and deceive others to get what they want, making it challenging to trust them.
Sociopaths can behave very lovingly or affectionately towards their partner—at least at the beginning. Still, their lack of empathy and inability to form emotional connections can lead to a breakdown in trust over time.
Dive into the chilling world of sociopathic stare to uncover its hidden dangers.
Science of Love
Romantic love is a powerful human experience in our lives.
It has been strongly linked with relationship quality and stability, and with well-being, life-satisfaction, and mental and physical health (Acevado & Aron, 2009; Coan, 2006; Drigotas, 1999; Esch & Stefano, 2005).
Love is a complex emotion that has been defined in various ways in psychology.
Positive psychology defines love as one of the components of character strength, “love and humanity,” which includes the capacity for loyalty, compassion, caring about others, and doing good things for others on one’s own initiative.
Social psychology generally concerns love with compassion and helping behavior in diverse settings. Also, love can be viewed as a positive emotion that promotes well-being and resilience.
- Studies have found that social support, including love and a positive attitude towards others, is a determinant of resilience among street children in Haiti.
- Love and emotional stability are also among the theme categories that emerged to define kindness in a study on the Russian understanding of kindness.
While love is often considered a feeling, researchers have studied the neurochemistry and psychology of love to better understand this emotion.
Neurochemistry of Love
When it comes to love, the brain is a key player.
The fMRI scans have shown that the brain of a person in love looks different from that of someone who is not in love.
Bartels & Zeki (2004) found that individuals who claimed to be “truly, deeply, and madly” in love exhibited unique patterns of brain activity while looking at photographs of their partners.
Studies show that love activates the areas of the brain associated with reward, motivation, and emotion regulation, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), which are associated with pleasure and motivation.
Love also activates the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is involved in decision-making and social behavior, and the amygdala, which is involved in emotional processing and memory.
Love can affect the levels of various neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain, including dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin, which are associated with pleasure, bonding, and social behavior.
Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin play a major role in the experience of love.
- Dopamine is associated with the pleasure and reward centers of the brain and is released when we experience something pleasurable, such as being with someone we love.
- Oxytocin, often called the “love hormone,” is released during physical touch and intimacy, and is associated with bonding and trust.
- Serotonin, which regulates mood and social behavior, is also involved in the experience of love.
Psychology of Love
While the neurochemistry of love is important, psychology also plays a major role in our experience of love. People’s beliefs about love, their attachment styles, and their past experiences all influence how they experience love.
Attachment theory suggests that how we form relationships in childhood influences how we form relationships as adults.
- People with secure attachment styles tend to be more comfortable with intimacy and are better able to form healthy relationships.
- However, people with insecure attachment styles, such as those with avoidant or anxious attachment, may struggle with intimacy and have difficulty forming healthy relationships.
A person’s family background plays a significant role in shaping their attitudes and experiences in romantic relationships.
- This study found that individuals with divorced or unhappy parents were more likely to have negative beliefs about relationships, such as impermanence, caution, and lack of trust and fidelity.
- They were also less likely to hold positive beliefs, such as the “till death do us part” nature of marriage, the need for love and happiness, and the importance of camaraderie in relationships.
- The study participants also reported that the messages from their family of origin had influenced their own experiences in romantic relationships.
People who believe in “love at first sight” may be more likely to experience intense feelings of love early on in a relationship, while those who believe that love takes time may be more likely to take a slower approach to love.
Overall, the science of love is complex and multifaceted, with both neurochemistry and psychology playing important roles in our experiences of love.
Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, said this about the brain in love,
“Romantic love is one of the most addictive substances on Earth. It’s a natural stimulant. It has all the rewards of cocaine with none of the bad side effects.”
Love Relationships Are Push-Pull Mechanisms
Forming emotional bonds with others uses a push-pull mechanism to overcome social distance.
- Push: Deactivating the brain networks responsible for critical social assessment and negative emotions, which might create barriers between people.
- Pull: Engaging the brain’s reward circuitry, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation.
This mix of reducing negative emotions and increasing positive ones helps to explain why love is such a powerful force that can both motivate and bring happiness to individuals.
What is a sociopath?
A sociopath is a person who has a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits. Sociopaths are often charming and intelligent, but they lack a moral compass and have little regard for the feelings or rights of others. They may engage in criminal behavior, lie and manipulate others, and show no remorse or guilt for their actions.
What causes sociopathy?
Sociopathy is a complex condition that is thought to be caused by a mix of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. Some studies suggest that sociopaths have differences in brain structures and functions, including reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making and impulse control.
What is the wheel theory of love?
The Wheel Theory of Love is a developmental stage model that conceptualizes courtship, relationship development, and mate selection as an ongoing progression. The circular and sequential process consists of four interrelated phases understood as the spokes of a wheel: rapport, self-revelation, mutual dependency, and intimacy need fulfillment. Each of the four integrated processes is influenced by cultural role conceptions which serve to define perceptions, expressions, and expectations within a loving relationship. The theory was developed by Ira Reiss and was one of the first models to conceptualize the progression of love as an ongoing process. The theory suggests that “personality-need-fulfillment” is the key to falling in and out of love.
“Sociopaths can be charming and loving, but it’s all part of their game.”– Dr. Darrel Turner, Forensic Psychologist
This means that while sociopaths may be capable of expressing love and affection, their ultimate goal is often to gain power and control over their partner.
Sociopaths’ experience of love differs from non-sociopaths, as their motivations may be self-serving and manipulative.
- Sociopaths may engage in harmful behaviors like risky infidelity, emotional abuse, and violence.
- A lack of empathy makes them unable to understand and respond to their partners’ emotions.
- They can feel love and attachment, but their motives are often manipulative and self-serving.
For those who are in a relationship with a sociopath, educate yourself to recognize the signs of their manipulative behavior.
Do not try to fix them and prioritize your own safety and well-being.
Seek professional help from counselors if necessary.
“Sociopaths are attracted to politics because the see it as a sphere in which you can be ruthless and step all over people. That fact that some politicians can tell such awful lies is another example of sociopathy. Sociopaths lie—they see nothing wrong with it.”― Alexander McCall Smith, The Revolving Door of Life
√ Please share it with someone if you found this helpful.
√ Also Read:
- The Sociopath Smile: Warning Signs of Danger
- How To Beat A Sociopath At Their Own Game
- Sociopathic Stare: What Does It Ask You To Do
- Psychopath vs Sociopath: How They Truly Differ
• Our Story!