Can a sociopath fall in love? Sociopaths lack empathy, are manipulative and pathological liars. They inveigle their way into people’s lives using charm and deceit for personal gain. So, the obvious answer is no.
But sociopaths are not born sociopathic. Psychopaths are. Psychopaths’ brains work differently from the rest of us. Sociopaths are created by their environment and their experiences.
So, if sociopaths are made, not born, can they change their behaviour and fall in love?
Before I examine that question, I want to quickly recap sociopathic traits.
What is a sociopath?
Sociopathy is an anti-social personality disorder. Sociopaths don’t follow normal societal rules. They lack empathy and show no remorse. They manipulate others for their own gain.
Sociopaths don’t care what they do to their victims as long as they get what they need. This might be money, attention, or control.
So, can sociopaths love someone? Take a closer look at sociopathic traits and see whether you think they are capable of love.
- Lack of empathy
- Ignore social rules
- Compulsive liars
- Uses others
- Impulsive behaviour
- Doesn’t learn from mistakes
- Criminal activity
- Violent and aggressive
- Difficulty managing responsibilities
- Low emotional intelligence
- Prone to intimidation and threats
Can a sociopath fall in love?
So, do sociopaths love? I am not sure if sociopaths are capable of feeling love, but they do find it difficult to maintain relationships. It doesn’t matter whether it is family members, friends, or work colleagues.
Relationships are challenging for sociopaths, perhaps because they lack the necessary empathy to relate to other people’s feelings. They don’t learn from their mistakes and they genuinely don’t care about the other person.
M.E Thomas is a Sunday School teacher, law professor, and attorney. In her new memoir; ‘Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight’, she admits to being a sociopath. She is also the founder of Sociopathic World.
“Probably the biggest characteristic of a sociopath is their lack of empathy. … They can’t really imagine or feel the emotional worlds of other people. It’s very foreign to them. And they don’t have a conscience.” M.E Thomas
You would think that given the dark traits of a sociopath, they would find it impossible to form relationships at all. But sociopaths attract people because they are charming and manipulative.
The problem is that a sociopath cannot maintain this facade for too long. They do not have the self-control of a psychopath. Sociopaths are impulsive and become aggressive when they don’t get what they want. So their pretence quickly falls apart when challenged.
So while we know they can start relationships with deception and manipulation, we also know they cannot maintain them for very long. But where does this leave us to the question, “Do sociopaths feel love?”
Can sociopaths love someone?
He describes sociopaths as people who have a ‘different set of morals to societal norms‘. In his opinion, sociopaths do have a conscience and a sense of right and wrong, they are just different to the rest of society.
So the question, ‘Can sociopaths feel love?’ isn’t as black and white as we first thought.
First of all, sociopaths have a different perception of the world we all live in. Their actions and behaviours are different to societal norms, but that doesn’t exclude them from loving a person, or does it?
M.E Thomas believes that sociopaths can feel a ‘kind of love’, but it’s just different:
“You know, whatever it is that we feel affection, for me, it’s maybe 70 percent gratitude, a little bit of adoration, a little bit of — if it’s a romantic relationship — infatuation or sexual attraction.
I think a complex emotion like love is made up of all sorts of little emotions. And our particular cocktail of love is going to look or feel different to us, but it’s still there.!” M.E Thomas
Patric Gagne also admits to being a sociopath and has been married for 13 years. She writes in the New York Times about her relationship with her husband.
Living with her husband has not taught Gagne how to empathise or feel remorse, but she says she understands it better now:
“A few years after we married, with his encouragement, my behavior started to shift. I would never experience shame the way other people do, but I would learn to understand it. Thanks to him, I started to behave. I stopped acting like a sociopath.” Patric Gagne
The interesting part of this relationship is that Gagne’s husband began to see that some of his wife’s sociopathic traits were actually helpful. For example, he would feel guilty if he said no to family obligations. He also cared what others thought of him.
“And thanks to me, he started to see the value in not caring as much about what others thought. He noticed how often guilt was forcing his hand, frequently in unhealthy directions. He would never be a sociopath, but he saw value in a few of my personality traits.” Patric Gagne
What love looks like to a sociopath
Of course, this is not definitive proof that sociopaths are capable of feeling love. However, this example shows that a mutually beneficial relationship with a sociopath is possible.
It all depends on the level of honesty and understanding both partners have within the relationship.
If you are not aware you are dating a sociopath, you will easily become a target for manipulation. But if you know what your partner is like, you can adapt or lower your level of expectation to fit their narrow view of love.
To a sociopath, love might mean not stealing all your money from your bank account, or buying you something nice because you are upset. Love to a sociopath in a relationship could be not cheating with another person, or not lying about cheating.
So, are sociopaths capable of feeling love? I’m not sure whether our definition of love fits theirs. After all, sociopaths lack empathy. The fundamentals of loving someone are knowing what another person feels and caring about that person, in my opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that sociopaths feel love the same way we do. Love is vulnerability, putting others first, fondness, and tenderness towards another human being. I don’t think sociopaths are capable of that kind of deep connection.
But I do believe that sociopaths are capable of their version of love. Just as there are Five Love Languages, perhaps there should be a ‘sociopathic love language’?
Signs of a sociopathic love might mean that they don’t deliberately hurt you, they don’t steal from you, or they tell you when they have done something wrong.
The above is obvious in normal relationships, but to a sociopath, they are signs of love.
Love is a complex set of emotions. It involves a deep bond and connection with the other person. A desire to be with them, and to miss them when they are not around. To feel their pain and not want to cause them pain. Love evokes sentimental feelings and tenderness towards that person.
So, can a sociopath fall in love? The answer is no. However, they can adapt within a relationship and understand love from their worldview.
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