Do Psychopaths Fall in Love?

Victims often wonder: do psychopaths fall in love? So far I have explained that psychopaths can’t love in the normal sense of having genuine empathy for others. But they can, and do, fall in love. Now I’d like to delve more deeply into the subject of how they fall in love and with whom. As we’ve seen, because of their ability to charm people, their seductive skills, their penchant for pleasure and their intense focus on their most desired targets, psychopaths can be (for a short while) extraordinarily passionate lovers. Their passion, however, finds itself in a constant race against time. The time usually runs out when the balance of power in the romantic relationship shifts dramatically in the psychopath’s favor.   Picasso describes this process quite poetically when he tells his mistress, Francoise Gilot:

“We mustn’t see each other too often. If the wings of the butterfly are to keep their sheen, you mustn’t touch them. We mustn’t abuse something which is to bring light into both of our lives. Everything else in my life only weighs me down and shuts out the light. This thing with you seems to me like a window that is opening up. I want it to remain open. We must see each other but not too often. When you want to see me, you call me and tell me so.” (My Life with Picasso, 53-4).

Basically, in a relationship with a psychopath, the sheen wears off when you’re dominated by him. When you accept to engage in demeaning sexual (or any other kind of) acts or behavior. When you readily buy into his lies because they preserve the rosier, yet false, version of reality you want to believe. When you accept unfair double standards, where he enjoys important privileges you do not. When you need or want him far more than he needs or wants you. Psychopaths may begin romantic relationships on an equal footing with their partners. But, ultimately, they aim to end up on top. For themselves, they tend to adopt a pseudo-Nietzschean attitude towards conventional morality. They violate, with an air of entitlement and superiority, all moral principles. At the same time, they generally expect an almost fundamentalist prurience from their main partners.

Even those psychopaths who enjoy demeaning their partners by asking them to violate moral and sexual values—such as by dressing or acting like a “slut”—do so only on their terms. If a psychopath’s partner cheats on him out of her own volition with someone she cares about or desires, he’s likely to explode in self-righteous indignation and defile her public image.  At the same time, however, he will proudly proclaim his right to fall in love with and date whomever he wants. He will lack the self-awareness to see the inconsistency of his attitude towards conventional morality and the emotional depth to care about its unfairness to others. You can’t be above the moral norms of good and evil yourself while demanding that those you interact with abide by them. That’s called hypocrisy, not transcending conventional values or being independent. Also keep in mind that even if a psychopath appears to respect his partner while regarding and treating other women as “hoes,” his attitude reflects a deep underlying misogyny that touches every woman he encounters.

As mentioned, sometimes a psychopath may prefer to humiliate his own partner by “sharing” her with others: but, once again, only at his bidding and on his terms. By way of contrast to the scenario where she cheats on him by choosing her romantic partners, this kind of violation of conventional values is likely to be acceptable (and even highly desirable) to a psychopath. He enjoys her degradation. Of course, abiding by such grossly unfair double standards can only lead to humiliation and disaster for the victim. “Pimping” one’s wife or girlfriend, as it’s crudely but accurately called, represents the very opposite of granting a woman sexual freedom. Moreover, such self-abasement can never achieve the desired effect of winning the psychopath’s interest and affection. For, as we’ve seen, although psychopaths enjoy dominance, easily dominated individuals don’t attract them for long.

So then what kind of person can keep the sheen on the wings of the butterfly for a longer period of time (to borrow Picasso’s metaphor)? Only a person who does not agree to demeaning or unfair conditions in the relationship and only for as long as she does not accept them. As the study conducted by Sandra L. Brown, M.A. in Women Who Love Psychopaths reveals, like most people, psychopaths tend to fall in love with individuals who manifest self-respect not only in their professional conduct and with acquaintances, but also–and most importantly–in the context of the romantic relationship itself.  That is where one invests most time and emotional energy. Consequently, that is also where one’s true character is tested and revealed. This applies to romantic relationships in general, not just to psychopathic bonds. It stands to reason that if you don’t see yourself as equal to your partner, he won’t regard you as an equal or give you the respect you deserve.

To be more specific, I’ll offer two examples. As we know, psychopaths derive great pleasure from brief sexual liaisons. But those are not likely to spark their passion for two main reasons. The first one is that an unending series of sexual encounters make the psychopath himself jaded to physical and psychological pleasure. Sexual addiction resembles other addictions. Any kind of addiction, which necessarily implies excess and sheer volume (of a substance or number of partners), dulls one’s sensibilities, including the sensory and aesthetic ones to which sensual individuals are so highly attuned. Sex addicts become increasingly jaded to both sexual activities and partners. Contrary to the modern connotations of the term “hedonism,” the ancient hedonists practiced moderation, to better savor their pleasures. Recall how poignant even a simple kiss can be with a person you desire and respect. I’m not making a moral argument here, but an aesthetic and psychological observation, which is quite obvious. Thousands of sexually explicit images and acts can’t replace the stimulation offered by real chemistry with a single person, which you cultivate, focus upon and appreciate.  When you disperse your sexual energy and attention on numerous partners, you also reduce the chances of experiencing a more lasting and exciting pleasure in any of those so-called “romantic” relationships. Since sexual addiction is so central to psychopathic behavior, I will explore this subject further in the next section.

The second reason has to do with the partners psychopaths are likely to encounter in promiscuous settings. Because our culture remains “sexist” in the sense that promiscuous women are looked down upon more so than promiscuous men, the kind of women one casually hooks up with on adult websites, clubs and bars are unlikely to establish the balance of power that even psychopathic passion depends upon. Some truisms are true. If you don’t treat yourself and your body with respect, chances are, neither will anyone else.

As one would expect, the issue of a balance of power is even more pertinent in long-term relationships. Any wife, girlfriend or lover who accepts glaring double standards in the relationship–relating to important issues such as fidelity, honesty and trust–is not going to hold a psychopath’s interest for long. The relationship will turn into a toxic attachment that combines a strong psychological enmeshment, mutual utility and convenience. The dominated partner will oscillate between false hope, intense neediness, despair and resentment at the unfair conditions. The dominant partner will fall back upon a sense of entitlement that quickly turns into boredom. He’s also likely to play catch and release games with his partner–essentially, engage in a series of break-ups and reconciliations–depending on whether he’s more bored with her and their family life or with his other girlfriends at any given moment.

Ideally, in a loving relationship, passion entails a deeper bond that comes from being both physically and emotionally excited by each other’s personalities and having an enduring mutual respect. In a psychopathic bond, however, passion translates into an intense physical attraction, an equally strong attraction to each other’s personalities and–in lieu of any genuine empathy and mutual respect–a balance of power. Without these components, even physical pleasures become bland for the psychopath. In turn, life for his partner turns into a series of humiliating concessions that can’t bring her happiness or reignite his interest.  When you give up your pride and self-esteem for somebody else, you also lose your power and sense of identity. And, needless to say, any man who expects you to violate your self-respect and values for him doesn’t really love you and never will.

I suppose this is one way of saying that even psychopathic passion requires more than just physical attraction to last more than a few days. It also depends upon chemistry, balance and equality in the relationship, for as long as these can be sustained. In a psychopathic bond, however, they can’t last long. A psychopath needs to dominate, dupe and demean even the women he initially desires and admires. Once these elements are gone, as Picasso eloquently states, the window that used to allow light into the relationship closes for good.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


  1. Excellent post. For those who do appear to fall in love….and that is their “thing” (rather than taking all your money, your house, etc.)….they do indeed tend to be sexual addicts. Also, what you describe is another example of how you just can’t win with a psychopath. If you don’t give in to their demands, they dump you. And if you do give in to their demands, they dump you, even if they repeatedly reel you in like a yoyo, and repeatedly throw you down like a yoyo too. I sincerely believe they are emotionally retarded, that their brain just can’t process true emotional depth. Unfortunately they are not easy to spot until you are in a relationship, though several times before then they probably make your jaw drop at something they say, or you think they are kidding and they are not. Women who are “understanding” and “tolerant” or self-doubting about their gut reactions or “poor judges of character” are all women more at risk of being taken in. But of course they are NOT the problem, the bad dude is!

    Thank you for another excellent post.

  2. Susan, thank you for your comment. You’re so right: the more tolerant and understanding you are of the psychopath’s erratic behavior and increasing dosages of abuse, the more at risk you are of being stuck with him (or her) in a living hell forever. Because psychopaths rarely abandon a good supply, no matter how many other partners they have lined up on the side. For them, the more people they can dominate and torment, the merrier. Claudia

  3. This is a good response. Well said.

  4. Then I must not have been a good supply because I haven’t heard from him in months. And this isn’t the first time, but I know it only means he is chasing someone else right now.

  5. Very good post. These characterizations are not reserved to the male gender. There are plenty of female psychopath. I know one in particular who has been clinically diagnosed with another condition but I guarantee she meets the criteria of PCL-R. Sadly, she is the object of my affection and I’ve survived it for 15 years. She says she loves me, but she’s not IN love with me. Maybe she’s being honest. She just uses me and I’ve supported her, paid off her tuition, cars, furnished her home, spent what should have been my retirement on her frivolity, and not only is she unfaithful, but she’s even prostituted herself to men who can afford her extravagances even more than me. We have a co-dependence, I know, but she can fake love REALLY well. I don’t love being used but I always felt I could rescue her, all the while knowing she’s a lost cause. I suppose if we can love objects or children with Aspergers, normal people can love psychopaths, but it’s a sad way to invest your life and thankless. I wouldn’t recommend it!

  6. APatriot, yes, there are plenty of female psychopaths too. Casey Anthony is probably a visible case, for example.
    If the woman you love is a psychopath, then of course her claims to love you are false. At best, it means she wants
    to keep on using and manipulating you. I hope that you’ll find the strength to move on.

  7. Louise, unfortunately he’ll probably eventually boomerang back to you, as I explain in the post called Relationship Boomerang.
    Since psychopaths need to dominate many partners and get bored easily, they often return to harass former lovers, or just test the
    waters to see if they can use you some more. They do so even if they don’t want you anymore as their main supply, only as a backup.
    If that happens, be prepared to remain strong and maintain no contact. Claudia

  8. Thanks, Claudia. I appreciate your words. I know about this boomerang thing. It’s sick because we want to hear from them again, but yet know that is the worst thing for us. Two months tomorrow so we shall see. I think I am almost strong enough to maintain no contact even if he does contact me. I think I can, I think I can…

  9. I have often thought like you APatriot1 that even though he cant love me I need him in my life. I have looked at all possibilities to make excuses for his behavior.
    Could psychopathy be a type of Autism that just hasn’t been discovered yet?
    Are they really evil? Or is it faulty wiring.
    They try to alter our value systems and make our virtues in vices- normality into abnormality – until we begin to see things their way – and twist our long held values inside out. My ex loved back alleyways and dirty bars with dropouts. He claimed to love nature and was into green issues – appearing like a very gentle, thoughtful and considerate funloving old hippie. But he was the most callous, cruel, ruthless, mercyless and totally selfish creature I have ever encountered.
    His will was like a ten foot thick steel wall. He did nothing he didnt want to do EVER! I heard last week that he announced his new girlfriend -Jenny. But I know that he had her in the house we were renting together any time I was back home to see my son. I believe he had others there too.
    I have been emotionally tortured since meeting him 4 years ago. It seems like my hearthas been crying all of that time -very few good times really. Yet although Im so angry – i still want to get a glimpse of him. It doesn’t make sense and he really hates me I think. I told him what he was you see and must have been the first to do that despite all women he has damaged. They remain in contact -always . I am the only one he dumped for good. Why I wonder?
    Maybe Claudia would know?

  10. Don’t you see? He dumped you because you exposed him for what he was. They hate that. But in the end, you are better off. I have felt the same way…why am I the one he dropped? But it is just misery with them so it is better to be in no contact. He has done you a favor if he dumped you 🙂

  11. Tricia, Louise is right that usually psychopaths move on to the next victim once you see through their mask. That’s because once you become lucid about their cheating, lying and wrongdoings they can’t manipulate you as well. To manipulate others, psychopaths need to have victims who believe they are loving, caring human beings. The nice image is completely fake, of course, since they’re just the opposite.
    And yes, psychopaths have a kind of emotional autism which makes them utterly incapable of deeper bonds of love with other human beings. They can mature intellectually and in terms of intelligence, which is why they’re so dangerous: combine emotional retardation with mental intelligence and you get a callous human being with incredible manipulation skills and capacity for evil action.
    The lack of emotional depth and bonding also has physiological implications. They overindulge in sexual and all sorts of excesses but are never satiated by anything, as I explain in today’s post, “Why Psychopaths are Insatiable.” Claudia

  12. It just happened to me. I’m a pre-med student, just finished up for the summer in Miami, and was on my way to spend the summer in Atlanta with my long distance relationship of 3 years. We planned it out, he was looking for a house to rent, I got have way there when I called to get the exact address, and a women picked up! Long story short, he told me he was using me, he’s been with this women for 2 years, and after reading your post
    Its him!! To the letter, and I saw all the signs, but made excuses.
    I’m devastated. This was last week, he hasn’t even called to see if I found a place to live, if I got in an accident, nothing.
    This site does give me some comfort, I know now, I was in a unhealthy situation.\

  13. Zaire, psychopaths have not only hidden agendas but also hidden lives: to deceive and use others for their selfish and often evil purposes.
    It’s a good thing you now know about this personality disorder, which means that all you can do now
    is stay away from the psychopath and avoid others like him. Claudia

  14. Louise, you definitely can! Each time you feel tempted to contact, just read up on psychopathy again to remind
    yourself about how evil and manipulative such individuals are. You deserve far better!

  15. Wow..I know exactly these feelings, unfortunately. Many have asked why we still want to see them, why we look past all of the terrible behavior..and I’d like to respond to that. in my relationship with a psychopath, the first few months were amazing- I had never felt better. Why? Because these people are master’s at finding out what we need and giving it to us. It’s not the psychopath we miss, it’s the feeling of self confidence and the idea that we could be loved so ‘well’’s about how they made us feel about ourselves that seems to hook us forever to them. The answer is to give yourself permission to give these things to yourself. Confidence, respect, love, attention..we all are deserving of that and we need to find it within ourselves and give it to ourselves!! The hell with them!! 🙂

  16. First off, you’re going to be fine. Keep the no contact rule no matter how painful it is..cut and paste some of these articles where you can read them will help. Second, count your blessings…you are now free to find a person who will love you in the way that you deserve. If he had been a more talented psychopath, it could have kept going for years. Stay strong and if you need to talk to someone I’m happy to share my email if that’s ok with the site.

  17. Louisa, good point. During the luring phase psychopaths identify what you want most in life and love bomb you (flattery, gifts and praise). That’s how they get you hooked. Afterwards, they begin the abuse (lying, cheating, manipulation, criticism, isolation, smear campaigns and all the other things I describe). Even during the luring phase they do these bad things, only they put in the effort to hide it better. After they hook you emotionally, however, they don’t put in the same effort to hide their bad deeds and intentions, so you see them more and more for what they are: abusive and evil individuals.

  18. Thank you for your answer. As you requested, I removed your name from the first post. Yes, almost all psychopaths
    start with mirroring and promises of eternal love. That, plus whirlwind romances that leave you no time to think.
    Yours seemed to try all the psychopathic strategies, from mirroring, to pity play, to asking for total and unconditional control. Claudia

  19. I think what we miss is the image they represent for us. The attachment we assign to them. I don’t miss my ex. He’s mean and selfish. But, I do miss the man I WANTED him to be and pretended he could be. It’s just all a big illusion.

  20. Lisa, yes, that is the crucial distinction. We miss the illusion of love, because in reality it–and the “nice” or “loving” psychopath–never existed. Claudia

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