DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Should I date when I am essentially a sociopath? I know this sounds weird, but hear me out. I’m not exactly some cackling TV sociopath and I certainly don’t fit the description of the Antisocial Personality Disorder either.
But I do have some traits that concern me regarding this.
I do not feel/have any attachments to other human beings.�While I have no desire to hurt other humans, I don’t exactly care about them either (emotionally), no matter how “close” we are, no matter if it’s friends or family.
Where other people are sad if people they like die, or go missing or move countries or whatever, I feel nothing at all. I can be vulnerable to them if I want. I still do not bond, but it makes them bond harder to me, I noticed.
1. I have zero affective empathy. I cannot feel other people’s emotions to save my life. This also means I can’t be happy for them, when they are happy, or sad for them when they are sad. Now, I do have cognitive empathy, which is why I use this to run the accepted social script. So if a friend is sad for example I listen to her/him, try to comfort and let them vent.
3. No Group Emotion. Other people seem to have this strange emotion to want to belong to a group. This has puzzled me to no end. I have friends, and I have friend groups, but I seem to lack the desire and this “We” emotion entirely, for a lack of a better term.
4. I do not get lonely. During Corvid my work shut down, and I was basically isolated for 1 month. That was pretty chill actually. While I can enjoy myself with other people, I do not carve it, so I periodically have to remind myself to meet friends and other people in my Life, since I have no emotion that does.
Case in point: one time I was seeing a friend again after 2 years, and his reaction to my reaction of meeting him again was: “Dude, we haven’t seen each other in 2 Years, and you act as if we had just seen each other yesterday.“ Me: “Well what’s the difference?”
Now I am a 29 year old male, and I have kept away from dating due s--tty childhood experiences. I am quite intrigued and would like to try this dating thing for a bit now.
I used to have a fear of women, because of my s--tty childhood, where my mother told me every day how women are superior to men and how men should serve women.
I know that sounds like I am prime target material for MGTOW, incel, PUA and other groups, but for one; I don’t really do group emotion, and for two, flipping the narrative and making woman the bad guys, is exactly the same thing my mother did just gender flipped. No thanks.
That being said, after going on a few speed dates and asking a couple of woman out in bars, I managed to conquer my irrational fears about woman. I also cut off contact with all of my toxic and abusive family members entirely. (which in my case meant all of them.)
The thing is, I know myself. I can see myself building a relationship, and then when I am “done” with the experience, I can see myself ending the relationship, causing the woman I dated pain and confusion to no end since she attached to me, but I didn’t attach to her.
The thing is I have repeatedly abandoned/ended relationships (friends, family), in my life. Not out of any malice, but simply because I wasn’t getting anything out of it.
I mean, I am a person who gets very little out of relationships to begin with. Most people I keep around, I keep around because we have the same interests, or because they entertain me to some degree.
While other people might need emotional support from time to time this does not apply to me, since I cannot feel it anyway. I have met some genuinely kind people in my life who tried, but even then I could feel nothing at all.
I am not entirely selfish; I very much try to help other people around me if it costs me little to nothing, because, why not? I also try to help and be supportive my friends, as long as its eats not too much of my time.
I very much subscribe to a philosophy for enlightened self-interest much like yourself.
I can understand that this all sounds a bit horrifying for a normal person to read. I would like to add that funnily enough, because of these traits I am in fact a rather easygoing, peaceful, nonjudgmental individual:
Since I don’t really do “group” emotions, things like racism and sexism, seem silly to me. I mean people are individuals, judging people as groups is simply useless, in my opinion. Why would one individual in a group, be worse or better than another? It’s simply a random collection of humans, who could be in that group for an infinite possibility of reasons.
Abuse, harassment, and in general treating other people like s--t, seems to me like a horrible long term strategy. I have negative emotions sometimes, but taking them out on other people is idiotic, and is likely to make the retaliate sooner or later.It’s much more productive to manage them quietly myself. (without suppressing them.)
I am very pragmatic. If I can’t get something I want, I look for other ways, and if there are none? There are none. It is weird to me that so many people throw a hissy fit just because they can’t get something (or someone).
In general I treat people nicely, and always try to work out compromises. This only changes if I meet antagonistic people who stubbornly and repeatedly try to antagonize me and refuse any form of diplomatic solution. Such people I remove. If that’s not possible I might remove myself from the group/situation.
I am also very good with rejection, since I take nothing short of physical assault personally. I am not her cup of coffee? Ah well, so what?
Now I think I have given you a good overview about how I am, now to my questions:
Should I date woman, or should I avoid it/ stick to casual only to avoid hurting them? Is it even possible for a person like me to have a long term relationship?
How would I go about making a friendship+ ?
What is even expected of people in a romantic relationship?�I kind of get that is a question that should be asked at ones partner, specifically what they expect.
Being monogamous and not f--king other people seems to be standard as well. But that can’t be all there is. So what else is in general expected?
Lastly I wanted to thank you. I read your blog for years, and it has helped me to develop my cognitive empathy to understand other humans better.
I have also talked to mental health professionals at length, but since I do not suffer from my state of being, there isn’t exactly much they can do for me.
Best regards�Somewhat Sociopathic
DEAR SOMEWHAT SOCIOPATHIC: The first thing you really should do is stop using the wrong label, SS. This is one of the reasons why a lot of “therapy speak” and the misuse of therapeutic terms makes me grind my teeth. These are terms with actual clinical and diagnostic meanings and the popular misuse of them not only makes it harder for people to get help, but they end up being misapplied in ways that end up hurting other people.
Antisocial Personality Disorder and sociopathy isn’t just a lack of empathy for others. It tends to include other symptoms such as a tendency towards emotional dysregulation, manipulative behavior (through threats, lies, coercion, aggression or even charm and charisma) for personal gain or control, impulsive behavior, frequent violent outbursts, difficulties fulfilling responsibilities and maintaining relationships.
It doesn’t sound like you’re any of those things outside of a lack of effective empathy. You see it in others and understand their emotions; you just don’t share them. That’s rather different, to my mind.
(As always: Dr. NerdLove is not a real doctor and should not be relied upon for diagnosis. I’m a loudmouth with an advice column and access to WebMD.)
Now to be perfectly blunt, I think you should probably get a second or third opinion from your therapists. I suspect – and again, I want to remind you that I’m not a mental health professional – that some of this may well be a trauma response to the s--t your mom put you through growing up. CPTSD and trauma responses don’t just mean freaking out or having strong emotional reactions to triggering events; sometimes it means shutting down instead. Focusing on your upbringing and the way your lack of caring and empathy isolates you from others might make it easier for them to understand what you’re asking for.
But all that aside, there’s a question inherent in your letter, looming like Banquo’s ghost. Specifically: why do you want to date, exactly? I have to assume this is more than pure intellectual curiosity, so it becomes a question of what you feel is lacking that a relationship would provide. You don’t feel lonely, you don’t necessarily feel a connection to others or an interest in other people. So what would you be getting from a relationship that would be worth your time?
I’m not being snarky here. This is an honest question, and I think the answer will give you a much better idea of what is actually going on. If you can articulate what dating would do for you and what you’d get out of it, I think it would be much easier to determine a path forward for you.
If it really is about entertainment value or purely physical intimacy, then you would likely get more out of a more overtly transactional relationship – a straight value-for-value exchange. That could mean literally transactional – becoming a regular client of a particular sex worker, a sugar dating connection – or something more pragmatic and less financial. You fulfill a need for one another (including, but not limited to, sex) and you go your separate ways otherwise.
If it’s more than that – a desire for connection and emotional intimacy, and so on… well, that’s going to be difficult to achieve. People who are looking for friends or lovers aren’t just looking for entertainment value, they’re looking for companionship, connection, shared values and goals, support and intimacy. They want someone who’ll cheer them on and help them up when they’re down. They want someone who’ll be happy for their successes and supportive in their failures. They want reassurance and comfort and the simple pleasure of being with other likeminded people.
Leaving aside that you don’t seem to value those things personally, those are all feelings and behaviors that your partners would expect in return. And while you may be able to provide a simulacra of caring, empathy, love and compassion, that’s something that a lot of people will have a strong negative reaction to when they realize that you are literally going through the motions for them. And they will realize it; people aren’t that unobservant or ignorant.
It may not seem logical – if your behavior is functionally identical, what is the difference? – but it does feel hollow. It’s a little like those AI generated “girlfriend” apps; there’s no actual emotion or connection there, just lines of code. It’s not about a connection with them, specifically; their “girlfriend” or waifu would act like this with anyone with access to the app. For someone who was expecting a genuine human connection, that’s going to feel like a betrayal.
You could, theoretically be straightforward and bluntly honest about it – “look, I am not going to feel strong emotions for you, but I can provide the same actions and behaviors” – but I imagine some folks are going to have a hard time accepting that. Maybe you might find someone who’s gone through trauma who wants the simulation without the risk of the real thing – though that seems dicey at best and decidedly rare. You might, might, find someone who’s aromantic who might take you up on it. But aro people don’t lack emotion. They still love their friends and family, they just don’t experience romantic love.
So as I said: see if you can dial in to precisely what it is you would want from a relationship – platonic or otherwise. If all you really want are shallow connections and you’d be happy with those… well you can find them easily enough. It’s easy to make acquaintances if you aren’t overly concerned with the longevity or strength of the connection. And you may well find people who are cool with a purely transactional form of intimacy.
If it’s that you want more than that… well, that’s where we’re back to “talk to different therapists”. Focusing on how your lack of feeling is affecting your ability to form relationships might give them more to zero in on.
But I still think that you’re carrying around more trauma than you realize, and that should be where your attention should be focused. I strongly suspect that there’s a lot of feeling that’s been dammed up as a means of protecting yourself and what kept you safe in the past is no longer useful in the present. Addressing that, I think, will open a lot of doors for you.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org