Emotional incest, covert incest, parentification & parentalizing. All describe the same abusive behavior & a topic I’ve written about before. When a parent treats their child as an equal rather than their child, expecting that child to listen to their woes, tales of marital discord, details of their sex life, &/or expecting their child to care for them in ways such as cooking & cleaning for them well beyond what is age appropriate, it damages the child psychologically. The child in this situation often grows up anxious, depressed, lacking healthy relationship skills, feels guilt for things they aren’t responsible for & may even have issues with addiction. Often at the very least, they choose very poorly suited romantic partners.
Sadly, parentalizing is barely discussed in a negative light. Many people see a child & her parent behaving in this way & praise their “close” or “loving” relationship. They even tell the child how lucky she is to have a mom who loves her so much, how she has to be strong for her mom or other similar comments. And, when the child, no matter the age, does something that upsets her parent or *gasp* thinks of herself first, she is labeled unappreciative, selfish, a spoiled brat & more. This lays even more unnecessary guilt on that child, & it is absolutely unfair!
Let’s get one thing straight. No one is responsible for anyone else’s emotions. Yes, someone you love can make you feel happy, sad, angry, etc. sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they are in control of your emotions. YOU ARE! This is especially true for children. Children need to be children, not their parent’s emotional caregiver!
When a parent is abandoned by someone they love, & the only person close to them is their child, it can be understandable they reach out to their child for comfort & companionship. That doesn’t make it right, though! Children are growing up – that is enough responsibility on their little shoulders!
Children also didn’t ask to be born. It’s not their fault if the parents couldn’t maintain a healthy & loving relationship. Making the child feel that they must step into the role of that other parent is cruel, abusive & unfair!
If you grew up in this sort of situation, my heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for the pain & suffering you have been through. Having been there myself I know it is a miserable situation.
If it is still happening, you’re going to have to set some serious boundaries with your parent. Change the subject as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable. Tell your parent you’re leaving or hanging up the phone if she insists on talking about your other parent that way, then follow through with your threat if need be.
Whether the abuse is still happening or not, you’re going to need to heal from the damage done. Pray. Get angry. Cry. Remind yourself what was done to you was unfair & undeserved. Write in a journal. Talk to a trusted friend or therapist. Do whatever helps you to heal!
You can heal from the effects of emotional incest. It takes time & work, but it can be done. xoxo