Growing up with a parent who treats you more as their romantic partner rather than their child is extremely traumatic. It is referred to as emotional incest, enmeshment, covert incest, parentalizing & parentification, & it’s a form of sexual abuse whether or not sexual contact is a part of this abuse. It creates a LOT of serious problems in the lives of victims. Today, we will focus on only one of those problems – feeling burdened by other people.
The person who grows up with an emotionally incestuous parent has spent their entire life focused on their parent. Their parent is their top priority in childhood, & even into adulthood until they recognize this is a problem. They listen to their parent’s woes (in particular about their marriage or relationship), they try to cheer them up when they are sad, fix their problems, protect them if the other parent is abusive, & basically anything else their parent wants them to do no matter the personal cost. After a lifetime of this dysfunctional caregiving, it is natural to feel burned out on doing for other people. The problem is that natural or not, it is damaging to other relationships.
No one wants to be in a relationship with another person that is totally one sided. Whatever type of relationship this is, whether it is romantic, family or friendship, this type of relationship is miserable & dysfunctional. Doing with receiving nothing in return is fine once in a while, but when it is the norm, it is depressing, will lead to a lot of resentment & most likely the relationship will end.
Similarly, no one wants to be married to someone knowing that their parent always will be more important to them, that the demanding parent’s needs always come first, that they are looked at as an intruder & feeling like anything they want from their spouse is a huge burden while anything the parent wants is done without complaint. It is a miserable way to live, & the majority of people will divorce a spouse like this.
If you are a victim of emotional incest, please know that by continuing to tolerate this abuse from your parent, this is what you are doing to those people in relationships with you. I am not telling you this to hurt you, only to open your eyes of the damage being done & the unfairness of it all. People who love you don’t deserve to feel this way. It’s not fair to them. It also is not fair to you for your parent to treat you so badly & for that parent to do so much harm to you that you are damaging relationships with people you love.
And, if you are still in this situation with your parent, please do your best to put an end to it. Start setting limits & boundaries on what you will & won’t tolerate from your parent. It can be intimidating to do this at first so start small. Don’t take their call or reply to their text right away. It’s a baby step that helps you to take back some of your power. Do more & bigger things as you feel able to do them. It may take some time, but you will become able to stop tolerating their behavior. The more you do this, the less burdened you will feel in general, which means the more you will be able to give back in your relationships.
Get to know yourself better. Chances are, you didn’t have much time for that because caring for your parent took up too much of your time. It’s long overdue. Get to know the real you, not the person your parent wants you to be. It’ll help you in many ways, including learning what you are willing & unwilling to tolerate in the relationship with your parent.
Get angry about what your parent has done to you. You have every reason to be angry, because treating anyone this way is simply cruel & wrong! You never deserved it! Allow yourself to feel that anger & vent it in healthy ways like prayer, talking to someone close to you, journaling, or even talking to a therapist.
And never forget that you do have one loving parent. God is the most loving parent you could hope to have. Talk to Him about what is going on. Lean on him to help you heal, figure out the best way to handle this relationship with your abusive parent, & to help heal damaged relationships. He absolutely will do it.