About Covert Incest from “Silently Seduced” by Kenneth Adams. Exploring the dynamics of covert (emotional or non-sexual but gender-related) incest.
From pages 9 – 11:
Covert incest occurs when a child becomes the object of a parent's affection, love, passion and preoccupation. The parent, motivated by the loneliness and emptiness created by a chronically troubled marriage or relationship, makes the child a surrogate partner. This boundary between caring and incestuous love is crossed when the relationship with the child exists to meet the needs of the parent rather than those of the child. As the deterioration in the marriage progresses, the dependency on the child becomes increasingly characterized by desperation, jealousy and a disregard for personal boundaries. The child becomes an object to be manipulated and used so the parent can avoid the pain and reality of a troubled marriage.
The child feels used and trapped, the same feelings that overt incest victims experience... Over time, the child becomes more preoccupied with the parent's needs and feels protective and concerned. A psychological marriage between parent and child results. The child becomes the parent's surrogate spouse...
To the child, the parent's love feels more confining than freeing, more demanding than giving and more intrusive than nurturing. The relationship becomes sexually energized and violating without the presence of sexual innuendos, sexual touch or conscious sexual feelings on the part of the parent. The chronic lack of attachment in the marriage is enough to create an atmosphere of sexualized energy that spills over to the child.
The sexual energy or tension created in a relationship of covert incest is more akin to young love than to a caring parent-child love...
An important difference between overt and covert incest is that, while the overt victim feels abused, the covert victim feels idealized and privileged. Yet underneath, the thin mask of feeling special and privileged rests the same trauma of the overt victim: rage, anger, shame and guilt. The sense of exploitation resulting from being a parent's surrogate partner or spouse is buried behind a wall of illusion and denial. The adult covert incest victim remains stuck in a pattern of living aimed at keeping the special relationship going with the opposite-sex parent. It is a pattern of always trying to please Mommy or Daddy. In this way, the adult continues to be idealized. A privileged and special position is maintained; the pain and suffering of a lost childhood denied. Separation never occurs and feelings of being trapped in the psychological marriage deepen. This interferes with the victim's capacity for healthy intimacy and sexuality.
From page 17:
One of the more difficult tasks for heroes or responsible adult children is to take themselves off the idealized and privileged pedestal they were given by the opposite-sex parent. That position represents being loved for what you can provide for your parent, not for who you are.