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The boundary between caring and incestuous love is crossed when the relationship with a child exists to meet the needs of the parent rather than those of the child.

Covert incest typically occurs when parents have distanced themselves from one another both physically and emotionally, or when one (or both) of the parents is addicted to a substance or behavior. When dysfunctional parents distance themselves from each other (for whatever reason), one of the parents may focus on the child, seeking adult emotional fulfillment by using the child as a surrogate partner. Because of this, the child’s developmental needs are ignored, and emotional growth (especially in the area of healthy sexual and romantic attachment) can be profoundly stunted. Amazingly, the perpetrating adult is usually completely unaware of the emotional damage he or she is creating.

Just for Today
Think about the possibility of covert incest in your own life. If you sense that it was or is present, speak about this with your therapist or a supportive friend in recovery.