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Family Emotional Codependency

by on November 17, 2013

Sometimes called emotional incest, the problem of parents co-opting a child as spouse is a serious problem.

The parent will choose an opposite sex child as an emotional spouse. Most of the time there is not sexual contact. The contact is emotional and demanding.

The reason for this codependency is that the relationship between mother and father is not healthy. The parents are not comfortable with each other. They have become emotionally unsafe for each other. They do not feel comfortable telling their feelings to each other.

So, they will begin to co-op the child as “spouse” with whom they share their deep feelings and also tell this “spouse” what is wrong with the other parent.

This is far too much for the child to carry. The child is not prepared for all this pressure. The child, however, feels honored to be taken into this confidence. The child also feels responsible to support the parent in his/her pain. This can develop into a long-term relationship that takes the parents farther apart and the children deeper into the chaos of the family.

The energy that should be flowing between parents stops, and that energy begins to flow between parent and child. This is not healthy and will eventually cause greater rifts between parents.

This emotional incest is actually abuse. It is asking the child to shoulder a task and responsibility for which they are not prepared. Even if no physical abuse occurs, the situation is harmful to the child.

If and when the child marries, the child may still feel attached to the parent. The demands of the parent will come between the child and his/her marriage partner. This becomes a major problem because the child is torn between allegiance to parent and marriage partner. This is a major problem because that divided loyalty will eventually destroy their marriage.

Breaking this cycle is a very difficult task. Feelings will be hurt on both sides. The parent will feel rejected and the marriage partner will be resentful. Unfortunately, the efforts to correct the situation will result in pain for all parties involved. The break must happen if the new marriage is to thrive. The child and his/her spouse must make their marriage a priority and be honest with the parent so all relationships can be healthy.

“A man is to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife and they are to become one flesh. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

If we can understand the problem, perhaps we can prevent the problem. This problem can be prevented by parents having a healthy relationship in every way with each other.

When parents are healthy and love each other and work together, the children will feel secure. Security is a result of seeing and experiencing the love of the parents for each other. This creates a long-term secure attachment cycle that prepares the children for all of the stresses of life.

Let us be careful to place our affections where they belong. If we do, we will not need to create the wrong attachments with our children where we expect them to carry the weight of our emotional pains.

Our goal as parents is to raise healthy children. They need emotional, Spiritual, and social health. They receive that health from us and from a healthy church family and community. Our responsibility as parents is to provide that healthy climate.

God bless you as you correct the problems in your relationships and correct the ills of your family. That is the call of God on us as parents. That is the call of God to raise healthy children. Can you do that? Will you do that?

Our children are counting on us. God is counting on us. Whatever it costs in emotional currency, let us pay the price for the sake of our children and the Church of Jesus Christ.

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