People who use children as a source of adult love are trying to fulfill their emotional needs. Such adults often usually bond to opposite sex children … a depressed father more often bonds to his youngest daughter while a lonely mother more often bonds to her oldest son. Other combinations are possible.
If a parent feels rejected or alienated, he or she might focus on a child. Sometimes a parent+child couple may treat another parent as a child, especially if the other parent is immature or ill.
Children who try to emotionally support an adult shares the adults feelings and responsibilities. Children who act like substitutes for adult partners often develop unhappy relationship habits.
I felt like I was my mother’s mother. She is immature and lonely,
and I have been there for her since my father died. That meant
no university and few boyfriends. You showed me what I was doing
and now I am making different choices. London
Such children may lose their personal identities. They may try to become special, while adolescents and teenagers may become perfectionist, rebellious or spiteful.
Most parents who abuse children in this way try to maintain these bonds, even when the children are adults. They use different types of manipulation and often show jealousy or contempt to their adult child’s potential partners. They may try to alienate their children’s partners or try to make potential partners look bad or stupid.
Expect children who are expected to repay their birth and care to feel enormous guilt. As such feelings may be too dangerous to be considered consciously. the feelings often become taboo. Such guilt is compounded if a child displaces a parent.
People who were raised by entangled parents usually consider this kind of behavior normal and justified. As adults they rarely search for maturity … until they have suffered enough.
These patterns seem to be more common in relationships between mothers and sons, than between fathers and daughters or other combinations. Many women confirmed that they experienced this when their partner and relationship was subjected to their partners’ mothers. Other common consequences are that a male partner may:
- spend too much time with his mother
- allow his mother to criticize or humiliate his partner
- allow his mother to be overly and rudely involved in their partnership
My mother gave me life and she has priority … anybody who dares
to say anything against my mother must leave my house! (Italy)
How About Your Partner?
If you are in a relationship with a bonded person, you already know the consequences to your family and marriage. Ask your partner about the feeling of owing something to parents; and how it would feel if he or she stopped trying to please parents and expressed true feelings to them.
And, if you are a partner of such a person, consider your own habits. What attracted you to this person? Why did you stay? People who are bonded to parents are usually strongly attracted to people with similar habits, and may exchange the roles of parent and child with their partners.
Over time, however, they may become irritated by their partner’s behavior (You are just like my father / mother!) Or they feel so much guilt for leaving their parents that they emotionally withdraw and sabotage their own intimacy. This leads to victimization and dependency … patterns of suffering that are often passed on to the next generation.
What would you have to believe to partner an adult who acts like a child?
If you wish to change, consider emailing us. A first step is to take responsibility for yourself and your own happiness. If a partner definitely does not want to grow up, there is not much that you can do, except perhaps to explore why you want to stay in this relationship. Or wait, pray and hope.
What will your life look like in a few years if you ignore this?
What will your life look like if you mature?
If you ignore covert emotional incest – families may suffer. Two common symptoms are feeling special – believing without evidence that you are extraordinary or exceptional; and identity loss – you lose access to your qualities, resources and emotions. This is often accompanied by addictive relationships and passive aggression.
I took many drugs to stop feeling so bad – I was trying to change the
consequences of my father’s weird ideas about love. London