Emotional Incest, Part 3: Daddy’s Little Princess and Mommy’s Big Boy

In Part 1 I looked at the definition of emotional incest and in Part 2 I looked at how integral father/daughter emotional incest is to the Christian Patriarchy movement. I want to take a moment here to point out some other ways emotional incest can play out, both in families not involved with the Christian Patriarchy movement and between mothers and sons in families in the Christian Patriarchy movement.

First, this from Wikipedia:

Jungian analyst and author Marion Woodman describes psychic incest as “unboundaried bonding” in which the parent or parents use the child as a mirror to support their needs, rather than mirroring the child in support of the child’s emotional development.

Emotional incest can happen in any family. It can happen to married parents and to single parents. At the most basic level, it happens when a parent’s emotional needs are not being met and the parent responds by looking to the child to fulfill those needs. It is usually either father/daughter or mother/son.

There’s the Daddy’s Little Princess effect:

Consider a simple family of Father, Mother and Daughter. It is right and wonderful that parents love their Daughter – as a daughter. If a parent needs a substitute for a partner, chaos and suffering soon follow.

If Father loves his daughter as a substitute for loving a partner, few daughters can resist his love. If Daughter feels that Mother does not appreciate Father, Daughter may try to love Father in the way that Mother seems to withhold. Mother may feel that Father and Daughter betrayed her; and withdraw.

Father’s marriage to Mother may be the first sacrifice. An entangled Daughter may ignore potential partners – except substitutes for Father. The family may not confront this issue unless Daughter becomes depressed or suicidal.

And there’s the Mommy’s Little Prince effect:

Our story begins with a pregnant mother. While pregnant, Mother likely enjoyed her femininity and the attention of her family. When Baby is born, attention often shifts from Mother to Baby. Mother may feel abandoned, perhaps showing postpartum depression. Many mothers regain family attention, approval and respect, by becoming a Super-Mom.

The husband of a Super-Mom may feel rejected, particularly if he depends upon his wife to provide meaning for his life. He may feel that a a boy baby is a rival. He may withdraw from his wife’s requests for intimacy, support or responsibility. He may become depressed and/or have intimate affairs.

A Super-Mom sees her Son as special. Mother may dream that Son will make a special contribution to the world that Mother cannot or will not make. Mother’s expectations help balance her emptiness. For Mother to feel special, Son has to be very special – or risk losing Mother’s love.

For more, see here and here. See also an extremely creepy article by now-discredited author and speaker Hugo Schwyzer. Schwyzer’s sketchy relationship with women, which includes sleeping with his students and attempting to murder one of his girlfriends, makes his detailed description of his tendency toward emotional incest with his small daughter stomach-turning to read.

Families that are dysfunctional, abusive, troubled, and broken are especially prone to emotional incest. There’s the single mother (or abused wife) who ends up seeking to find in one of her children the emotional fulfillment she would normally find in a spouse, for example. Here’s a quote from one of the comments to illustrate:

My parents divorced when I was a teenager. I pretty soon had to take over house repair stuff, which wasn’t an issue. But pretty soon my mother looked to me for company, and got upset whenever I went out. That wasn’t healthy for either of us.

This can happen with father/daughter relationships too:

In the case of father-daughter emotional incest, disenfranchised fathers compensate by becoming emotionally over involved with their daughters. The emotional cost of father-daughter emotional incest includes stress and anxiety disorders, mental and physical illness, identity disorders and underdeveloped and confused sense of identity and depression.

It should be surprising that emotional incest should correlate with the amount of disfunction in a family. I suspect it also correlates with lack of strong outside support networks. If a parent’s emotional needs are already being met, after all, that parent is less likely to turn to the child to meet those needs.

Mothers and Sons in Christian Patriarchy

I want to finish by turning briefly to mother/son emotional incest in families involved in the Christian Patriarchy movement. After I started this series, focusing especially on father/daughter emotional incest in the Christian Patriarchy movement, blogger Sierra wrote a post about mothers and sons that I found fascinating:

In the last years of my fundamentalist sojourn, as I was about to turn eighteen and exert what independence I could, a thought occurred to me.

Women in Christian patriarchy frequently transmute their desires for equal partnership and respect from their husbands into an emotionally incestuous relationship with their sons.

… It existed with every mother and son I knew. Even that early, I had figured out that when you reduce the marital relationship into a master-subordinate equation, the affection, respect and mutual enjoyment get pushed out somewhere else.

The great thing about sons, in fundamentalist culture, is that you don’t have to obey them. My church retained the parental right to rule over the patriarchal one, so grown men could be compelled to “honor” their mothers by mostly doing what they asked. So when Sven’s mother wanted someone to share her interests – to watch movies with her, to go on trips, to have lighthearted discussions – she turned to her son.

I’m not surprised by the dynamic Sierra describes. Because most of the families I knew growing up in a family influenced by the Christian Patriarchy movement had older daughters and younger sons, I didn’t notice this dynamic. I would imagine, though, that it can also occur mother/daughter in these families as well, especially if the mother in question leads a fairly sheltered existence without a strong network of friends. Really, the potential that a mother in the movement might rely on her children for emotional fulfillment she is not finding elsewhere is not surprising.

Tomorrow I will write about some of the problems that flow from emotional incest.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://heretichusband.blogspot.com Heretic Husband

    Yeesh. I can see this starting to happen with my oldest daughter, whose 4. I don’t feel my wife owes me the same level of adoration. But its much easier to interact with my daughter who wants to act out scenes from books and TV than to interact with my wife and have grownup conversation about our day, how we’re feeling, and the trials we face.

    At the end of the day my wife is exhausted (she’s a stay at home mom) and I’m exhausted too (full time office job). It feels more like work to talk to her. And my daughter will happily steal the spotlight if I let her.

    Thank you for this article. Its good to know I’m not alone.


  • Josh

    Y’know, I’m having a parallel but different experience with my very young (<2) daughter, who has been making a game lately of hugging and kissing her stuffed animals, hugging and kissing Mama, but shrieking and giggling as she absolutely refuses to hug or kiss me when I get home.

    It's perversely, painfully difficult not to get angry with her some days, for the simple "sin" of not being completely in line with my expectations of a child's behavior towards a non-stay-at-home parent.

    I recognize this feeling is unhealthy, fortunately, but it's not something I would have ever even imagined I'd have to deal with in my head.

  • RQ

    I suppose the opposite can occur as well – where mothers look to their sons for the adoration, instead of from their husbands? Probably not in Christian Patriarchy, but in ‘ordinary’ families… (Does this count as changing the topic? It’s just that from the description I feel similar parallels with some mothers and their sons, and there’s the same sense of wrongness about it…)

    • Jeremy

      Certainly happened in my family, so…yes.

    • purpleshoes

      You know, I think one reason why I don’t like the “emotional incest” term so much is because it causes us to think on sexual and then usually heterosexual lines. I am most familiar with this issue coming up (and being super destructive) in the form of stay-at-home, isolated mothers who have no adult friends forcing very young daughters into the role of confidant/supporter/ally inappropriately. I realize it’s an outgrowth of the social isolation of mothers, but it’s not appropriate to ask a child to be a secret-keeper for his or her mother against his or her father on a daily basis, for example.

    • Effie

      Oh yes, it happens between mothers and sons in all kinds of families, from fundamentalist christians to atheists. I just broke off an engagement to an otherwise wonderful man for this very reason. This man, this amazing, intelligent, sweet, good-hearted, kind and brave man is the biggest Mama’s boy I’ve ever met. It took me forever to admit it, because I didn’t want to acknowledge that in his heart, Mother will always come first. I wouldn’t call it adoration from him, but she has definitely made him the center of her universe, and he has made her his, and he seems to like it there enough that he won’t move out of it.

      E’s parents had divorced when he was 11, and his mother took E and moved far away (just as well; Dad was an abusive alcoholic). She hasn’t had a romantic relationship or sex with another person in almost 20 years now. Her whole life is devoted to her son and his wellbeing. The hard part here is that E is now a wounded Iraq veteran with TBI and a partial leg amputation (roadside bomb), so calling her out on her behavior is inevitably met with “I’m his mother, and he’s disabled!” Not to mention that this has been going on over half his life and it’s damn near futile at this stage of the game to say anything.

      They live several hundred miles apart and talk on the phone every day. When E had surgery recently, his mother took unpaid leave for two months to be with him, despite the fact that his doctors estimated he would only need a live-in caregiver post-surgery for two weeks. She does his financials and has his log-in information to his direct deposit and online accounting. She recently bought a house, and put together a bedroom for him. I’m talking bed, desk, books, posters on the walls, everything. It looks like the room of a teenage boy, not a 35yo man.

      During the course of our engagement, we talked about where we were going to live after he got his medical discharge from the military. He’s currently at a military medical facility, I’m in law school in a different state in a major city, and his mother lives about two hours away from me in a podunk town. I fully expected that we were going to live in my city, where my school and professional network are, where I anticipate living for at least the next decade while I build my law career, and where he has a myriad of opportunities to start a new life post-injury. He was making noises about not wanting to live in my city, so I asked him where he wanted to live. He looked at me blankly and said, “With Mom, of course. Her house is big enough for all of us.”

      The more I think about it, the angrier it makes me. This shit ain’t healthy, not by a long shot. As much as I love E, as wonderful as he is, his blank check devotion to Mom, and her laser-like focus on his life, is something I’m not willing to try to work around the rest of my life.

  • Rachel

    This whole series had been painful to read, but this one hit the hardest, because I recognized myself in every line. I know that the next article you write, I’m going to need to be alone when I read it, because I will start sobbing.

    Thank you for writing this. I know it’s difficult. But it also gives me a lot of hope that things can change, because I know you and I know how you write about your daughter and your husband and I know that the pattern has been broken before, so surely I can do it, too.

  • http://collegeatthirty.blogspot.com Heidi

    One of my friends in high school was like this with her dad. Their whole family was screwy, but her relationship with her dad was just out of this world. My own dad was really distant and I often was jealous of my friends’ relationships with their dads, but with this girl, I was like, “That ain’t right…”

    I can see how, in the Patriarchal movement, how this sort of thing is probably very prevalent; especially since mothers are mostly put in a position to be only baby makers. Helen Pilinovsky wrote a really excellent article for Sur La Lune website about the fairy tales of Donkeyskin and Allerlierauh, and how the reality in days of “yore” was that a girl was generally expected to take the place of her mother, and how the fairy tales work so hard to take the blame away from the father by putting the blame on the mother for asking him to marry no one but a woman with her color of hair, or whose finger is small enough to fit a ring, etc., tying the hands of the father to force him to marry his daughter. The arguments are as hollow as the old modern stand-by of “But my wife doesn’t understand me!” “She’s such a nag!”, and my favorite, “She’s let herself go!” (Having ten children is no excuse for looking poorly now, is it?)

    RQ, this totally happens with mothers and sons. His girlfriend/wife is never good enough for him, he’s so attentive to his mother, etc. Even in situations where sons break away because they just can’t take the sMothering anymore, the mothers find a way to blame other people. The fairy tale equivalent, I suppose, would be the evil Queen Mother who looks for a way to kill and eat her new beautiful daughter-in-law.

    • seditiosus

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there Heidi.

      I can’t help seeing this as an inevitable by-product of the unhealthy CP belief system that reduces the wife to a robot/concubine. The husband, like all humans, needs a lot more than that from his marriage. He needs a companion who can relate to him on his own level. After all, no one really forms a romantic attachment to someone on the basis that they can bear children and vacuum the lounge; we form romantic attachments when we feel a deep connection to another person. But the CP schema prevents his wife from filling that role, because it reduces her to a machine with whom the husband cannot connect in the way that he needs to, and so he tries to get his daughters to meet his need.

      What a disgusting parody of human interaction.

  • http://www.firsttheegg.com Molly

    I’m finding myself taken aback by all these descriptions of a child’s love as adoring, assuming parental perfection, consistently gleeful, simple, easy, etc. (although I realize I shouldn’t be, since that’s the big idea of what children ought to be like in so much pop culture and so forth).

    For me, it feels like my partner’s love is way more dependable, understandable, straightforward: we’ve agreed to be kind to each other and support each other, and that’s sort of that. My child, on the other hand, changes constantly as he grows–his loyalties and who’s his preferred parent shift–he’s emotionally honest in ways that can be challenging if I’m feeling vulnerable or needy–he’s never seemed to imagine we were perfect–etc. We love each other something fierce, but if I want to collapse into something dependable and easy, that would be my marriage, not my parenting relationship.

    I’m a woman with a son, so the gender dynamics are different here, of course … but still. I wonder whether some of this has to do with idealizing children and having relationships with the imagined child rather than the real, complicated, messy, and potentially-resentful one?

    • Josh

      I wonder whether some of this has to do with idealizing children and having relationships with the imagined child rather than the real, complicated, messy, and potentially-resentful one?

      As I said above, I have occasional feelings of unjustifiable anger at my daughter for NOT living up to the imagined uncomplicated child who showers her daddy with love when he gets home from work.

      So yeah, I think you have hit it on the head.

    • emma

      Molly, what it sounds to me is that you’ve got good and appropriate (for want of a better word) relationships with your son and your partner! As you say, children are changeable, outspoken in ways that adults maybe wouldn’t be, and they’re still developing their personalities. It’s so important that they can feel confident to express all the things they’ve got going on and know that they’re accepted and loved for all of themselves.

      From what you’ve said, your son sounds as if he does.

      • Crooked Bird

        Yes, I think that where an emotional incest dynamic does exist, interactions become stereotyped because they’re reinforced to always go in the same pattern: the daughter is always rewarded for adoring her father, and comes to understand that it’s expected, and may be thus motivated to displace any negative feelings toward him onto her mother instead, etc.

        So I think that your description, Molly, is of the way things should be. The way things should be isn’t easy or simple but that’s part of the point, when we try to make them easy or simple we skew them terribly…

        So yeah. I think it does have to do with idealizing children–or, imagining them to be the way we want them to be. The other factor in the mix–going back to the reinforcement of patterns–is that *our expectation can cause them to act the way we expect of them.* Inauthentically. Distortedly.

  • Charlesbartley


  • Anonymous

    Keeping my name out of this one.

    This definitely happens with mothers and sons. My parents divorced when I was a teenager. I pretty soon had to take over house repair stuff, which wasn’t an issue. But pretty soon my mother looked ot me for company, and got upset whenever I went out. That wasn’t healthy for either of us.

    Fortunately I don’t see this happening with my own daughters, but it’s reading something like this that makes me aware of where things can go.

    Libby Anne, I really appreciate the insights you provide. Although I don’t come from that background, and being male would be on the other side anyway, understanding these extremes helps all of us. And I really do mean “understand”. It’s too easy to demonize CP (and other extremes) in the simplest terms, but that doesn’t really help to understand why it’s wrong, or what to do about it. Too many others from outside only superficially understand the damage it does.

  • Karen

    I certainly didn’t grow up in a CP home, but I was always closer to my Dad than my Mom. Dad and I had compatible personalities, we both tended to look at the world through the lens of reason, and shrugged off stuff (especially other people’s beliefs) that we weren’t able to understand or study to understand. (There was no Internet then.) Mom was beset by all sorts of magical beliefs, some from her Catholic upbringing, some folk “wisdom”, and a determinedly negative outlook on life. Growing up, once I started to think, I found her alternately silly and tiresome. We had a difficult relationship once I got into 9th or 10th grade.

    The family dynamic got really complicated during my last two years of high school and my college years. Mom opposed what I was studying (engineering) because “it wasn’t a woman’s job”; she understood I was planning a career, and she didn’t believe in women having careers; she wanted me to be a stay-at-home mom and produce LOTS of grandchildren. Dad stood behind me every step of the way. As far as he was concerned, he’d support any career ideal I had other than becoming a nun. I don’t think there was any emotional incest between my dad and me there, but Mom reacted very negatively to Dad in about that time frame. She would belittle him and nag him about trivial things constantly, at least in my presence. This went on through all my college years and for a few years beyond. I never thought of it before I read this post, but maybe she was reacting to his support of his daughter in defiance of her beliefs.

    She finally let up on Dad at right about the same time she started in on me, demanding grandchildren. At that point maybe the non-fulfillment of her fantasies was my fault, not Dad’s.

    Wow, Libby Anne, you sure do make a person think!

  • http://laurennicolelove.blogspot.com @laurendubinsky

    Thank God I found this post. I grew up in the same homeschooled, Christian, conservative-right home with this awful emotional triangle between my father and mother. I’ve never heard another soul bring this up, and I’m so glad you did. I hope more of us start writing about it soon.

    Much love.

  • http://laurennicolelove.blogspot.com @laurendubinsky

    Comment#2: It’s also worth noting that when I moved out and was consequently disowned by my father at the age of 18, he used the phrase “she divorced her family.” So telling as to the weight and type of relationship he assigned to his daughter.

  • Skjaere

    I’m really glad that this is not something that occurred in my family. At least, not with me and my sister. I’ve seen plenty of examples of it, though. Since we are not a Christian Patriarchy family, it hasn’t been the usual father-daughter dynamic, either. My dad experienced something like this with his mother when he was growing up. My grandfather was an alcoholic, and my dad was the oldest of four kids, so he easily slipped into the role of “dad junior”. My brother-in-law also went through this with his mother, who is a very emotionally needy person. He and my sister have had to set boundaries with her in order to protect themselves. It’s all such a mess, and it’s something kids will carry with them for life.

  • Crooked Bird

    This stuff, whenever I read it, makes me so thankful for my own dad. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he respected me, my mind, my separate personhood.

    When I got to college and became more involved in the evangelical, patriarchy-lite world that was my background (I hadn’t been much exposed to it b/c I grew up overseas) I started to notice this phenomenon I called “Daddy’s Little Princess girls”. These girls were usually very feminine in a cute way, they smiled a lot & dressed pretty, and you could see a glow between them and their dads, or when they talked about their dads. The whole thing was pretty much glorified. The daughters of prominent male leaders often tended to be like this, and share their dad’s spotlight. They would gush about how great their dad was. The term “princess” was used. A lot of messages in Christian media seemed to support it, with talk of the importance of praising your daughter & hugging & loving her so she wouldn’t go seeking for male attention elsewhere, and there was sentimentality about it. (Ever heard the song “Butterfly Kisses”?)

    I never could stand those girls.

    For awhile I thought I was jealous, and felt guilty for disliking them. Like I said my dad wasn’t perfect and it appeared that theirs were, so what could it be but jealousy? After awhile I figured out that wasn’t it, that I had known from the beginning that I sensed a wrongness. At the end of “Butterfly Kisses” the girl (on her wedding day!) promises her dad that she will always be his little girl. My dad and I discussed this concept once. It grossed him out. He said he had absolutely no desire for me to be his little girl as a grown woman, he’d rather I be his grown-up daughter! I still remember how proud he was of me when I was ready to stand on my own two feet enough to call him on something as an equal. (Which I happened to be completely wrong about, in the way of 20-year-olds who think they know everything, but I guess he was aware of that phenomenon and discounted that part of it!)

    That’s what this stuff makes me think of. Those girls, and how I was given the message that they were cooler and luckier than me. Now I feel sorry for them.

  • denelian

    i have to wonder, in many ways, if emotion abuse isn’t WORSE than the physical versions thereof.

    i went thru this version more than once. the first time, it actually *wasn’t* true – my mother and father didn’t get along at ALL, and when she got pregnant with my first sister, she closed us both out; by the time she “wanted us back”, we’d turned to each other. not in this way – i worshipped my dad, of course, but not in this way, but because he’d TEACH me things. i could read and write at 3; i was doing algebra at 6. but mother acted as if it was wrong, and hated us both, and it took her *decades* to get over her anger at me because i was my father’s daughter, because he and i had become close when she shut us out.
    when she left him, i didn’t want to go [the final betrayal, i think] and it was… bad. very bad. for the next 15 years, whenever i complained about ANYTHING, i’d hear “you’re your father’s special child, and L is my special child, and S is your step-mother’s special child, and M is your step-father’s special child, and it isn’t my fault that you can’t be with your special parent” [except, it WAS her fault] and this led to a huge amount of infighting between myself and my sisters, etc etc [she knows better now!]

    so when she started college and i had to take over much of the housework and such when i was 7, it seemed almost natural that i would work closely with my stepfather. it seemed right that my youngest sister called *ME* “mommie” [until my mother overheard it...] it seemed natural for my stepfather to come to ME instead of my mother about a problem.
    when he started beating me, that not only seemed like a logical progression – after all, if i messed up balancing the checkbook, we’d go hungry! the fact that i was *10* didn’t matter – but seemed like something my mother wouldn’t care about.
    and it turns out my dad didn’t care, either. he knew about it almost from the time it started; his sole response was to tell my mother that he wanted us to get family counseling, that must include my stepfather. my stepfather went to ONE session.
    when i was 12, the rest started.
    by started, at first it was “you’re just like your mother in X fashion, so you’ll enjoy Y sexual thing”
    i tried to tell my mother about THAT! she told me i was suffering from an “Electra Complex” and turned me over to a counselor primed to believe that i was making everything up.
    when he started raping me – with the justification ranging from “your mother won’t put out and i “need” to have sex” to “look at you, what else are you for!” – i fought, but i didn’t complain. the one other person i tried to get help from told me essentially what my step-father said ["look at you, if you look like that you DESERVE to be raped!" because a 12-y-o with large breasts doesn't "deserve" anything else]

    when my step-father died when i was 16, my mother went much more insane. she tried to turn me into her stay-at-home-wife while *ALSO* demanding i get a perfect 4.0 in all 11 classes i took, plus all my after-school activities, plus working. if my sisters did anything at ALL wrong, *I* was punished – their room wasn’t clean, their homework wasn’t done, whatever. even if i *tried* to get them to do things [all the responsibility, none of the authority] i was punished. they never were.
    i’d get up at 5:30 every day to get myself ready; get one sister up at 6, the other at 6:30, for us all to leave at 7. i had school from 7:30-4:30, and almost every day had an after-school SOMETHING until 5:30; i’d work from 6-10, go home, do several hours of housework…
    i was lucky that i could do much of my homework *IN* school. otherwise, i wouldn’t have maintained my 4.0. and i mean PERFECT – a B+ on a test got me grounded for a month; on a quarter report card, it would get me grounded for the next quarter; on a semester report card, i’d have been grounded for a YEAR. no matter how i hard i worked to GET that B+

    i lasted 6 months, doing this. it was *NOT* school that was the problem – it was the requirement of perfection that seemed to be tailor made to ensure i was ALWAYS grounded since i never had time to do homework except at school. i was in school, on average, 10 hours a day, worked an additional 4 hours at a job, then went home to do at LEAST 2 hours of housework because no one else at home would do ANY and my mother REQUIRED a *perfect* house. she required *ME* to keep it perfect – she herself did nothing except go to work, 4 days a week 10 hours a day. i’d have traded with her in a hot second!

    and i tell you – as damaged as i am by my stepfather, i often feel like my mother did more harm.
    and girls being raised an a P/QF enviroment are [generally] getting the same treatment from their mothers that i got from mine – resentment that the daughter “steals” the husband [true or not] an expectation of impossible perfection, more work than any one person could EVER hope to finish let alone maintain…

    it’s heartbreaking.

    • http://snowyowldesign.com Kyla

      Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking account so candidly written. I hope for you this means you’ve unraveled some of these miserable peoples drama from your life. I’m thinking you’d find yourself asking ‘why me? What did I ever do in this world to anyone to be handed such vile of punishments?’ Just a little girl. It’s criminal. They should spend a lot of time in prison for their choices.
      I’m here in search of answers. The relationship between my eldest daughter and her father, my ex-husband has bothered me for awhile now. He has this way of being randomly cruel and humiliating. 5 times in the 10 years we were married he got physically violent. Each time escalating in force . My efforts to communicate that this behavior was totally unacceptable met with pure malice and after that he’d act like it had never even happened. And so really I was left with no resolution and plenty of pain in my heart.
      I wanted to know who he really was so one time I told him I was going to my friend’s and instead snuck back into the house hoping to overhear a call to his friend and possibly learn something about his feelings or something. I just didn’t understand him and I really wanted to. What I noticed immediately was he used a different tone of voice with our girls. He put our youngest right in her room (not into her bed) and turned out the lights. He then lay next to the other in her bed and read to her for half hour. Lights out, Downstairs for half hour, reading, then suddenly and without a call from her, got up and went upstairs and back into her room. He was in there for just over 13 mins, then downstairs, washed his hands, got into bed and started reading. This is a man who NEVER went upstairs after girls were in bed. If they’d ever called out that they couldn’t sleep, he’d call back telling them to go to sleep. My heart was pounding so hard when he walked up those stairs. Surprised, I froze and counted out the minutes. I know that may sound like nothing, but that was the first thing of more similar and since, there’s been many signs that could point to abuse. I see clear signs of emotional incest and definitely a lot of parental alienation.
      He’s mean, randomly, and inconsistant in what he gives and says he’ll give to her. He constantly talks about me to both our girls, in very negative terms which has served to undermine my authority and encourage a disrespect for me. Of course the most important problem is how that kind of talk effects them. I’ve had full custody for one year now when he moved away. The problem I’m now facing is he’s refusing to return our eldest to me , and has even enrolled her in a private school where he lives. He’s completely persuaded her that living with me will be terrible for her and has told her through texts that he can’t help her if she lives with me and that she’ll just be a loser, nothing he can do about it. She says she wants to stay (after he took her to a spa for the day and a couple shopping sprees which he NEVER EVER does. I feel she’d most likely receive a better education at this other school than she could here. Also, her younger sister is really looking forward to not having her around and I understand why. She’s very mean sometimes. I totally agree that It would be easier without her here in many ways. But the bottom line is I care so much about her well being and her future as an adult. If I trust in my instinct that the relationship is twisted and unhealthy I must act upon those instincts and bring her home, deal with her wrath, a highly probable court hearing and maybe even police involvement. But what if I’m wrong? I don’t know exactly what to look for but I know that if something came out one day I would have to say I saw many signs and if I’d done nothing I’d hate that I wasn’t there for her when she needed me most. I need help with this. What can I do to learn more?

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  • jenniems

    These articles relating to emotional incest have really given me some great insight. When my husband and I married, his 20 year old unmarried daughter and her two children lived with him. Anytime he would invite me over to their home she would grab a hold of him or sit on his lap or something to try to maintain his attention toward her. I was uncomfortable with the relationship a little but once he and I planned to be married, and to live together alone without his daughter, I thought perhaps the bond they had would weaken as he and I began to bond and live our lives together. Today, my husbands daughter is 26 and still calls and emails him every single day. Just last week she emailed him nearly chasening him that he had to email her every single day so they would always be close. When he is upset or needs someone to comfort him, he always call his daughter first to get his feel good medicine. I recently discovered that he sends her emails and has her send him pictures of herself and he responds by telling her how beautiful and precious she is. He only calls her darling and babe during their conversations together. I am really feeling odd about this, this long into our relationship mainly because my husband doen’t speak to me with that type of admiration or “pet names’.” I guess my question is, if there is emotional incest going on how can you get someone to see it or that its a problem. I have learned that I cannot speak to him about any issue relating to his daughter. It is not a topic we could address together.

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