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Emotional Incest: Were you a victim?

29 August 2016, 10:02Bernard Lugagah

Nairobi - Kibet is very nearly every woman’s dream. He is what you would call umh…, a doormat, and women are just glad to use him.

In a relationship he will bend over backwards to please a girl. It is not healthy, but hey, he could very easily have turned out a sex addict or an asexual relationship phobic.

He is an only son to a mother who was widowed young and never remarried, and they were very close. Being an only boy, his mother confided a lot to him, nothing inappropriate, but some very emotional stuff.  Her loneliness and sacrifices, financial struggles, the betrayal of his father’s family after his death…And she also told him, time and time again that he was the man of the house, and that he was all she had. When his mother bought a piece of land, she had him along, and gave him the money to hand over to the owner of the land. At that time he was only 11 years old.

All this warped him in a subtle way, and his is a classic example of emotional incest. This describes a relationship between a parent and a child, in which the child fulfills an emotional need for the parent, in a capacity that would have only been appropriate for an adult partner. There is no sex involved, or suggested, but the undertones are there.

It is an uncomfortably loaded term, drawing strongest resistance ironically from its victims. Nobody wants to slap the incest label on someone who was so close, and apparently so lonely and troubled. It is almost betrayal for a child to out as incestuous a parent who gave him the cherished position of confidante.

What the child doesn’t realize is that that position stunted his emotional growth for life., that instead of being emotionally nourished by the parent, he was cannibalized, and it will affect his future relationships.


This relationship basically grows out of the vacuum created by a parent’s inability, or unwillingness to maintain a relationship with another adult. This can arise out of widowhood or estrangement. Or, it may be a perpetuation of the pattern by a victim of childhood abuse

Substance abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence in all its forms, mental and physical illness are all culprits when it comes to drawing couples apart and thrusting a child into the role of a surrogate spouse.


Emotional incest is not exactly an inaccurate term, its effects being somewhat similar to those of overt sexual incest. They find expression in feelings of guilt and inadequacy, due to the inability to bear that immense emotional burden placed on the child. It is worse if that inability is met with criticism and abuse.

The guilt and fear of abandonment outlast childhood and create an adult with a stifled self-identity and who is a pleaser and a perfectionist. It is only in constant approval that they find worth.

For others the only answer to fear and mistrust is to give emotional intimacy a wide berth. They will avoid all close relationships, refusing to even have a child, or they will be sex addicts, seeking out brief sexual associations, especially with strangers, so that there is no possibility of forming intimate attachments.

- MyNews24


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