For most people, the first thought that arises when hearing the word incest is a shocking taboo. You might be the same way, and that’s perfectly normal- in its original definition, incest indeed refers to a carnal relationship between family members or close relatives.

However, incest is not solely restricted to the physical and sexual. There are different kinds of incest that can occur in different people as a result of various sexual habits or behaviors. One of the most common – yet least talked about – forms of incest is completely non-physical. It’s known as covert incest.

What is Covert Incest?

Covert incest, also known as emotional incest, is a nonphysical form of incest that occurs in parents. Most often, parents who raise their children in the dynamic of covert incest are already  struggling with an underlying problem with sex or intimacy, unaddressed personal trauma, or an untreated sexual addiction.

Covert incest is a form of incest that’s non-physical. It usually occurs in adults who crave the emotional intimacy that is typically provided by another adult. If they can’t find the emotional connection that they need in personal relationship with another adult, they will begin to seek that connection in their other close relationships.

Covert incest is not always the result of an underlying sexual desire, though that can certainly contribute to the problem If, for example, you were a man seeking to fulfill your emotional needs during sex with your wife, your wife must also desire an emotional intimacy to reciprocate your needs when you have sex.

If your wife prefers to keep sex an act of physical intimacy, and prefers to have her emotional needs met in a different way, you will be left with an unfulfilled need for emotional intimacy.

Though you may not realize it, you will most likely begin to search elsewhere for the connection you desire. If your needs are not met by the time you have kids, you’ll probably begin to seek this energy and connection from your children, since theirs will be the next closest relationships you have.

Examples of Covert Incest

A couple examples of common forms of emotional incest are as follows. Keep in mind that expressing kinship and love for a family member doesn’t constitute covert incest. Families are built upon love.

It’s only when these emotional bonds become unhealthy attachments, develop unrealistic expectations, or begin to cover up ulterior motives or cross boundaries that they become incestuous and problematic.

Daddy’s girl.

We’ve probably all heard someone be called a daddy’s girl. In most cases, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What most people call a daddy’s girl is just a young daughter who has a fantastically intimate relationship with her father.

This becomes a problem when the father begins to seek emotional fulfilment from his daughter. If he is not getting the emotional connection that he needs from his wife, he may subconsciously place the role of surrogate wife on his daughter.

This will put her in a position that she may not be capable of handling energetically. The father may create a codependent relationship with his daughter in which he relies on her to fulfill emotional needs which are unrealistic. If this continues, the codependency may last long into adulthood.

Many children who are victims of covert incest grow into adulthood showing similar signs as children who were victims of physical incest.

Mama’s boy.

A similar dynamic occurs in the relationship between a ‘mama’s boy’ and his mother. If the mother is not energetically or emotionally fulfilled by her husband, she may instinctively try to have her needs met by her son.

This can be seen in situations where a mother favors her son over her daughter, or when she spends unhealthy amounts of time with him or expects him to cater to needs that she, as a mother, should be capable of fulfilling herself.

Recognizing emotional / covert incest

The first step to overcoming a problem with emotional incest is admitting that you have a problem. This is also the hardest step – particularly because of the stigma associated with the word incest. It might be easier to address the problem as ‘codependence’ or ‘meeting your needs.’

There’s no shame in having an emotional dependency like this – many people do it, and many continue to do it for their whole lives. The important factor here is that you are recognizing the problem and trying to make a difference.

Overcoming the problem

To beat the problem, you need to find out what you’re lacking in your current relationships. This will require you to subjectively look at your needs, desires, likes, and dislikes, without restriction. Look at your relationships objectively and try to determine what’s missing. Ask yourself what you would have in abundance in your ideal fantasy relationship.

Many people have difficulty facing themselves – therapy could be helpful in getting you to understand your emotional needs.

The next step is to discuss these needs with your partner or the person in the unfulfilling relationship. Tell them about these needs and express your concern about trying to have them met through other family members. While they probably won’t be able to immediately conform to your needs, you can at least open an avenue of honest communication and work toward fixing the problem..

There are support groups dedicated to emotional incest that might be helpful if you are struggling with this problem. Many types of holistic consulting and therapy could also help you identify the root of your problem.

Why Covert Incest Remains Under the Radar
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