Too Close

Although many of us may come from emotionally disconnected families, some of us come from inappropriately connected ones. This might be the result of a “too close” bond with one of our parents. In her book “Emotional Incest”, Dr. Pat Love provides this checklist to help us determine if we are a “chosen child”.

  1. I felt closer to one parent than the other.
  2. I was a source of emotional support for one of my parents
  3. I was “best friends” with a parent.
  4. A parent shared confidences with me.
  5. A parent was deeply involved in my activities or in developing my talents.
  6. A parent took a lot of pride in my abilities or achievements.
  7. I was given special privileges or gifts by one of my parents.
  8. One of my parents told me in confidence that I was the favorite, most talented, or most lovable child.
  9. A parent thought I was better company than his or her spouse.
  10. I sometimes felt guilty when I spent time away from one of my parents.
  11. I got the impression a parent did not want me to marry or move far away from home.
  12. When I was young I idolized one of my parents.
  13. Any potential boyfriend or girlfriend of mine was never “good enough” for one of my parents.
  14. A parent seemed overly aware of my sexuality.
  15. A parent made inappropriate sexual remarks or violated my privacy.

If several to many of these statements apply to you, you may have (or had) an enmeshed relationship with one of your parents. Most often these overly close bonds are with the parent of the opposite sex.

The results can be manifold.

  • You may feel deep reluctance when trying to get a healthy distance from, or set appropriate boundaries with that parent.
  • You may feel a vague sense of violation, but feel guilty because of your belief that they were just showing love to you. And that may be true, but the difference is in the intensity of the connection and the motivation on the part of the parent.
  • Was the parent trying to meet your needs or was the parent trying to get their emotional needs met through you? Big difference. Often this comes from an absent or difficult relationship between your parents.

If you are a parent, and find yourself getting caught up in a too close relationship with one of your children you will need to back off. The solution is to work on your marriage or to find an adult same-sex friend to share your emotional needs with.

If you, as a married person, are having difficulty “leaving and cleaving” (appropriately forming a new family system) because of one of your parents, you may need to seek some counseling to get help setting healthy guilt-free boundaries. The same applies to single people who do not really feel free to pursue a relationship because of a needy parent.

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