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Childhood Covert Incest and Adult Life

Dashiell, a 29-year-old CPA, first came to see me after his self-described “healthy sexual appetite” went from fun to over-the-edge to addiction. In our initial assessment, Dash told me his sexual behavior had spiraled out of control, resulting in a string of reprimands at work (for downloading porn on company owned equipment) and eventually the loss of his job. Dash was also using “adult friend finder” apps, primarily Ashley Madison and Tinder, to seek out casual sexual encounters and prostitutes. Unsurprisingly, he was in deep denial about his sexual problems – justifying, minimizing, blaming, and deflecting like a seasoned addict. Nevertheless, his treatment motivation was high, even though he was hoping to not give up the escapist and highly compulsive sexual intensity that ruled his life.

7 thoughts on “Childhood Covert Incest and Adult Life

  • September 11, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Is there any other name for this when the enmeshed relationship is not sexualized, when a child or young adolescent may be burdened with care taking for the parent’s emotional needs without hearing details about their sex life or being exposed to adult things too early?

    • December 28, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      You’re not alone. I think it’s called the same thing. My whole childhood was this, extremely enmeshed and VERY sexualized. Lots of weird things. And also lots of other types of abuse. I’m so messed up now. But I’m healing. I am seeing an EMDR therapist who specializes in childhood trauma and abuse.

  • December 29, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    I am dating someone who experienced covert incest with his mom. Everything started out great and we have great potential but he is backing off because he feels smothered even though he sees great potential for us and has never dated anyone like me.

    I care enough to not cutband run but he has to work through this. Any advice for what I should or shouldn’t due in the process?

    • December 30, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      Hi Belinda. Thanks for asking about this. It’s a really difficult issue to deal with not only for the guy you’re dating, but for you, as he naturally feels reticence to let someone in thanks to the early-life abuse. My colleague, Ken Adams, has a great book on this subject, When He’s Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment. You may find this helpful.

  • March 18, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    My husband, 54yrs, started seeing a therapist (70yrs) twice a week several months ago – for his lying, deception, adultery. I attend two sessions – one a general intro type. During the second session the therapist referred to herself as his “surrogate mother.” I am sure I looked shocked as she immediately followed that up with a question seeking affirmation from my husband. “Isn’t that right? I am your surrogate mother.” I heard no words and was too shocked to see if he was nodding his head. We have not discussed it but I do need to know if this is appropriate or normal type of therapy. She also spent much of our 55 minutes sharing about her own marital issues, etc. Thoughts please? My gut tells me this cannot be a healthy therapy-patient interaction but am willing to accept that I should just wait and see.

  • May 8, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Okay I have been doing a lot of online research of this covert incest. I think my ex girlfriend if 3 years experienced this if not overt incest. I tried to help her open up many of times. She denies any abuse and tells me I’m sick for thinking such thoughts. Over the course of our relationship she has shared things with me that I just listened to & eventually put it all together. Her brother 2years younger use to spy on her and her sisters younger and older while they showered and dressed when he was 12-17(till last year when he moved out). Creepy, I know, her family justified his behavior as a curious teenage boy. That is completely inappropiate and happened more than once. Her father pierced her nipples when she was 14 years old. Bizarre!! Yes completely inappropiate. She had said she wanted them. Please. Someone was filling her head with sick thoughts whether acted apon or not. I witnessed with my own two eyes at a pool party her father shaking his penis through his swimming trunks literally one inch from her vagina. I was furious & her excuse was he was drunk. I said that’s not f**king normal!! That’s weird. Made me feel icky to see it happen. Her brother also always wanted to come stay while I worked nightshift all the time, mind you he has a live in girlfriend and wanted to come stay alone. I came home once and shewas walking around in her underwear right in front of her brother. Just them two there & Ive seen him stare at her ass several times. He would walk around with his hands in his underwear all the time. I told my grlfriend that isn’t normal behavior and again her excuse to being used to it was he always did that since he was a little boy. Her father talks about sex all the time and acts creepy around her. Background on the family the father and mother split when she was 2 and right after her brother was born. Her dad remarried and had another daughter. Her mother had another daughter and still to this day bounces in and out of relationships and has drug addiction problems.her father and stepmother are raging alcoholics and also swingers. Her and her brother lived with their mother till she was 9 and he was 7. Then both went to their dads. Her mother told me the few months of us together that she thought the father touched her when she was around 1-2 because she was swelling and red and started touching down there. CYS was involved but nothing was too convincing. I think she denies abuse bevaise she has an attraction towards her father. GSA, because her childhood was mostly with her mother. Now background on her. She started defecating in her pants daily when she moved in at her dads at age 9. Now this clearly isn’t health related because she was potty trained all those years til then. She lost her virginity at age 12 and there after slept with about 12 guys till I met her. That’s a lot for a young girl. She still till this day self mutilates and attempted suicide few times in early teenage years. She now all the sudden wants covered in piercings and tattoos. She also does not recall 90% of her childhood. Family members told me her amd her brother were constantly confused as a couple inmiddle school and high school because hiw close they were. I kind of wanted to think along the lines of Stockholm syndrome for this behavior. She is sexually attracted to her father and will comply with anything he wants and act like his wife and this is because he abused her and never set boundaries. Then inturn what was happening I think she began doing what was done to her to her brother and he became attracted to her. Oh yeah, he told me he lost his virginity at age 6. That is completely not normal. No child should even know what intercourse is at that age. Curiosity I could understand at that age but not penetrational sex. During our relationship it was great the first year and of course we had fights and moments of not talking. Her parents threw her out after 3 months of us dating because I guess that was theur “norm” with anyone she dated like they didn’t want her too close to anyone else. After awhile when signs were emerging and I’d question that she’d get explosively angery and deny any abuse. She became withdrawn and pushed me away. Completely emotionless and depressed. Our relationship ended because I told her brother about him walking around with his hands in his pants was disturbing and illegal in public. She was also constantly entertaining anyone who flirted with her and didn’t respect me. She cheated on me. And we split. She attacked me few times during and once after. I have to have surgery on my knee now. Anyways I’d appreciate any thiughts, ideas, concerns on how to get her help even though we aren’t together. About to call the Steve Wilkos show and expose their dirty family secrets. It’s disturbing and makes me sick.

  • November 22, 2017 at 8:30 am

    This article just described parts of my relationship with both my parents. My mother used me as an emotional crutch as a small child, and my father did the same when I was a teenager. Last 10 years I’ve totally cut myself off from emotional attachment with anyone, and have been struggling to work out just what is wrong with me, and why I do this. It was like a light bulb going off in my head when I read this. Strange how all these years I’ve felt like I had some kind of privilege of having this close relationships with my parents at some point, but they both ultimately dumped me when a better offer came along. I’ve always felt used by them, just couldn’t quite put my finger on what felt so wrong about it all. Thanks for this, its a good starting point to do some work on myself and perhaps move on to becoming a happier person.


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