It’s Not a Child’s Job to Heal Their Wounded Mother
We need to break up with people who hurt us — especially if they’re our parents
My friend is in a relationship with her mother. Not a romantic relationship, but an emotional relationship nonetheless, and it’s not as rare as it might sound. Growing up, I envied the closeness the two shared — I, too, wanted a mom I could talk about boys with, party with, gossip with, and I thought it was kinda cool that they knew each other’s secrets.
Tyler and her mom were truly best friends, and at the time I didn’t see a single downside to that. But as we got older and the rest of us were establishing boundaries between ourselves and our parents, Tyler couldn’t seem to shake her mom. Ms. Taylor claimed squatter’s rights in the common room of our university quad, often made mommy-daughter plans with zero consideration for any preexisting plans we may have had, and implemented mandatory weekends at home despite campus being just 30 minutes away. And once we could legally drink, things really ramped up between the pair. Instead of spending spring break in Cabo with the rest of us, Tyler would go on a couples cruise to the Bahamas with her mother… and other actual couples. Things were getting weird, and Tyler was starting to notice.
It wasn’t until Tyler tried her hand at dating that we realized just how serious things had gotten. Eventually, she accepted that nothing of hers was off-limits to her mother — not even her love life. Ms. Taylor had taken the stance of, “If they can’t handle us, then they’re obviously not the right one for you.” When confronted about her inability to respect her daughter’s boundaries, all hell would break loose. Tyler’s mom would recount every dollar spent, every stretch mark bore, every night spent sleepless, every sacrifice made to give her daughter a decent upbringing. How dare she be so ungrateful? Especially since she was the parent that stayed, unlike Tyler’s chronically absent father. Wasn’t she owed something for that?
Well, not exactly.
Emotional incest, not to be confused with overt incest, is a type of abuse in which a parent relies on their child for the emotional support that would normally be provided by another adult. If you’re a parent, it can look like…