boundaries

Episode 7: Covert Incest

In this episode, Kimberly discusses “Covert Incest,” a type of abuse in which parents turn to their children for the emotional support and intimacy they would normally receive from a spouse or partner. When covert incest is present, a son or daughter feels more like a romantic partner than a child. There is a pattern of consistent boundary-crossings which leave the child feeling responsible for the parent’s emotional needs (which often leads to intimacy and sexual disorders in future relationships). There is typically no overt sexual contact, but rather, a nuanced ‘adultification’ of the child, where they end up feeling like a ‘surrogate spouse.’ Kimberly interviews Paul Gilmartin, comedian and host of The Mental Illness Happy Hour Podcast, who describes how the covert incest he experienced from his mother negatively impacted his sexual, emotional, and psychological development.