Abused by my Mother by Emotional/Covert Incest


Sorry for the long post guys, I'm just trying to find other guys on here who have dealt with the same abuse from their mother as I have, it's a new discovery for me, although I always knew this abuse took place and affected my life, I had a hard time putting a context to it. Would like to hear other's stories on covert/emotional incest with their mothers, and how they dealt with it.

Here's some of my story:

I had originally come to this forum years ago because for the first time in my 35 years of living I was dealing with the sexual abuse I received from my father. I had been through a lot of therapy, books and support forums and truly feel healed for the most part.

And now after recently therapy sessions with my skilled therapist, who helped me uncover the hard to identify abuse from my relationship with my mother, I am now dealing with the lifelong effects of being abused by my mother through emotional or covert incest.

It's something that was hard to identify because there wasn't a common context or framework to which I had knowledge of and could examine it from. I always knew my mother was manipulative, insecure, needy and did not treat me with love as a child. In fact as a 41-year-old adult now I can honestly say I have no feelings of love or affection towards my mom. She has been so invasive in my life, and so destructive (in my opinion) in her other children, and grandchildren's lives that I am looking forward to the day she is not here anymore. It's fucked up to say that about your own mother but that's how I feel.

She never sexually abused me, so it was difficult for me to put a finger on what was wrong, especially when I was dealing with the sexual abuse I received from my father. But what I always knew that what she was doing was very subtle, and almost if not more effective in controlling my life.

For those who aren't familiar with the term yet, it is essentially defined as a parent who makes a surrogate spouse out of one of their children. This parent creates an inappropriate emotional bond between the child and themselves and the effects on the child can be lifelong and damaging, especially if they never become aware of the abuse. A good book on the subject is "Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners" by Kenneth M. Adams.

My mother had absolutely 0 boundaries with me, she was/still is deeply insecure, needy and narcissistic and this abuse I believe must have happened to me at a very early age because of the level of control she was able to have. She can get in my mind and my train of thought and get me to hear her voice whenever I am contemplating something or thinking about something. She put me on a pedestal and also manipulated me into thinking I had a mental health issue as another way of controlling me. She I believe was mentally ill at times. Her two marriages were not fulfilling and she leaned on me for support. Made me her companion when she was feeling lonely, I was forced to go shopping with her, go on trips or errands and also do anything around the house that she couldn't or didn't want to do, I was her little man. I was her object. Often in her room, while nobody was around she would make me rub oil or lotion on her feet. I was between 7 and 10. This gave her a lot of joy and pleasure, I remember her smiling a lot and making me feel good about what I was doing. This was a contrast to how she treated me in front of other people, often avoiding eye contact altogether but at the same time keeping constant tabs on me.

She also seemed to have a physical attraction towards me but never acted it out sexually. She would always comment on how my clothes looked, or my hair. But she would never say I was handsome, while my aunts and grandparents had no problem calling me handsome I believe she was afraid to do it out of giving any sign of her attraction. As an adult, I've caught her looking at me many times that gives me a really creepy feel, and when I look at her she looks away or acts like she wasn't looking at me. I've seen her stare at my genital area too and sensed that she got some rush or energy out of it.

I also believe she is attracted to children. Her whole life she spent around children, a daycare, then teaching preschool. She talks about them, and has a "need" to be around them, even babies, she objectifies them and gets her needs met through children.

I remember vividly the sense of her being jealous of my 3rd and 5th-grade female teachers when they would compliment me. Is this normal? I've always had fear as an adult of women getting jealous.

I have not been able to have a relationship that lasted more than 10 months, and I have had many relationships throughout my life, sexual addition to escape, and even given up on relationships altogether. I went to therapy again because I noticed that after moving back to my hometown, and closer to my mother I couldn't have a relationship with women anymore, nor did I have any desire, this is after I became mostly healed from sexual abuse from my father, so it was confusing to me why I felt stuck. The covert/emotional incest from my mother explained the reasons why. The book was incredible and told much of my life story with my mother. Now I'm trying to heal and making progress.

She made me her close confidant and confided with me many things about other people or her marriages, everything she said she said it as though it was not her opinion but fact, the absolute truth, most of it was gossip and putting others down. She liked it when is was weak, dealing with depression or anxiety so she could have more control over me. She got me to be closer with her and tell her basically everything that I was thinking. Again no boundaries.

I started dating a girl and noticed I was getting really jealous and insecure when something would happen like she would turn her phone off and not reply to my message. I start getting very suspicious of what she is doing and imagining all kinds of scenarios. She doesn't seem to be anything like my other which is a good thing. And I'm trying to remember that is my mother who was the shady one, manipulating and pretending to be something that she was not. I need to get this out from the shadows and put it in the right place so it's not affecting my relationships. I would like to have a loving relationship that leads to marriage and kids and I want to keep them away from my mother.

It's been a difficult journey with some progress recently. I'm just tired of having fucked up parents that have effectively ruined most of my life and kept me from experiencing long lasting true love.

Any help or advice is much appreciated, thanks guys
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TJ jeff

I want you to know that you are definitely not alone in your struggles

my mother had her own brand of manipulation (and still tries it when she gets a chance)

I get what you mean with the "Zero Boundaries" - my bedroom was the common landing at the top of the stairs on the 2nd floor of the house and it had no doors - just an open area for anyone passing through to see - the bathroom was on the other end so my room was always being gone through anytime someone needed to go upstairs, downstairs, or to the bathroom - I know that after I started getting my own money and started buying my own clothes (early teens) that my mother started making comments of how nice I looked - it was not uncommon while growing up to see each other in various states of undress - but I do remember that it made me a bit uncomfortable at times when my mother would make comments on how good I looked in my underwear (I hated tighty-whiteys (thanks uncle) so I started wearing colored bikini briefs as soon as I started buying my own) - after I got out of the military I went back home for almost a year - I had changed to colored boxer-briefs and was horrified when she started buying them for my dad (who had ALWAYS worn tighty-whiteys before)

I remember how much my mother disapproved of my 1st girlfriend - so I dumped her - and I still regret that to this very day

When I look back now I can see all of those times when I was clearly manipulated - sad I didn't see it then


Wow, this is really close to home for me. Since about the age of 3 I haven't felt comfortable with my mom, I felt as if she wanted to have sex with me. Over the years there were many things she did covertly, be flirtatious, give me compliments on my looks, be my confidant about my sexual identity issues, listen to me about my depression. She even started surfing so she could show up at my surf spots.

My wife is a good mom, and our 10 year old son is safe with her. She is a mom to him. I feel like I didn't have a mom emotionally, I was always afraid something sexual would happen. I can't remember feeling safe and getting a motherly hug from her. I feel very sad about this.

I have had to set boundaries with my mom over and over during the past 20 years. I even didn't speak to her for a year. She has no boundaries, wants what she wants, and doesn't remember the boundaries I have set. I moved across the country for college many years ago to get away from her. I am still 2000 miles from her.

I love her. She is a really cool person, nice, smart, fun to be with. But there is this other stuff that weighs me down, makes me want to cry. When I talk to her on the phone I blank out, sometimes I don't remember what was said. I still feel uncomfortable hugging her, and she has made my 10 year old son uncomfortable too. He can feel the vibe from her.

I've had sexual problems emotionally my whole life, partly because of this. Also because of the men who tried taking advantage of me sexually growing up.

Sometimes I feel so different and wonder what is wrong with me, why I am depressed or confused after all these years. But when I look at my past, it makes sense that I still struggle.

Thanks for sharing, I don't have any advice. But I can relate.



I feel identified with some parts of your story. In a nutshell, my father abused my sister overtly and my mother abused me "semi-covertly" and made me her partner. Apart from that they abused us heavily both physically and emotionally. I'm also 41 and, just like you, I only acknowledged my mother's sexual abuse very recently, about three years ago. You can read a more detailed summary in my introductory thread. I've also done a lot of therapy, although in my case the therapists were not so skilled, probably because I sabotaged my therapeutic process.

My mother is a psychopathic criminal, there is no doubt in my mind that the world will be a better place the day she dies.

I'm afraid I don't have any advice for you, I just hope that sharing helps us. I have done very significant progress in my healing process over the last twelve years, but from your post I feel you're more advanced in your healing process than I am. Currently I am stuck in a state of deep grief and depression caused by the constant discovery of new extents of the criminal behavior of my parents.

nomad510 said:
I have not been able to have a relationship that lasted more than 10 months, and I have had many relationships throughout my life, sexual addition to escape, and even given up on relationships altogether.
I'd like to hear more about that if you feel like sharing because I also tend to meet many woman, but in my case I always reject them very quickly, usually as soon as they show interest in having sex. I recently created a thread in which I describe one of the last cases.

Based on your recommendation I have just bought "Silently seduced". It looks like it might very relevant for me.
This is a hard thread to read, and I've started it several times. Maybe responding will stabilize me a bit. My mother, too, abused me covertly. She often had something to say to me while I was getting dressed, so that gave her an excuse to hang out at my door when I was in my underwear. There was something about the way she looked at me and she definitely made lots of comments. There were also times, in the morning, when she was also getting dressed, and she would some to my door with nothing on on top. I either had to turn away from my Mom as she was talking to me or look at her half naked. For a while in therapy I thought it would be good to list everything, thinking there would be, I don't know 5 incidents or 10 or 20. At some point, I gave up. It was about atmosphere, dynamic, things she said that could have been ok if it weren't for things she was also doing. There was also some touching, but it was all very subtle. I didn't recognize any of it as abuse at the time.She died 9 years ago, but I think she will always be in my head. When I notice a beatiful woman, I hear her saying, "I know what you're looking at." It's awful, really. I'm also convinced she abused my older brother, who in turn raped me. Still, what I would say is that even though my brother fondled and raped me, and my mother sometimes touched me, the covert abuse is as bad as or worse than all of that.


New Registrant
So much of this rings true. My mother most definitely put me on a pedestal. My childhood was a never-ending mix of auditions, rehearsals and performances. It started before even my earliest memories - I was modeling baby clothes for mail order catalogs before I could walk, and I continued to model for them into my teens. There were dance classes, youth theaters, the church choir. I even made it into a couple of TV ads that briefly made me a minor celebrity at school. But by the age of 9 it was becoming clear I wasn't going to be the star she believed I should be. I was always in the chorus, never the lead. To her it was an injustice. Sometimes she would rail against the people who she thought had unfairly overlooked me, but just as often she would rail against me, telling me to practice more, to try harder. The psychological and emotional abuse was there all along, though I didn't recognize it as such at the time. It just felt like a lot of pressure.

But looking back I can see there were other, more unsettling undercurrents that I didn't recognize, but which served as a foretaste of what would happen later. I naturally spent a lot of time in changing rooms, and up until I was 9 my mother almost always had a reason to join me. Though she wasn't the only mother who did this, she did it much more frequently than any other, and she was definitely the only one who would regularly wander into the boys' shower rooms at the dance studio. To me it wasn't a big deal, but to someone else it apparently was. I strongly suspect one of the other boys or their parents complained. For whatever reason, she abruptly stopped doing it when I was about 9. I'm certain that it was a combination of this, and her frustrated theatrical ambitions for me, that led to the subsequent, overt sexual abuse.


All of this is becoming very confusing, which is so frustrating after so many years of self help and therapy. The similarities of my story with yours, edge67, are striking.

My very blurred (or sometimes simply missing) childhood memories seem to reveal a first ten years of my life during which I was often praised. I wouldn't talk about pedestals, but it seems clear that my grandma, who was mainly in charge of my nurturing, considered me her favorite grandson from a grand total of ten. She would often call me "my little king". It was assumed that my intelligence would lead me to big things, whether it was working for NASA or curing cancer (fast forward to 2019 and I have been unemployed for years). While the surface looked nice and promising, a bit (but not much) deeper, there was the covert abuse of my mother towards me; the overt abuse of my father towards my sister; the oblivious abuse of myself towards my younger sister; the vicious abuse of my older sister towards me; the cruelty of my psychopathic mother organizing all of it; and the sadness of my unintelligent and uneducated grandma realizing that she was just uncapable of understanding, let alone protecting us from, the abuse of her own daughter.

When I was 10 my mother decided that she didn't want any more interferences from her mother or anybody else in the family, so she kicked her mother out of the house and made us relocate to Madrid, hundreds of kilometers away, to far for a child to stay in touch with anybody. Shortly after that all hell broke loose and the worst part of the very overt physical and emotional abuses started.


New Registrant
Silently Seduced should have been titled Silently RAPED. Married to His Mom should have been titled RAPED by His Mom. Even pioneering therapists have to water down reality...and that is a great disservice to those who have 'enjoyed' the dubious pleasures of mother-son covert rape or molestation.


Reading your experiences made me sad. I do believe boundaries are important, once a child is put on the pedestal, or is able to control the family or parent sides with child on parental issues boundaries have been lost. Why, the need of a parent to feel loved for whatever reason. Sometimes a parent does not have a meaningful relationship with their significant other, or their relationship with their other family from parent to siblings are so strong the other partner feels left out as do children. Children then can see these issues and sometimes become the surrogate to the other partner as to what is discussed, how decisions are made, putting the child in an adult world they are not ready to handle. A parent may begin to realize the impact of their negative actions had on a child and then overcompensates by giving everything to the child, including responsibilities and discussions that do not belong with the child. The lines become blurred and the child struggles to understand.

It is sad to read of your childhood because a child needs to be a child, not used as a surrogate, substitute for the child is not ready or mature enough to handle. Like CSA we were not ready and it impacted our ability to love ourselves and in many cases develop a meaningful and lasting relationship. You are facing and accepting what has happened to you, in time I hope you find those meaningful relationships and accept you were the child and the victim. Take care and I hope you find peace with yourself.

Silently Seduced should have been titled Silently RAPED. Married to His Mom should have been titled RAPED by His Mom.
I completely agree with this. You see this all the time in the mainstream news - female abusers are described as "having sex" or even "relationships" with their underage victims. Men are just described as raping their victims, which is true and should be descriptive of rapists of BOTH genders.


Hello Nomad. Sorry about all you have been through. It is especially disconcerting to have your mom do something like this. I was not physically abused by my mom, but she allowed another to abuse me and although it took me several years to realize, she enjoyed that abuse. Perhaps it was a sexual outlet for her, or some other deviant need. All I know was I needed her to protect me and she not only refused, she enjoyed my suffering.
Nom, So sorry you have had to deal with all of this dysfunction instead of the loving family we all deserved to have.

I can very much relate to your story - Definately my mother crossed the line and was emotionally overly dependent upn me; and that messed me up in other ways. As an adult I would continuously re-direct her back to her husband (step dad #2). Me moving to another state helped a lot!!

Was it abusive? probably.

I still love and respect her for how she was able to raise us 3 kids with limited resources after our father left (pedophile - we "aged out").

In her eyes, I could do no wrong - this drove my 2 older sisters nuts! I was very spoiled in their eyes, perhaps I was -- but in unhealthy ways.

This was especially true during the in-between times, between marriages (she had 3). When I was a senior in High school, she left Step Dad #1 and by then my 2 older sisters had moved out on their own. the 2 of us moved into an apartment near my high school until I graduated, and then back to another town over the summer until I left for college. Like you, I was a "surrogate spouse" though she did have friend s she relied on as well, I was still her "go-to" special friend.

I know later she was very jealous of me and my success: "no matter what he always comes out smelling like a rose" she once said, while drunk and didn't know I could hear her.

She also liked my apperance a certain way. Even as an older adult, she wouldn't like how I changed my look when it displeased her.
Perhaps our "dysfunctional relationship" was not as severe as yours. Then again I have had about 15 more years of life to heal from it.


New Registrant
Howdy. Been a member for a while but am first-time sharing. I, and , several of my clients have benefited from reading these two books both by psychologist Ken Adams, PhD: "Silently Seduced" & "When He's Married to Mom". NOTE -- Don't read these books unless your in therapy and/or have done a tremendous amount of work with supports in place. Lastly, throughout the year Dr Adams hosts & facilitates intensives for mother-enmeshed men. Live Godspeed.


This is familiar to me, including the blanking out which still comes up sometimes.

What I have struggled with is having a good goal when it comes to a healthy relationship with my Mom.

It has been a lot of work, and the fear associated with it is indeed harrowing. But I have also come to consider the goal of healthy detachment as a worthy purpose. In some ways it transcends a rigid idea of boundaries for me.

What I mean is that boundaries can also be taxing when they must be held by a lot of vigilance and fear. But when I acknowledge that difficulty, I also come up with a healthier image of what the relationship might look like.

There have been times when I have experienced that healthy detachment. My Mom has even come around to notice when things feel creepy between us.

It has been a lot of work, and there are times when patterns can kick back in where my guard is up again.

But I do have the peace of being able to care for my Mom in ways that I couldn't have before.

Thus is all to say that there is hope.

I also want to apologize if anything I have said here is triggering for some. It is a mighty battle with little relief in the distance.

But it can be won.



This has been one of the hardest issues for me. I still deal with the effects of my mom's behavior on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing


Another thought about this is that I never felt comfortable with my mom. I didn't feel that I could go to her as my mom. I always felt that something sexual could happen. This makes me sad.



Yes. The sadness is real. Anxiety can circulate without knowing it. This makes the experience of Mom just being Mom something else.

Maybe the feelings around sex get so charged and then confusing that what we would like with Mom becomes impossible.

When we haven't had the thing we might have been helped by, it is not easy to know if there is any place to start.

Sometimes I wonder if the inner experience is undervalued. It is hard to hold the pain with the sadness.

As a man, I will tend to look for strength. Knowing that I am not alone, and that I am a survivor helps. But strength can sometimes get in the way of my true experience. Being vulnerable is not about matching it with sufficient strength to protect myself. It is not about connecting the dots between vulnerability and being weak.

Vulnerability is what it means to be human, to love even that which was hard, and seemingly impossible. In that I try to find the words for myself first, that can be uttered as both honest and open to all feelings.

Being afraid and being vulnerable go together. They may mean the same thing. I try to feel the fear as much as possible because I know that it has been denied and abandoned by me.

Our Moms were human too. They were probably lost in their own journey at some point. They probably loved us and didn't know that they couldn't see us well enough to know that that love was not felt in the way they went about it.

I have felt the soul murder of it. That is what I am proud to have survived. Knowing that I couldn't choose my mother, or the times in which we lived can in a way be a starting point. While I could choose none of that, I can be wise enough to make myself known in ways that I ran from before.

It may also be that we have to speak up even when it is uncomfortable. Male sexuality is also open to harm. When my son was four my mother remarked that his voice was sexy. If my father had said this about my daughter, it would not have gone down so easily.

Every person can pay a price for being open emotionally. But then hope is something that lies near the heart.

I hope you will let in more of the feelings that can be shared, and when they are scary, don't let them go so fast that they cease to be part of life that is being lived.



Thanks FB, I love my mom. She is a good person, very loving and kind. She doesn't have boundaries though. Growing up, she was a practicing alcoholic, dated lots of men. I wouldn't be surprised if she was sexually abused. I miss her, the feeling that she is my mom and I can trust her. I lost that a long time ago. I put up wall around myself. This is an issue that is taking me a long time to work out.


You're welcome.

One thing that I have tried to do is focus on the feelings of shame as gently as possible.

When it is charged, shame is hard to control.
Gently sensing it, like approaching a child, it can relax a little.

Boundaries are about space in the long run. When we have space we can experience another person.

For a long time I made space for others that did not include me. Slowly I have found a way to do both. It seems to come when I acknowledge my intention.

My mother was sexually abused, although she doesn't call it that. What matters more is how I understand her, and how that has led to better communication.

I have also found that finding a feeling that can be shared safely is a place to start. Knowing what one feeling feels like and saying it while being present can let another know that there is a boundary between you and them. It ends with your experience and begins with theirs.

For years a part of me watched while I was busy building walls. Others fed my fear and encouraged me until I was exhausted. Like any emotion, fear can get out of control and lose a sense of flow.

Our Moms were probably too afraid to help with our fear. For a long time I took the fear in because it made me feel stronger. It may have given me a false sense bravery. It may have made me more enraged.

But now I simply want to accept and know it as okay. And maybe even let someone know I feel it, without being afraid of that.

Like pain, fear can get mocked by others who are not comfortable with it. But it is as natural as breathing.

Hope you will find a peaceful way to walk through this.