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Parental Inversion
And Substitute Mate

Parental Inversion is not an easy sin to hate. The difficulty is that it has become for many the noblest definition of life; Scripture readily justifies the sacrifice and service it involves. But God asks us to lay down our lives for others for His sake, rather than out of the impure motives of our wounded hearts.

The terms Parental Inversion and Substitute Mate describe the identity taken on by a child when a parent is unable or unwilling to fulfill his/her role. The parentally inverted child will carry the weight of care and responsibility which should rest on the father or mother, and this wounding will drive him/her through childhood into adulthood, where it will reap destruction in the individual and Ms/her relationships with others.

The role of substitute mate is a more serious type of parental inversion. Both identities must be put to death on the cross and new perceptions built into the nature.

For children are not responsible to save up (make provision) for their parents, but parents for their children. II Corinthians 12:14

Parental Inversion identifies those children who have taken on the role of a parent due to one or both parents being absent or ineffective as a result of death, divorce, sin of immaturity. The child tries to take responsibility, to fill the gap, or usurp the parental role.

Caution: Terms such as Parental Inversion are helpful for identification, but can be harmful if used as a label when ministering. Describe behaviors rather than apply names to clients, i.e., You have taken on a structure of Parental inversion, rather than saying "You are Parentally Inverted."

What does Scripture say?

The Bible tells us that parents are to take full responsibility for their children.
II Corinthians 12:14

Parents must provide appropriate boundaries and discipline "He (the deacon) must
manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect"

Parents are to supply the needs of the family. "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. "I Timothy 5:8

Parents are to call up the special gifts of the child, rather than trying to force a child into what the parent wants he/she to be. "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
"Proverbs 22:6

Parents are to model godly living. "A father tells his sons about Thy faithfulness." Isaiah 38:19

God established an order to parenting; when it isn't operating, the result may be parental inversion or substitute mate. The child enters into fear, saying, "who will take care of things?" The child will enter into striving, which is an impossible job for a child.
The child becomes proud of his/her adult role.

This can be built into the child by the parent with statements like; "I can always count on you to listen." "You're the man of the house now." "I don't know what I would do if you weren't here!" The child feels like things are up to him/her! He/she loses his/her childhood.

Adults who have taken on the structure of "Parental Inversion" see themselves as:

o Strong people who help weak people

o Caretakers, and protectors

o Problem-solvers

o Life-givers

o Inability to rest but extremely tired

o Need to make everything work

"Things will get done better and quicker if I do it myself." They tend to steal the initiative and gifts of others. They tend to "Ace out" spouse. (Instead of allowing spouse to be in on the decision making process, the PT tends to decide what is best.)

o Difficulty trusting others: mistakes and imperfections trigger

the need to step in.

o Difficulty trusting God: They see God as weak and needing help. They have an inability to say, "I can't do this."

o Sense of pride, "noble martyrs"

o Unreasonable fear: "IF I stop doing, my family's lives, my life, the world, will fall apart, and it will be my fault."

o Trouble handling confusion or disorder

o Denial: They have difficulty acknowledging when they are trying too hard or that they are pushy. They have trouble allowing, spouse to function.

Side note: They get angry with spouse for not doing what they should, but give no latitude for them to grow into that position. There is no tolerance for stutter steps or mistakes. The Fl wants to angrily take back the responsibility, and at the same time belittle their spouse
for his/her ineptness.

o Inability to feel. When troubles require attention, they turn off emotion and get logical; full of advice, but little "heart."

o Inability to be corporate and intimate with spouse and children. Although roots are with parents, fruits surface in relation to primary people in his/her life.

Healing for Parental Inversion

o Recognition: Help the client seek out and discern the truth regarding behavior and motives. Encourage client to ask spouse, friends, etc., to confront when he/she exhibits behaviors,
and be accountable to them.

o Prayer: Lead the person to ask the Lord to forgive he/she for taking God's job. For taking a role that he/she should never have had.

o Confess the judgements against the parents for stealing his/her childhood, and putting Mm/her in a position to take on a responsibility that he/she should not have, and for judging God for being to weak to handle those situations in his/her life.

o Repent for making these judgements against God and parents. Repent for taking the role that was not his/hers'.

o Receive forgiveness: This is a structure, habit and pattern that must be taken to the cross. Sharon and I have the person pray saying " Lord I have taken upon myself this structure of Parental Inversion, I repent for taking your job, and I pick up the Word of God like a sledge and I shatter the structure of parental inversion and put the pieces to death on the cross. No I give you back Your job Lord. In Jesus' Name.

o Support: Encourage new behaviors such as calling parents (if possible) to say, "I love you". Ask them to be aware of trying to control spouse, parents, and co-workers. If they become aware of this behavior, tell them to own it to disown it! "I see this habit. pattern, and structure and I am helpless to stop it Lord, so I put it to death on the cross and I ask you to give me a glorious opposite. In my weakness is Your strength." Tell them not to condemn him/her self over it, simply own it to disown it, and allow God to change him/her.

Substitute Mate

This is a more serious form of Parental Inversion. This condition is created when a parent relies inappropriately on a child of the opposite sex; for emotional comfort, or as a confidant. If the spouse is still in the home it undermines this relationship. It gives a child information that he/she should not have to carry, i.e., "You know, your father is not capable of supporting this family."

In the worst case scenario, for physical satisfaction.

o Sleeping with the child

o Excessive holding and touching

o Incest

Symptoms of substitute mate:

o All symptoms of "Parental Inversion"

o Seeking refreshment out side the home. This creates vulnerability to adultery,

o Sexual dysfunction can be caused by usurping the parental role, or dishonoring the other parent. Oedipus complexes, and sexual difficulties in marriage due to inappropriate feelings of guilt and shame. There is also a tendency to have intense but bidden hate and anger toward the parent of the opposite sex.

o SM is often a consequence of single parenting.

Single parents must be careful not to put this weight on their children. The church should fill the gap for these families, and the parent should ask for the help, setting pride aside. Healing for the condition of substitute mate.

The same process as Parental inversion with the understanding that there must be the recognition that there may be an unrealistic willingness to take over built on a base of fear, and giving in easily to parental coercion. The origin is lack of understanding, and lack of parenting.

Confession for the sin of taking your parents place, and God's job, and for incest (if this was part of the sin)

Forgiveness for parent must be practiced daily until it is fully accomplished in the heart. Repentance and change

See the prayer for Parental Inversion. When the client forgives his/her parent the driving force behind the behavior will be greatly diminished. It then becomes a matter of taking the habits, patterns and structures and putting them to death on the cross and asking God to give him/her a glorious opposite!

o Because many symptoms of parental inversion resemble those of performance orientation, it is important to make some distinctions. Performance oriented people believe they must earn their right to exist. Their concern is self-centered; their actions are designed to give them a sense of worth in the world.

Parentally Inverted individuals are moved by quite another concern: that of making things better in the family, and even the world. In this sense they are truly other-centered, taking undue responsibility for the well-being of those around them.

This is why, without understanding their own motives, parentally inverted people can hardly bear to hear that their actions might hurt instead of help, smother instead of give life. We must not accuse them of selfishness, for that would be unjust; instead, we must gently minister truth to these wounded hearts who try so hard to fix the world around them,

Recommended reading for this lesson Transformation of the Inner Man: chapter 17

A prayer for parental inversion...

Father, I thank You for caring enough for me to pursue me, to help me see that in my family the parental roles came to be reversed.
I see that I stepped in to fill the gap and, regardless of how necessary or how noble that mayhave seemed,
I recognize I was wrong. In usurping my ___________ s role, I denied my own childhood. You did not design my child's shoulders to carry such a heavy weight.

Lord, I forgive my parents for ____________ (what they did or did not do).
I confess that I have judged them as being __________ (be specific).
I ask You to forgive me for those judgements and the
bitterness they built in my head.

I also confess that I judged You, Lord, as being a weak God, one who needed my help. I
thought I had to do it for You. Forgive me for wounding You in that way.

I have avoided intimacy and corporateness. Father, forgive me for the way I have cut myself off from emotion. I know I did it as a child so that I could function, but now it is a defense mechanism in my life and I have hurt many people with my inability to feel. Forgive me for trying to take over for You and so control my spouse, my world.
I resign, Lord; I am not in charge.

Father, it frightens me to ask You to take charge of me and those I love and work with. But
I am tired. Bring my fear and my pride to death. I want to trust in You, to rest in You. I ask
You to speak peace into my inner being and calm my striving,
even as You calmed the sea.

a prayer for substitute mate...

Lord, I ask that You help me to forgive my ________ for pulling me into the role of spouse. I did not, could not say "no." I have had such mixed feelings! pride that I should be chosen; anger that the other parent did not fill his/her
role and protect me; and confusion because I was in a role I couldn't understand or fulfill.

Father, I choose to forgive myself f or acquiescing to the subtle coercion. I forgive my parents _________ (be specific about what they both did and did not do). And I confess and ask forgiveness for the unexplainable anger. Now I know it was toward mother and father and You,
Lord. Forgive me.

It hurts to see how this has affected my own marriage, my spouse, Lord. I see the damage it has caused and want it to stop. I invite You to bring it to death. Bring healing and restore to me, to us, the years the locusts have eaten. Put my relationships aright, Lord, including
my relationship with Father God.

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Site Last Updated October 22, 2023