Can you marry your parent? (Yes or No?)

In this blog post, we answer the following question: Can you marry your parent? We speak about the Oedipus complex in adults, which in most of the cases is the reason why a child would like to marry his/her parent. 

Can you marry your parent?

No, you cannot marry your parent, not even if you are adopted. According the Marriage Act from 1986, a child cannot have sexual relationships with his parent. This is considered incest, and it is against the law.  

Nor may they marry each other:

1. Relatives in a straight line by consanguinity or adoption.

2. Inbreeding collaterals up to the third degree.

Not just parents, but we’ve seen people asking if they can marry their step-mother. To understand whom you can marry and whom you can’t, it is important to know the marriage laws in your country.

Impediments for having family ties with the other party

a) Impediment of consanguinity in a straight line: grandparents with grandchildren, parents with children, or collateral line: between siblings, between uncles with nephews, between cousin-brothers, etc. (c. 1091). 

The fundamental features of this impairment are as follows: it is always an impairment in a straight line (grandparents, grandchildren, parents, children) and in a collateral line up to and including fourth grade (uncles, nephews, and cousins-brothers). The local Bishop can dispense the marriage between first cousins.

b) Affinity impairment (c. 1092). Affinity is understood as the relationship or legal link that exists between a spouse and the consanguineous of the other (not between the consanguineous of the one and the consanguineous of the other). 

The general principles to be taken into account are: It is only an impediment in a straight line; it is not collateral (for example, it would be an impediment to claim marriage with the mother of the deceased wife, but not with his sister). His dispensation corresponds to the Bishop of the place.

c) Impediment of public honesty (c. 1093). This impediment arises from the almost affinity that exists between those who have contracted an invalid marriage and the consanguineous of the other spouse, and of those who live in public and notorious concubinage and the consanguineous of the other party. 

Regarding this impediment, it should be noted that it is not necessary that the invalid marriage or the concubinage has been consummated, it is enough that life in common has been established. Its application is reduced to the first degree in a straight line; the Bishop of the place can dispense it.

d) Impediment of legal relationship by adoption (c. 1094). It is the relationship that arises from legal adoption and is an impediment for those who are united by it in a straight line (stepfather-stepdaughter; stepmother-stepson), or in the second degree of the collateral line (stepbrothers); it is a dispensable impediment by the Bishop of the place.

From this list of impediments that originate the nullity of canonical marriage, we already said that there are some that can be dispensed or acquitted and others that are not. 

For example, a dispensation is never granted from the pre-existing impediment of bonding or previous marriage (bigamy) nor from the impediment of consanguinity in a straight line (grandparents with grandchildren or parents with children or between siblings). 

There are dispensations that are reserved only to the Apostolic See or the Pope (impediment of sacred orders, a perpetual public vote of chastity, conjugal) and others to the local Ordinary or Bishop (such as age, a disparity of cults, a kinship between cousins, etc. ).

If the spouses persevere in their desire to remain married having an impediment that can be dispensed, their marriage can be validated; It is what we would call the validation of marriage, which can be simple validation (canon 1156) if it is a marriage annulment due to an impediment, or it can be a validation of root healing (canon 1161) if it is a defect in form.

Learn which family members can you marry in the UK to save yourself from uncertainty and humiliation.

How can a child fall in love with his parents?

During childhood, certain emotional attitudes towards parents may correspond to the so-called Oedipus and Electra complexes, common in the stage of affective development of children.

It may sound crazy, but it is real: we can fall in love and have a sexual attraction to our parents. They are the Oedipus and Electra complexes and they manifest themselves, above all, during childhood.

According to Greek mythology, the Delphic oracle had warned Laius, king of Thebes, that his own son would kill him. To avoid the prophecy, the king abandoned him to his fate. The boy was later found and adopted. Growing up, and without knowing who his father was, Oedipus killed him in a fight and fell in love with his mother.

The Oedipus complex presents itself from the child to the mother; the Electra complex, from the girl to the father. The explanation given by the science to this type of behaviour has to do with the identification that children have with the fatherly figure (in boys) and maternal figure (in girls). Imitation leads to feelings of admiration that can be mistaken for love.

In adulthood, if you still want to marry your parent, we may speak of an unresolved Oedipus complex in men and Electra complex in women.

Below we will mostly talk about the Oedipus complex in adult men, however, you should know that the information is valid for the Electra complex also. 

Oedipus complex in adults

There are people who fail to overcome this stage of development and become 30 years old or older and are stuck at that stage of their life. At this time, the Oedipus complex or syndrome becomes pathological and must be treated.

It is interesting to note that there is a variant of the Oedipus complex in women: the Electra complex. This was elaborated by Carl Gustav Jung and is also based on classical mythology and is defined as follows:

Adult women with an Electra complex are characterized by developing a strong bond with their father, similar to romantic attraction. These women have strong conflicts with their mothers, who are perceived as rivals.

Symptoms of the Oedipus complex in adults

When the adult man fails to overcome this normal stage of development and remains stagnant in it, a series of characteristic behavioural and psychological symptoms appear that identify them.

Some of the most common symptoms of Oedipus complex in adults are as follows:

  • Exaggerated closeness to the (step) mother (they see or talk to each other on the phone every day, they admire her in an exaggerated way, they put her as a priority above all, even before the wife or girlfriend)
  • Frequently asks for the (step) mother’s advice and consent to make his own decisions
  • Sometimes they may experience sexual impotence because the mother’s unconscious sexual desires are suppressed every time she experiences sexual arousal.
  • They are more likely to have partner relationships destined for failure.
  • They often fall in love with the impossible.
  • They may still be financially dependent on the (step) mother
  • They tend to change partners constantly since they fail to feel full. This occurs because it is very difficult for them to mix tenderness and love with sexual desire. In other words, they cannot see the wife as a partner and lover at the same time.
  • They show a great inability to form stable relationships
  • They tend to relate romantically to older people.
  • They may fear being intimately related to another person.

Consequences of not having overcome the Oedipus complex

The fact that an adult has not managed to overcome this stage in childhood or adolescence can bring with it a series of psychic repercussions that will be preventing him from leading a normal and satisfactory life. These repercussions affect you in one or more areas of your life and some of them can be described this way:

  • He will have serious difficulties to mature psychologically and develop his own character because it depends almost entirely on the mother’s opinion.
  • It will be more difficult for him to be self-sufficient by not becoming financially independent.
  • He will experience constant feelings of frustration due to his inability to maintain a stable relationship.
  • More likely to have partner conflicts
  • Difficulties in achieving your his life goals and objectives

All these situations are linked to suffering great emotional instability and lack of emotional, psychological and sexual maturity.

Oedipus complex in adults: solution and treatment

The Oedipus complex can be solved regardless of the age of the person. However, we must be aware that if it is deeply rooted it is not always so easy, but with enough motivation and willpower it can be achieved. Some useful tips to deal with it, are those that we detail below:

Recognize the problem

The most important step to overcome it is for the adult who suffers from it to recognize that they have this problem. Why is it most important? Because you cannot wish to overcome something that is not recognized in itself. You must recognize and become aware of what is happening and how it is affecting your daily life as this is essential to find the motivation and the willpower to eliminate it.

Release the “privileges” of being a child

Surely there is a resistance to “grow” for fear of taking charge of her own life and taking responsibility for herself, which in this case the mother has never encouraged. However, now that you are an adult you are starting to do something to detach yourself from that role as a child and start making your own decisions. How to do it?

You can start by identifying what you really want no matter what your (step) mother thinks or says and carry it out, another very important question is to stop prioritizing it above all things, especially when romantic relationships are established where the couple happens to be a priority, moderate in terms of visits and phone calls, seek to be financially independent and above all not be afraid of not always obtaining their approval.

Remember that it is necessary to cut the cord of emotional and / or economic dependency and accept the game to become a mature and independent adult.

Go to a professional

If you notice that the problem is persistent, it is affecting you in one or more areas of your life, you feel that you cannot fight it alone and / or you would just like to receive external help to overcome it, it is necessary that you go to a psychologist to provide you with the tools you need to face it as well as to support you in this process.

You might as well like to if you can marry your adopted sibling?


In this blog post, we answered the following question: Can you marry your parent? We spoke about the Oedipus complex in adults, which in most of the cases is the reason why a child would like to marry his/her parent. 

If you want to marry your parent, you should know that it is illegal. Also, we recommend seeing a specialist, that will not judge you but will help you understand what is happening in your relationship with your parent.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

References – Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Act 1986   -FORBIDDEN MARRIAGE LAWS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM -Forbidden Marriages