Enmeshed relationships are those that lack healthy boundaries. It is an emotional term that refers to unclear, frail or a complete absence of limits between people, usually in intimate relationships. It can also be a misdirected expression of love, or a means to control another individual.
Enmeshment creates dysfunction within families and leaves a legacy of heartache and manipulation.
A strong identity is a central part of our intellectual, expressive, and spiritual development.
We all undergo the attachment process as children and then begin the process of detachment from toddlerhood through adolescence.
Detaching is essential to maturity if we are must appropriately and wholesomely function as adults.
In most families, the detachment process is not encouraged, and this impacts on the development of the individual’s identity and create a blurry sense of self. Enmeshment ensures that we are undifferentiated from our partners or family.
The Dangers of remaining undifferentiated is that we do not grow into maturity and have to deal with our inability to maintain healthy and functional relationships. Another repercussion is the lack of confidence in making autonomous decisions because we have not been allowed to and have failed to practice functioning autonomously.
Signs That Your Relationship is Enmeshed
- Being independent is seen as a sign of disloyalty
- The use of the word I is a taboo. Instead, we or us is mostly acceptable
- You are not allowed to be your authentic self
- You were made to feel shame for saying no
- Your sense of worth is defined by the success of the relationship
- The relationship is found on the underpinning of control and submission, rather than equality and mutual respect for one another.
- You feel the need to rescue the people in your life from themselves and their negative emotion.
- You have little or no interest outside of the enmeshes relationship.
- Family members might feel betrayed when you try to do something different or autonomous.
- Your self worth is defined by how much you can do or accomplish for others.
- You find yourself taking responsibility for the feelings and choice of others.
Enmeshment is a toxic behaviour rooted in fear of loss, of abandonment and being relegated to the background of the other person’s life.
The quest to remain relevant and the satisfaction of having the other person depending on you are further reasons enmeshment is encouraged.
Tips to Overcoming Enmeshment
- Develop and Explore the interests outside of your relationships
- Emotional and sometimes physical boundaries are an essential step in learning how to overcome your enmeshment patterns.
- Acknowledge and respect your right to say “NO!.”