Being in love is the most special feeling in the world. Those butterflies in our stomach make us feel like we can do anything.
However, there should be limits for everything, even for loving someone. Loving someone blindly and without any conditions can make you lose yourself.
People have a hard time understanding that setting boundaries is important for their well-being and mental health, as well as their relationship; that’s why many people end up in an enmeshed relationship so often.
What does the term enmeshment mean? What does it mean to be in an enmeshed relationship?
Enmeshed relationship definition
The family psychotherapist, Salvador Minuchin, introduced the concept of enmeshment into psychology and psychotherapy to describe family enmeshment.
With this term, he wanted to describe family relationships when two or more family members have a symbiotic emotional connection.
That means that they absorb feelings from each other and they start having the same emotions as the other family member.
To be clear, enmeshment doesn’t only happen in family relationships. It can also happen in an intimate relationship.
An enmeshed relationship is any relationship where partners have unclear personal boundaries and as time goes by, they become emotionally dependent on each other.
They start feeling each other’s emotions. They basically become like identical twins. If one of them is happy, the other one is too. If one of them is angry or depressed, the other one turns angry or depressed.
It’s just like they sense each other. They don’t know how to function without that other person. They become one.
If one of them goes on a business trip or if they have to be separated due to some other obligation, they feel a strong sense of separation anxiety.
They basically can’t live without each other. That feeling of loneliness makes them crazy because they got so used to that other person.
It’s not a secret that previous generations were loose in setting personal boundaries in a relationship and like many other things, that pattern was inherited by the next generation.
These people are never aware that their relationship is enmeshed and that’s why they act like they don’t need help.
Unfortunately, they do ASAP. And the sooner they realize it and seek help from a psychotherapist, the sooner they’ll be able to overcome it.
It doesn’t just affect their relationship, it also affects their mental health and it leaves them with self-esteem issues.
If you want to know what the most common signs of an enmeshed relationship are, keep reading below.
Signs of enmeshment in an intimate relationship
These kinds of relationships have no future. Both partners will become depressed and they’ll only suffer, no matter how much they love each other.
Here are some signs of enmeshment in an intimate relationship.
1. You feel their emotions as your own
You are no longer in control of your emotions. You become emotionally codependent on your partner. You become overwhelmed with feelings. You become too emotionally intense.
You feel how they feel. If they’re angry or depressed for some reason, you are too, even though you don’t have any reason to feel that way.
You think that sharing their emotions would somehow help them deal with those strong feelings but this is wrong. Only they can help themselves by calming down.
The only thing you can do for your partner in that kind of situation is to be there for them if they want to talk.
If you both feel those intense emotions, it’ll only lead to conflict. Those strong feelings will keep you from thinking clearly and you may say or do something you’ll regret later.
2. You don’t have any personal space
Let’s be honest; we all need some time alone and personal space from time to time. We have different interests and we want to devote ourselves to them.
You need to be alone with your thoughts from time to time, to think about your life, to think about whether you’re pleased with where you are in life or if you need to change some things.
In an enmeshed intimate relationship, a fear of abandonment is constant and that’s why both partners are afraid to take some alone time.
They are actually afraid of being alone because they think it’ll reflect badly on their relationship.
3. You avoid conflict with your partner
Every time you start a fight or you get into a conflict with your partner, you both cool down immediately and make things right again.
This is also because both of you are afraid that a fight might end your relationship.
You don’t think that you can live without your significant other and you’ll avoid fighting even over some bigger issues, just to save your relationship.
Conflicts are actually good for every healthy relationship. We are all different and it’s normal that we all have different views and opinions.
You shouldn’t be afraid of saying your opinion or how you feel about some things and of course, your partner might not like it or have different opinions about that same thing.
4. You have a fear of abandonment
They’re the center of your life. Hell, they are more like your whole life. You’re ready to do whatever they ask you to or whatever you feel is necessary to keep them in your life.
You truly consider your partner your other half and you don’t think that you could survive if they ever left you.
Wrong again. You’re a whole person on your own, you don’t need anyone to complete you.
Yes, sometimes, destiny won’t be on your side and some people will abandon you but so what? Keep that smile on your beautiful face and wave them goodbye.
5. You have lost your identity in this relationship
Before this relationship, you had your own interests, you had some hobbies. You had friends and you hung out with them whenever you could.
You had dreams, goals, some plans for the future… You knew your worth and you knew what you wanted from life.
Now? That has all changed. You poured too much of yourself into that relationship and it cost you to lose yourself, to lose your identity. Now, everything that’s important to you is your partner and your relationship.
6. You have become too dependent on your partner
You talk to your partner about everything and you consult them before you do anything. You ask their opinion about your looks, your clothes and even about some stupid little things.
The moment you start asking for your partner’s permission to go out with friends or to go visit your family is when you’ll know that your relationship has become toxic and unhealthy.
7. You have a lack of control over your own life
You don’t have control of your emotions anymore and that’s why you have stopped being in control of your own life.
You let your partner control it. They’re like the dominant figure in your relationship and they make all the decisions.
Signs of an enmeshed relationship between a parent and a child
Siblings have a strong bond and that’s why they should be close. Unfortunately, however, a lot of families become dysfunctional because they have relationships that are too close.
Being raised in an enmeshed family leaves almost irreparable consequences for each sibling.
Parents and children in an enmeshed relationship should admit they have a problem as soon as possible and start with family therapy if they want to make their family relationship functional again.
The signs of an enmeshed family are written below.
1. Displaying consistent favoritism toward one child
Parental favoritism is a thing, no matter how much parents deny it or try to hide it. It’s the most obvious sign of an enmeshed family relationship.
Spending so much more time with one kid than with others, showing affection through buying nice things only for one kid, only one kid gets privileges…
Favoriting one kid will have negative effects on your other children. They’ll have self-esteem issues. They might shut themselves off or they might express their dissatisfaction through aggressive behavior.
2. A lack of healthy boundaries
Such parents just can’t say NO to their kids. There are no boundaries at all and the children are allowed to do whatever they want to.
A lack of boundaries creates an inappropriate role between a parent and a child. They invade each other’s personal space, so there is no privacy at all.
3. Parental over-involvement
Some parents are too controlling, even with their adult children. They want to know everything about their kids.
They want to know whom they hang out with, how they spend their free time, with whom they chat on their social media, what they eat and even their web browsing history.
It’s not that they just want to know all this stuff, they also want to control it and determine whom their kids can hang out with and suchlike.
4. Putting too much pressure on a child
Of course, you want nothing but the best for your children, we all do. But you can’t push them to do something they don’t want or like.
You should remind them how much they are worth and what they deserve.
You have to encourage them and bring out the best of them but you should never put too much pressure on them. That’s how you’ll only harm them.
If they fail to please you, they’ll feel like they aren’t good enough or that they haven’t made you proud.
5. They become best friends
There is nothing wrong with having a relaxed, friendly relationship with your kids. However, some parents become overly close with their children and they become best friends.
Parents use them as their emotional support and they start sharing all their secret with them.
Sometimes, a parent forgets that they are actually talking to their kid, not their best friend, and they confide in their children with some problems they have in their marriage, which can leave some negative effects on their kid’s mental health.
The consequences of enmeshment
We’ve already seen how bad enmeshment truly is for all relationships. The bottom line is that it leaves huge consequences on each person and repairing the harm is difficult and it takes so much time.
One partner becomes codependent on the other or a child becomes codependent on their parent. They don’t know how to communicate effectively.
They seek the approval of the other person for everything they do because they value it more than their own opinion.
Most people aren’t happy in these kinds of relationships, so they find comfort in food or they become too depressed to even eat, which is why they get a mental health condition like this.
Mental health issues
As well as eating disorders, there are many more mental health disorders that can be a consequence of enmeshment. For example, intermittent explosive disorder or depression.
Problems with self-confidence
This is a huge problem that will affect all aspects of your life. No matter what you do, you’ll always think that something is wrong with you or that you aren’t good enough.
Not being able to maintain any relationship in the future
Because of these mental health conditions and self-esteem issues, you’ll have difficulties with maintaining relationships in the future, for sure.
You’ll never be able to fully commit to someone or be comfortable around someone new.
How to fix an enmeshed relationship?
Fixing a relationship that is enmeshed may be difficult and it may take time to do it but it’s totally worth it. You’ll get a healthy family or a healthy relationship again.
Here are some sure-fire ways to help you fix enmeshment in your relationship.
1. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries isn’t so difficult; you just have to be confident and patient. You have to talk to your kids or your partner a lot and tell them what are some of the things that you aren’t okay with.
You have to show them that they have to respect your boundaries and you should never allow anyone to cross them.
Decide what are some things that bother you or that you don’t like and put some limits on them.
However, you have to know that setting boundaries is a process and that it’ll take time, which is why you should be patient and not quit.
2. Pay attention to your self-relationship
Your self-relationship is more important than all the other relationships in your life. It is the foundation of all other relationships in your life. That’s why you need to work on self-love.
One of the reasons why your relationship became enmeshed is because you forgot about the relationship with yourself.
Who says that you need to fulfill only your partner’s emotional needs? You have to fulfill your needs first.
Take a long bath, read that book you wanted to read for a long time, buy yourself something nice. Do what makes you happy. Go out. Enjoy life.
You’ll see that life is beautiful when you do nice things for yourself.
3. Make connections outside of this relationship
Your toxic relationship made you lose your friends? Well, now is the right time to call them and apologize and ask them out.
Visit your family. Tell them how much you missed them. You were too busy to visit them more often before but now, promise them that it’ll change.
Don’t be afraid to make some new friendships. Ask some of your colleagues out or find a friend online and ask them to meet and hang out.
4. Work on your self-esteem
How you see yourself means everything. If you don’t think that you are good enough or that you’ll never find someone if your partner leaves you, then that may become true.
That’s why you need to work on your self-esteem. You need to have more confidence in order to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and with others.
If you have enough self-confidence, you’ll know what you deserve and you won’t allow anyone to disrespect you or treat you less than that.
5. Don’t be afraid to speak up when necessary
If you don’t agree with your partner about some things, you shouldn’t be afraid to tell them. Your opinion matters.
It’s all about equality in a healthy relationship. You have to be included in the decision-making process.
If you don’t like some decision of your partner or family member, you have every right to speak up and give your opinion about it.
6. Acknowledge and face your feelings
Your partner’s feelings are only theirs and you have nothing to do with them. You can’t feel the same as them all the time.
You have your own feelings and you have to acknowledge this. Don’t suppress your feelings because you think that your partner’s feelings are more important.
7. Try family therapy
Why not? If you can’t deal with the problem of enmeshment on your own, seeking professional help is a great idea. Psychotherapists will help you deal with it in the healthiest possible way.
Enmeshed relationships are unfortunately so frequent today.
You don’t have to leave your partner or move your enmeshed parent out of your life, you just have to work hard on your relationship to make it healthy again.