Enmeshed relationships can be disastrous. This is because those involved have not set any boundaries. People involved in such a relationship feel compelled to constantly meet expectations. They stop thinking about their emotional needs. They are always worried about exhibiting selfish behavior.
However, that is not true. A healthy relationship survives because partners choose to give each other space. Of course, they are available to support each other as and when the need arises. Today, we have the option of email, face-time, and so many other technologically enabled means.
These means allow us to spend time with each other. There is no need to be there physically. These technologically-enabled means are not a substitute for face-to-face conversations. But let’s face it they are extremely helpful.
Enmeshed means to be entangled in something. It could be a situation or a relationship.
The concept of enmeshed is not limited to relationships. An individual can be in an enmeshed relationship. He or she could be enmeshed in a dreading routine. Enmeshment is a problem, irrespective of the situation. For instance, imagine having daily arguments with your family.
This means that you are not giving them the required time and space. It could lead to enmeshment. These situations also arise when people are battling illness, trauma, or significant loss. To sustain the health of a relationship, you need to learn to set boundaries. These boundaries are permeable. But people should know where to draw the line.
Enmeshed Relationships: What does it mean?
What is an enmeshed relationship? A relationship is enmeshed when the personal boundaries are not clearly defined. This logic applies to any relationship. If an individual is part of an enmeshed relationship, it takes a toll on his or her mental health. Unfortunately, few people realize the dangers of being in an enmeshed relationship.
Boundaries in a relationship define the extent to which you will allow interference. It is important to understand that over-involvement can ruin the relationship. In such cases, people will experience a strong urge to break free. They will constantly be anxious and depressed.
Enmeshed Relationship Signs
1) Too much drama!
Enmeshed relationships are all about drama in the relationships. People overact in certain situations and create drama to hide something.
You are likely to come across people complaining about ‘drama’ in their extended family or relationships. These are usually situations where people feel it is mandatory to react to every issue. Opinions expressed in the family should be considered equally. Any member should feel free to speak their mind without the fear of being judged.
Being involved is good. But being there for everyone and everything can be stressful. In any relationship, the goal should always be to remain available for each other. Do not be intrusive or demanding. If someone is too concerned, it is a sign of enmeshment in the relationship.
2) Always picking sides
Enmeshed relationships are always about choosing sides. The constant stress of picking a side is difficult to digest.
Enmeshment in a relationship can be identified by the way the people react to each other’s decisions. It is like an unhealthy relationship thus it is difficult to sustain. For instance, two people are arguing in a group of friends.
Now, everyone else is asked to pick a side. This is a sign that the relationship is enmeshed. In a healthy relationship, people respect each other’s decisions. Interestingly, enmeshment occurs in family relationships as well as romantic relationships.
3) You are not able to define boundaries?
Where do you draw the line when it comes to your personal space in a relationship.
Sometimes one enjoys the extra attention and love from family, friends, or partners. But if it continues, the overdose can be suffocating! Everybody loves to have a company but not when it invades their personal space. If you see someone struggling with an issue, give them time to resolve it. Do not smother them with concern.
Respecting each other’s emotional state is a sign of a healthy relationship. For example, if the husband is battling anxiety issues, the wife should empathize with him, give him emotional support. Yes! Empathizing is normal but trying to experience the same emotion is wrong. It adversely impacts the mental health of the husband and the wife.
Family members are always there to help each other. Relying on them in times of stress is the perfect family therapy to get rid of stress. There are various types of equations in a family. Some families believe in giving everyone’s thoughts and feelings of equal space. Others do not give such liberty.
But at the end of the day, it is all about what keeps the family comfortable. There are two ends to the family behavior spectrum.
One end is where families are estranged. Members of such families do not talk to each other very often. Over a period of time, the situation becomes depressing. The other end is enmeshed families.
A family member of an enmeshed family is made to feel guilty for never doing enough. The healthy family lies somewhere in the middle.
Symptoms of Being in Enmeshed Family
- Members are unable to give each other any emotional space.
- They feel the constant need to fulfill the emotional needs of other people almost always.
- They will not be able to differentiate their emotion from others. This is because of the inability to separate from the emotional experience of others.
- They suffer constant emotional turmoil. This makes it difficult for them to focus on personal and professional development.
- Fighting and arguing will be a routine in such families.
- If you notice such symptoms in yourself or in the people around you, seek professional help. Just remember that it is important to ask for help and give the relationship a chance to heal.
Marrying into an Enmeshed Family
Healthy relationships take more than just time. They need effort, understanding, and compassion from everyone involved. If you are not willing to invest the effort, the relationship is headed towards a disaster.
For instance, if your partner comes from an enmeshed family. You are likely to find them more loving and caring. This also attracts you to your partner. However, marrying into an enmeshed family can get quite uncomfortable. If you are not used to the constant interference, it can end up breaking the relationship.
Enmeshed Mother Daughter Relationships
Research on Hispanic people associates enmeshment to a long life. Even in a parent and child relationship, you need to give each other independence. If you experience enmeshed behavior, it is time to sound the alarm.
Close relationships or close knit family, are well provided those involved understand where to draw the line. You need to set boundaries in every relationship so that it gets the space to grow. This applies to enmeshed mother-daughter relationships as well.
In her effort to be protective, a mother often ends up smothering her daughter with affection. She becomes extremely protective of the children. The mother fails to differentiate her emotional experience from her children.
Gradually, this overprotectiveness hampers their mental development. Instead, the mother must teach her daughter to be independent and responsible. The idea is to be there for your children yet teach them to manage things on their own.
The other extreme
Being in an enmeshed relationship is bad for your mental well being. But, there is another extreme to the situation. This is when people seek zero emotional involvement with their partners. Interestingly, the stability of a relationship depends on emotional involvement. Lack of involvement is also an extreme that tends to strain the relationship. However, such disengaged relationships are tougher to heal.
5 Tips To Unmesh Rather Untangle
Enmeshed families will need therapy to wean off the habit. This applies to enmeshed behavior exhibited in any type of relationship. The purpose of individual therapy is to help the person identify his or her emotional needs. It helps to reduce the reliance on the other person to fulfill these needs. Gradually, this independence heals the relationship.
The focus should be on maintaining a healthy relationship. That too, without being completely dependent on each other. Here are a few simple tips that can help you untangle the chain in an enmeshed relationship:
1) Start drawing a boundary
The issue of enmeshment arises because people do not set boundaries. So the first thing to do is to establish clear boundaries.
Taking care of the other person’s emotional needs is good but ignoring yours in the process is dangerous. It can affect your mental health adversely. Spare some time for yourself. Focus on understanding and fulfilling your expectations from the relationship. In a family, this could mean something as simple as spending a weekend away from your relatives. But if you feel like, ensure that you make the effort to do it.
2) Get some support
Breaking the chains of an enmeshed relationship is not an overnight process. Don’t hesitate to talk to experts and seek help
We have already talked about the dangers of being in an enmeshed relationship. If you notice symptoms of being in such a relationship, it is best advised to seek help from experts. They will also guide you on the efforts that you can take to gradually break the chains.
3) Connect with yourself
Have you been involved in an enmeshed relationship? Does the thought of being alone scare you? If the answer to these questions is yes, it’s time to man-up and face your fears!
People take time to come out of enmeshed relationships. This is because they are afraid of being alone. They are scared to feel left out. But that is not the case. You need to understand that everyone needs to spend some time alone. This is the only time when you get a chance to connect with your inner self. You can start by making new friends, cultivating new hobbies. You could even spend time to identify a new passion to pursue.
4) Set one goal at a time
There is a fine line of difference between a normal and an enmeshed relationship. So crossing over on the healthy side will take time.
We have shared simple tips that can help you maintain healthy relationships. But don’t try to implement it altogether. The idea should be to set small goals and celebrate their achievements. For instance, start setting small boundaries. Be clear about the level of intrusiveness that you are willing to tolerate in a relationship.
5) Move on
If the person on the other side is not willing to change, you need to accept that the relationship is toxic. It is bad for your mental well being so just move on!
Reducing the effects of enmeshment in a relationship will have implications on all involved. When you change your behavior, others in the relationship will notice. In most cases, they accept you and your decision to change. But there are extreme situations when they may not accept this change. There is a possibility that they may start pressuring you to get back to your old self. If that happens, you need to draw the line and pull yourself out of such toxic relationships.
Watch a video where Jerry Wise gives you important keys to overcome enmeshment –
And To Conclude
Those in an enmeshed relationship are often the last people to realize it. But, you need to keep your eyes open and identify the symptoms. If you feel suffocated in a relationship, you are headed for disaster.
Do not neglect your emotional well being. In such situations, do not hesitate to seek help. You need to work on resolving the issue rather than ignoring it and choosing to suffer. To understand how to untangle the ties in enmeshed relationships, it is important to be able to identify such situations.
A freelancer by profession, Kavita writes on a variety of topics, mental health being one of her favorites. Fond of traveling, socializing and meeting new people, most of her inspiration for writing comes from real-life scenarios as well as experiences. Her motto in life has always been to look for a reason to smile.