Are you feeling suffocated by your relationships? Like you can’t tell where you end and your loved ones begin? Well, you’re not alone. In the 1970s, Salvador Minuchen coined the term “enmeshment” to describe this phenomenon. Enmeshment is when personal boundaries become blurred, and limits cease to exist in relationships between family members, partners, or spouses. It’s like being “too close for comfort,” where supporting your loved one becomes a balancing act with your own desires.
Enmeshment can take on different forms and degrees, but it often hinders individual growth and independence. This can be especially problematic for family businesses. In enmeshed relationships, people are defined more by the relationship than by their own unique identities. But fear not! There are ways to break free from these negative patterns. Setting boundaries, finding your independence, and pursuing personal development outside of the normative family dynamics are all key to overcoming enmeshment. So take a deep breath and start carving out your own path.
How do I know if my family is enmeshed?
Are you feeling like you and your family are in a tight knot that you just can’t seem to unravel? It’s not always easy to recognize when you’re in an enmeshed relationship, but with a little bit of awareness, you can start to see the signs. If any of these sound familiar, it might be time to take a closer look at your family dynamic:
- Do you find yourself unable to distinguish between your own emotions and those of a family member?
- Are you constantly feeling the need to rescue someone from their emotional turmoil?
- Or maybe you feel like you need someone else to rescue you from your own emotions?
- And do you and your loved ones have no personal emotional time or space?
Common Symptoms of Enmeshment
- You feel the need to keep to yourself and keep your personal feelings to yourself.
- Your parents want you to make them proud so much so that it border on unrealistic.
- You feel like you cannot disagree with family members.
- Your parent may share very personal inappropriate information on a regular basis. For example, a parent may share their personal dating life with their young child.
- If you have siblings, then one child receives more attention than the other.
- Your parent may treat you as their best friend.
- You feel as though there is no privacy in the house.
- If you are a young child, then you feel the need to take care of your adult parent.
- Your parent is overly involved in your personal affairs.
Okay, my family/relationship is enmeshed-now what?
If you are feeling trapped in a web of family drama and relationships that seems to suffocate your individuality don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s time to take control of your life and set some boundaries. Boundaries are like a shield that protect your emotional, mental and physical health. Without them, you can easily become enmeshed or codependent with others, leading to resentment, anger, and burnout.
But don’t worry, setting boundaries doesn’t mean you have to cut ties with your loved ones. It simply means finding your independence and furthering your personal development outside of the normative family dynamics. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but saying “no” to others or situations is necessary for individuation and learning to manage others’ demands on our time, emotions, and resources in a healthy manner.
If you’re struggling to break free from the enmeshment, working with a therapist experienced with family systems theory can help guide you through the process of individuating yourself from your family and realizing your own personal goals and aspirations. It’s time to take control of your life and start living on your own terms!