What is an enmeshed relationship

Cassette tape - Magnetic tape

In my last article, I discussed the signs of enmeshment and how that can impact someone’s attachment style. You may have experienced enmeshment, or you’re dating someone who has, or you’re seeking breakup relief from a heartbreak. First, let’s see how enmeshment can turn up in how we behave in relationships.

Hide -Delay-Deny Impact on Enmeshment Survivors

People who experienced enmeshment with a parent or caregiver become used to putting other people first (in an unhealthy manner) to the point that they hide, deny or delay their own needs and wants. An enmeshed child can grow up still feeling the guilt of the past. For example:

  • You are not happy being your parent’s emotional sounding board/therapist but you can’t communicate your frustration or boundaries. (Hide)
  • You feel guilty about doing something for yourself (like moving to another town for a career) so you procrastinate and put such major decisions on the back burner. (Delay)
  • You feel guilty about not prioritizing your parent so you subconsciously avoid getting into a serious relationship. You might not be consciously aware of this – but inadvertently you keep dating the wrong people or your romance keeps fizzling out the moment your relationship starts to get serious.  (Deny)

codependency in Romantic Relationships

Dr. Ken Adams, who has been studying enmeshment since 1987, says that enmeshment survivors are prone to develop toxic co-dependency patterns in their romantic relationships.

People in enmeshed families are so used to surviving without boundaries. Consequently, any relationship outside of their family feels intrusive and can stir up feelings of guilt and confusion within the survivor – so much that they may even (subconsciously) fear intimacy with romantic partners.

4 Signs that indicate you may be dating an enmeshment survivor

Enmeshment survivors often feel immense guilt, shame, and anxiety about disappointing their parent/caregiver. Here are some signs you’re dating someone who was enmeshed:

  • You feel you are constantly competing for your partner’s time and attention with their family.
  • You are harboring a lingering feeling that no matter what you do, you will never be able to meet the approval of your partner’s family.
  • Your partner feels guilty of making decisions that involve just the two of you.
  • You feel that your partner’s family is the third person in your couple bubble

Enmeshment survivors are also prone to create unhealthy co-dependent relationships.

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