Enmeshed Relationships

Enmesh, verb: 1Cause to become entangled in something. 2Involve (someone) in a difficult situation from which it is hard to escape. This is the definition that one will find if you Google the word “enmesh.” However, if you look a little further in your search, you will find the American Psychological Association defines enmeshment as a noun, “a condition in which two or more people, typically family members, are involved in each other’s activities and personal relationships to an excessive degree, thus limiting or precluding healthy interaction and compromising individual autonomy and identity.”  To paraphrase, enmeshment, when used to describe a relationship, is when boundaries have become so intertwined that they become blurred and non-existent. A party to this type of relationship can even begin to convince themselves that the blurred boundaries are acceptable and seen as a sign of love, loyalty, and safety. As you can see by the definition by the American Psychological Association, the word enmeshment frequently comes up in family therapy. As a family law attorney, it is also a word that comes up quite often in my practice. In my experience, enmeshed relationships often happen over time. If you recognize these signs in your own relationship you may be struggling in an enmeshment relationship:

  • Emotions are blurred. Your own emotions are confused with the emotions of your partner. You can’t separate the two nor does he or she want you to.
  • The price is too high to have any sort of individuality. Choosing to have different beliefs or opinions from your partner most likely will have negative and extreme outcomes for you.
  • You do not have the ability to create your own choices or perspectives. You continually conform your wishes and desires with your partner’s wishes and desires.
  • You are emotionally other-dependent. Your self-esteem and happiness solely rely upon the consistency and status of the relationship.
  • You feel anxious if you spend time alone or apart from your partner.
  • You are isolated from people outside of your relationship.
  • You are always the relationship fixer. It is up to you to make things better. When conflicts arise, you feel compulsive anxiety to fix the situation immediately.
  • Your boundaries are regularly overstepped, ridiculed, or shut down.

It is very difficult for people in enmeshed relationships to decide to seek a divorce because they are emotionally dependent upon the other person and the thought of doing anything alone seems impossible. You should recognize that enmeshment is a form of control your partner has over you that eventually dissolves a person’s own emotional identity and individuality. Abusers know this and often use enmeshment as a tool to protect themselves because they know it is difficult for those they are abusing to have any sort of autonomy no the ability to form relationships outside the relationship.  Although it seems like freeing yourself from this type of relationship seems impossible, it can be done. However, I’m not going to lie, it won’t be easy, but know that this relationship doesn’t have to rule you and you can break free. Recognizing that you are in an enmeshed relationship, is a crucial and important first step that can be terrifying and exciting all rolled into one. I can help you with the divorce process, but it is recommended that you seek a trained therapist to help you navigate the changes and give you tools to gain comfort and confidence in your decisions. Finding your own voice and ideas is a critical part of the healing journey. A therapist can give you ways to do this.

To receive the best representation for your case, contact a good enmeshment lawyer like Kevin Hickey Law Partners to help you break free. Our Fort Smith office number is 479.434.2414 and our Northwest Arkansas office number is 479.802.6560.