Tag Archives: enmeshed

How Close Is Too Close In Families?

Most people want to be a part of a close knit family.  That can be a wonderful thing, but there is also such a thing as being too close.

Some examples of being too close are as follows:

  • When boundaries aren’t respected or are non existent in a family.
  • Parents not allowing their children privacy, no matter the age.  Parents that look through their children’s diary, bedroom, wallets, purses, cars, etc.
  • Parents relying on their children for emotional support, which is parentification.
  • When parents discourage their children from growing up & becoming independent.
  • When adult children’s lives center around their parents.
  • When married adult children prioritize their parents over their spouse.
  • When adult children will tolerate anything because they are afraid to deal with the fallout of saying no.
  • When someone marries into the family, & is treated like an outsider while frequently being reminded they aren’t good enough & never will be.

Families that display this type of behavior are known as enmeshed families.

Enmeshment is an extremely dysfunctional family dynamic.  It may be passed down through generations, it can be brought about by a family experiencing trauma, abuse, illness or it can be due to engulfing narcissistic parents.

Children who grow up in this type of environment suffer for it.  They are often burdened with trying to care for their parents when they aren’t prepared to do so, which leaves them feeling overly responsible for the feelings of them as well as others.  These children also lack a connection to their wants, needs & feelings due to prioritizing their parents’ over theirs.  They grow up not nearly as independent as they should be, often expecting their parents to tell them what to do with their lives in every area including things only they should decide like when to move out or who to marry.

This treatment also leaves children in a confused state.  In one way, they are child like, yet in another they are supposed to be wise & mature enough to handle their parent treating them like a friend or substitute spouse.  They also lack the ability to self sooth in tough times, are very disconnected from their emotions & often suffer with anxiety.  Relationships are a challenge & healthy one are impossible because the parents are always their top priority.

Once the child of an enmeshed family realizes what is happening, he or she is rarely supported.  Outsiders see the family’s facade of being close & happy, & believe that is true.  When this usually adult child begins to speak about the problem, people often minimize or invalidate his or her concerns because they have seen only the close, happy family facade.  They believe this person’s concerns to be unsubstantiated, & he or she should just be glad to have a close family.  Whether intentions are good or bad when saying this, it still is very upsetting & invalidating when you are in this situation!

If you are in this situation, there is hope!  To heal, you need to lean on God first.  He will help you to see what you need to do & how to do it.

You also need to start learning about & setting boundaries.  This is tough, but it can be done.  Start very small, such as not answering the phone every time your parent calls or if they want you to come visit a certain day, try to do it another day.  Tiny steps like this give you some power.  That power enables you to set more boundaries & more yet.  Before you know it, you’ll have this boundaries thing down pat!

Get to know yourself.  The real you, not the you your parents say you are.  Learn about your likes, dislikes, goals, morals, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses & everything you can possibly think of.  Accept your feelings on everything without judgment or criticism, & question if these feelings are truly yours or your parents’.

Recognize you have no valid reasons to feel guilty for doing this.  You aren’t harming anyone & you are helping yourself.  Your parents are going to hurt at first, but that isn’t a bad thing.  You need your independence & are entitled to it, & they need to learn a healthier way to live.

Remember, you can do this & be so much stronger, healthier & happier than ever before!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

Enmeshment

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About Enmeshment

Enmeshment is a term used to describe when boundaries are either very weak or non existent in a relationship, most commonly within a family.  Enmeshed families aren’t simply close.  Closeness is healthy, but enmeshment is not.  It can cause  a myriad of problems for the children.

Enmeshed families share very similar traits.  The children are expected to think & act like their parents, to work in the line of work their parents want them to & basically live the life their parents want them to live rather than what they want to.  Children are also usually the only close “friends” of sorts that the parents have.  The parents demand or guilt trip their children spend plenty of time with them rather than create an environment that would make their children want to spend time with them.  Children, no matter their age, aren’t supposed to do things they want, such as spending time with people other than their parents.  In fact, enmeshed parents don’t want their children to leave home.  Many adult children from these families didn’t leave home at an appropriate age.  Instead they lived with their parents well into their 20’s, 30’s or maybe never even moved out.  These children also feel responsible for their parents, starting at a very young age.  This can cause them to put their parents’ needs & wants over their own, & later also over their spouse’s needs & wants.  It creates a tremendous amount of stress in a marriage.

Children in enmeshed families frequently grow up feeling out of place when they aren’t with their families.  They also lack a real identity beyond who their parents tell them they are.  Their self esteem is usually quite low as well.  Other common problems include a lack of relationship skills & lack of understanding of healthy boundaries.   They also tend to be very distrustful of people who aren’t related to them, yet tolerate any abuse their family members heap on them.  Many of these adult children seek out romantic partners who need caring for, which is a pattern they learned in childhood from their needy parents.

In order to end this dysfunctional behavior, the child of enmeshed parents needs first to recognize just how dysfunctional & harmful enmeshment is.  It can be very hard to do this after a lifetime of believing the lie that the enmeshment means their family is closer & healthier t han others, but it still must be done.

Next, some distance must be set between parent & child.  This is also very hard, I know, especially since most likely the parent will shame the child for wanting some space, but it can be done.  Start small, such as not answering their call sometimes.  If your parent complains, just say you were busy (which you were.. taking care of yourself) & couldn’t get to the phone.  Also don’t spend as much time with your parent as you have.  Pull away a bit.  Don’t be so readily available to your parent.  If they need your help, unless it’s a true emergency, tell them you can’t do what they need now but you can in a few days.  These small ways to start setting boundaries will strengthen you & enable you to set bigger & better boundaries in the future.

Learn who you are, too.  Pay attention to what you truly want, like, think, feel… you may discover you are much different than what your parents always said you were.  Or, you may have some similarities.  Either way, get to know the real you & enjoy who you are.

Recognize the false guilt.  If your parent does their best to make you feel guilty for not taking their call one day or not visiting them, that is ridiculous.  You’re an adult with your own life!  Don’t accept that false guilt!

If you have close friends who understand your situation, discuss it with them.  Let them support you.  And if you don’t, check online for support forums.  No doubt you can find one that helps you.

Mostly, turn to God.  Pray about your situation & let Him help you to heal.  He loves you & will be glad to do that for you!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism

A Bit About Marriage

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  (KJV)

 

Most people have at least heard of Genesis 2:24, but I wonder how many people truly understand it.  Since tomorrow is my 20th wedding anniversary, this Scripture has popped into my mind & I figured the timing to discuss it was good.

Being close is one thing, but being enmeshed is very bad.  No doubt many of my readers know about enmeshed families.  Narcissistic families often have enmeshment down to an art form, since their families are very cult-like.  When one member gets married, this often means trouble for the new in-law.

When my husband & I first met, it didn’t take me long to learn he was very involved with his family.  Enmeshed, really, although I didn’t know the term at the time.  Coming from my own dysfunctional past, I thought at first that it was good they were so “close.”

My mother in-law hated me from the day we met, which was before my husband & I started dating.  Once we started dating, it got a lot worse & it was worse after our marriage.  Because she felt this way, her two daughters did as well, although one hid it for a few years.  Over the years, they subjected me to many cruel comments & actions letting me know I was not good enough to be a part of their family.  Yet, at the same time, I was told that I would be there on special days like Christmas & there was no acceptable excuse not to be in attendance.  They also had ideas of the type of person I should be & look like, which became incredibly annoying to me since I’m not anything like they wanted me to be.  This all created a tremendous amount of stress in my marriage which lead to me considering divorce many times.

And sadly, I felt  completely alone.  I honestly thought no other woman went through what I was going through.  How wrong I was!  As I began to write about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I learned a LOT of other people had almost identical experiences with their in-laws.  It seems this must be common with narcissistic families, to treat the in-law more like an outlaw,  make demands of them & have unrealistic expectations of them & causing problems in the marriage.

I firmly believe situations like this are why God wrote Genesis 2:24.  When a couple is married, whether they’ve been married 2 weeks or 40 years, they need to be a COUPLE, not have others involved in their marriage.  Even if the people in question are good people, it’s just inappropriate & causes problems in a marriage to have the intrusion of other people.  Feelings will get hurt, someone will feel put upon or left out, arguments will happen.. it’s just not good!  Couples needs to keep their marriage their top priority after God, & not pay attention to what other people’s opinions are.

It’s also very inappropriate for a married person to discuss the intimate details of their marriage with their parent or child.  They don’t need to be privy to that information.  All it will do is cause tension between the partner being discussed & the other person, plus if a child knows such information about their parent, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the child.  Children often take things personally, even things that shouldn’t be taken personally.  The child may feel to blame for the parent’s bad behavior or the marital problems.  The child may even feel it’s his or her duty to fix the problem when clearly nothing could be further from the truth!

If you’re in the situation of someone else being involved in your marriage, please talk to your partner!  Remind him or her of Genesis 2:24.  Ask God to give you the right words to say so your partner will understand the importance of this issue.  Suggest marriage counseling, perhaps.  It’ll be very challenging but you can get through this!

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Filed under Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism