Opinion: Relationship Enmeshment Causes Lack of Self and Codependency

Stacy Ann

Photo byTimo Stern/Unsplash

Jane’s phone hadn’t stopped vibrating since she had arrived at dinner. Her body was stiff, and the smile that was usually setting her face aglow was missing. This particular dinner catch-up was the first time that I had seen Jane in six months because she was in a new relationship with her new boyfriend.

“Sorry, we just hate to be apart.” She muttered as she sent a lengthy text message back to her boyfriend. Our dinner was short-lived as she rushed home to her partner, and I couldn’t help but suspect Jane’s relationship contained an element of enmeshment.

Alicia Munoz, LPC, describes enmeshment as relationships that have become so intertwined that boundaries are undifferentiated or diffused. She states that these blurred boundaries become accepted and are perceived as a sign of loyalty, love, or even safety.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to lose ourselves in our relationship. Here are four signs that you may be enmeshed with your partner.

#1. You absorb all of their viewpoints and can’t seem to voice your own

Cindy and I had been friends for over a decade and had a regular weekly catch-up that we rarely ever missed.

A new man had walked into Cindy’s life, and she was ecstatic. They seemed to be hitting it off and quickly became very serious about each other.

As time went on, I began to notice Cindy’s opinions changing when it came to everything. Her political views changed, her morals changed, and it got to a point where Cindy opened admitted that she believed everything her boyfriend told her without question.

If you are in a relationship where you cannot voice your opinion, you will start to question what you believe and, in turn, begin to lose your sense of self.

#2. Their lousy day becomes your problem

In college, I had a boyfriend that struggled to regulate his moods, and day after day his attitude would constantly shift from happy to miserable and vice versa.

Instead of being able to feel empathy for him but still keep his emotions separate from mine, I would worry about him all day and constantly try to cheer him up. Whenever I was unable to change his mood, I would feel like a failure and let it affect my own emotions.

It is healthy to feel empathy for someone, but I could not see that my enmeshment with my boyfriend was not allowing me to put up any boundaries. His emotions became my emotions, and eventually, our relationship imploded because there was no separation of our feelings.

#3. Your experiences feel empty if you aren’t with your partner

The concert started, and I should have been exhilarated as it was one of my favorite bands.

Instead, I couldn’t stop thinking about my boyfriend, wondering what he was doing and if he was okay. I couldn’t help but feel that part of me was missing because he wasn’t there with me.

To an outside observer, I would have appeared to be having a blast. The sad truth, however, is that the experience felt meaningless because my boyfriend wasn’t there.

When reflecting on my past, it is easy to see that my younger self was in an unhealthy relationship. You should be able to be whole with and without your partner, and if experiences feel meaningless without them, then something is not correct.

#4. You live with constant anxiety that you wouldn’t be able to survive without them

James and I were driving in the car, coming back from a midnight night hike. Our time together was always fun and exhilarating, unlike anything that I had ever experienced.

In the midst of enjoyable evening together I began thinking about what would happen if we didn’t work out. After all, we were only twenty years old. Immediately a horrible feeling came into my stomach, and it felt hard to breathe, imagining a world in which James no longer loved me.

When James did end up dumping me a few months later, it felt as if my heart had been ripped out of my chest. My greatest fear had come true, and although I survived, it opened my eyes to the reality that I couldn’t seem to have a healthy relationship.

Once upon a time, the most romantic phrase someone could say to me would have been, “I can’t live without you.”

Now, those words are a huge red flag when a client or a friend tells me that they have been said in their relationship.

You should be able to live without your partner, and you should still be your person whether you are apart from them or the two of you are together.

If your sense of self is fading and life feels bleak when your partner is away, it is time to do some extensive self-work to ensure that you are no longer enmeshed with them in an unhealthy way.



Comments / 0

Published by

I am a writer & relationship consultant here to help you navigate the waters.


More from Stacy Ann

Comments / 0