The concept of enmeshment was introduced in the 1970s by Salvador Minuchin – an established family therapist. An enmeshed relationship is where members are expected to think, feel, and believe in certain ways based upon spoken / unspoken rules for interaction. This blog will explore what it means to be in an enmeshed relationship and how to establish boundaries in a relationship.

While enmeshed associations are commonly found in couples who are newly in love, this can also be something that develops over time. The start of a romantic partnership is exhilarating and it’s likely that both partners would want to spend all their time together. It is important to still re-establish yourself after that honeymoon period of the relationship, as separate people who share love and support for each other as opposed to developing an enmeshed romantic relationship of emotional dependency with no physical and emotional boundaries.

A key characteristic of an enmeshed romantic relationship is forgetting your own needs, the lines between both partners become so blurred that they start acting as one person. In addition to that, an enmeshed relationship may cause you to struggle to connect with what you’re feeling because you are too focused on the other person’s needs. In other words, while any one person can be too dependent on another, enmeshment is typically a two-way street.

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Signs of relationship enmeshment

  • emotional dependency on each other
  • each forgetting your own needs and boundaries
  • self-esteem determined by the relationship
  • increased use of “we” statements

While many people seek reassurance from external sources, an enmeshed relationship accentuates this because both partners use the relationship to determine their self-esteem. The enmeshed relationship usually excludes other people. This creates a vicious cycle whereby isolation reinforces the enmeshed behaviours. Moreover, enmeshed couples often avoid disagreement of conflict and feel pressure to fill a role instead of being their true selves.

Beginning to recognise an enmeshed relationship if an important first step because once this happens, you can start to work on establishing boundaries and forming your own beliefs. However, it should be noted that this takes time – but it is possible as long as both parties are consistent in their efforts to break habitual patterns. Self-reflection and using “I statements” are a useful tool in helping you to begin to talk to your loved one about your needs. In the same way, it is important to understand and respect your partner’s boundaries and know you’re only responsible for yourself and your actions. Above all, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and engaging in other relationships such as with colleagues and friends, can help you develop a sense of autonomy.

If you feel like this blog resonates with you, we’re here to help and support you. Get in touch today for a complimentary consultation with one of our relationship coaches. Maclynn (formerly Vida) is an elite, multi-award-winning international dating agency. We’re renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles, and our world-class matchmakers are relationship experts in their own right.