The term enmeshment is widely used in therapy. It refers to an extreme form of closeness and intensity in interactions. It also applies to relationships. In a highly enmeshed relationship changes in one partner automatically result in changes to the other. The differentiation between the two people becomes almost invisible. The individual gets lost in the relationship. The boundaries that define individual autonomy become so weak that functioning in individual ways is handicapped.
Enmeshment is used as a term when speaking about co-dependence. Co-dependence is defined as being psychologically influenced or controlled by, reliant upon, or needing another person to fulfill one's own needs or to complete oneself. People are defined as being co-dependent if they are in a situation where they are psychologically mutually reliant on someone else to meet needs for them that they ought to be able to meet for themselves. A co-dependent person is one who has let her/his partner’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
We are enmeshed when we use another individual for our identity, sense of value, worth, well-being, safety, purpose, and security. Instead of two people present, we become one identity. More simply, enmeshment is present when our sense of wholeness comes from another person.
Enmeshment does not allow for individuality, wholeness, personal empowerment, or healthy relationships with ourselves or others. Most certainly, this fosters an unhealthy relationship. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, in a good relationship one plus one equals more than two. That’s because there is a synergy between the two partners. If the two people are so enmeshed that there is no differentiation, e.g. that there are really two versions of the same person, then there can be no synergistic effect. This usually occurs when one or both partners is insecure and needy.
For the healthiest relationships, two people should maintain their individuality and blend the best of both together. That’s when the real magic happens in a relationship.
Tikkun Olam- heal the world. Leave it a better place when you leave.