Enmeshment is a term that comes from the family therapy field used to describe how a family is connected with each other: ideally being able to be both connected to and separate from each other. At the extremes are families that are disengaged or enmeshed emotionally. When families are enmeshed there is extreme emotional closeness at a cost to independence. There are strong demands for loyalty to the family and a shared reality of the family systems member’s roles and obligations imposed by those in charge. This demand is usually accompanied by messages of guilt and prohibitions against outside friends and activities. Time together is maximized and little alone time or separateness is permitted.
There is often a high degree of dependency between members and when it involves the parent and child, the child generally feels obligated to take care of the parent at a cost to their own life and relationships. Spouses and partners of adults enmeshed with a parent often feel “second fiddle” and have little voice in important matters affecting the couple. This parent child enmeshment can be between mother and son, mother and daughter, father and daughter, and/or father and son.
At KMA and Associates, we specialize in treating enmeshment issues and offer workshops for both men and women. Please click on this to read more about our workshops.
Below is list of items that are often associated with men who have been enmeshed with their mothers. Some of these can be applied to women as well. Please print out and check the ones that apply to you and take it to your therapist to discuss or call us for an appointment.
1. _____I look to take care of others in relationships too often.
2. _____I find relationships burdensome.
3. _____I often feel engulfed, smothered, or trapped when I am in relationships.
4. _____I get overly anxious when I am separated from my partner or spouse.
5. _____I put my mother’ needs ahead of my spouse or partner.
6. _____I am preoccupied with my mother’s needs.
7. _____My mothers’ involvement in my life is a source of conflict for my spouse or partner.
8. _____I consult my mother about important matters.
9. _____I share personal and intimate details of my life with my mother.
10. _____After a conversation with my mother, I often feel guilty.
11. _____I struggle to make decisions that are good for me.
12. _____I have difficulty expressing my preferences with others.
13. _____I struggle to make commitments that are good for me.
14. _____I don’t express much passion sexually.
15. _____I find it difficult to be sexual in committed relationships.
16. _____I act out sexually outside of my implicit and explicit commitments of fidelity in relationships.
17. _____I have a history of falling in love easily.
18. _____I declare loyalty to others even when it is not in my best interest to do so.
19. _____I find it difficult to set boundaries with others.
20. _____I cannot stand up to my mother.
21. _____I am distant from my father.
22. _____I let others intrude or take advantage of me.
23. _____I feel guilty when I want to express my wants or needs.
24. _____I put others needs ahead of my own too often.
25. _____I have a hard time making simple decisions that others seem to do readily.
26. _____I often feel unsure of myself.
27. _____I am frequently ambivalent regarding where I stand on important matters.
28. _____I find it difficult to follow my heart’s desires regarding important interests.
29. ______I am more of a follower than a leader.
30. ______Getting validation from others is too important at times.