Enmeshment is a term used to describe a relationship between two or more people where personal boundaries are blurred and permeable. When another individual is “feeling” another’s emotions consistently and adjusting their own accordingly, that is typically a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Ross Rosenberg, the author of the book “The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us” writes “people in enmeshed relationships are defined more by the relationship than by their individuality.”


We see the diagnosis of enmeshment most frequently in the case of a parent-child relationship. Enmeshment in this form results in an over involvement in each other’s lives in a way that eventually leads to difficulty for the child to ever become developmentally separated and responsible for their own decisions. In healthy settings, parents raise their children to have a natural set of boundaries that lead to a strong sense of self apart from their parents. This is not the case in an enmeshed relationship.


Guilt is the primary driver of the child as they are conditioned to meet the need of the unhealthy parent. This later becomes a cocktail mixed with anger as they feel the frustration of the desire to separate, but guilt if they are no longer following the requests of their parent. This flows out into other relationships both romantically and platonically as the child feels guilty anytime he doesn’t meet another person’s needs.


How to Begin Healing from Enmeshment

As the enmeshed PARENT:

Maybe you are reading this and seeing the signs that you are too fused together with your child.

My recommendation to you is to seek help on your own, without the involvement of your child. It may seem like a big excavation to detangle your identity with that of your child’s, but it is possible. Acknowledgement is the first step. Feel free to reach out to me for an appointment. You can either email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.


As the enmeshed CHILD:

Are you seeing the patterns of your own life and experiences of enmeshment with a parent?

In order to recover your own sense of individuality, I would recommend:

1.    Giving physical space between you and your parent

If you haven’t done so already, move out of the house. Or this can also take the form of not feeling responsible to answer your phone every time they call.

2.    Take small steps a part

Saying something along the lines of “Mom, I know we typically go to the movies every Friday night, but this week I am going to spend time with my friends” can be the small break of a larger cycle.

3.    Find independence

It is possible for you to have your own sense of self and identity separate from your parent. It may take some time to find out who you are – but it is well worth the journey.

Healing is possible for both the parent and the child when it comes to enmeshment.


Article submitted by: Lee Miller:  Child Custody Mediator | Collaborative Divorce Coach

leemiller.therapist@gmail.com  (310) 614-0323.

About Lee Miller:
My experience and expertise as an attorney and therapist have equipped me to successfully counsel individuals and families during good times and bad.

My methodology brings you relief from symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, codependence, and relationship challenges. Through customized counseling, you're empowered to find self-acceptance and make better life choice

You'll learn tools and skills to improve communication, intimacy, build trust, and resolve conflict so your relationships are lasting and fulfilling.

As a Mediator, I stop the fighting and bickering between lawyers and enable you to avoid the high cost of litigation. And, with a comprehensive parenting plan, we put your children first.

Simply: I provide effective therapy & mediation that brings lasting change.

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