Here’s an example: Your family wants you to come over for Thanksgiving.
Her mom expects to speak and text with her several times a day.
Instead of telling her mom, “Mom, you’re suffocating me, and you need to back off,” she’d say: “I know it means a lot for you to talk to me, and you’re doing this out of love, but I really need to focus on my studies and spend more time with my friends at school.
Since I enjoy talking to you, let’s talk twice a week. “[P]ractice being alone and spending time by yourself,” Rosenberg said.
Healthy emotional and physical boundaries are the basis of healthy relationships.
Enmeshed relationships, however, are bereft of these boundaries, according to Ross Rosenberg, M.
Ed., LCPC, CADC, a national seminar trainer and psychotherapist who specializes in relationships.
Whether it’s a relationship between family members, partners or spouses, limits simply don’t exist in enmeshed relationships, and boundaries are permeable. They depend on each other to fulfill their emotional needs, “to make them feel good, whole or healthy, but they do it in a way that sacrifices psychological health.” In other words, “their self-concept is defined by the other person,” and they “lose their individuality to get their needs met.” For instance, an enmeshed relationship between a parent and child may look like this, according to Rosenberg: Mom is a narcissist, while the son is codependent, “the person who lives to give.” Mom knows that her son is the only one who will listen to her and help her.
The son is afraid of standing up to his mom, and she exploits his caregiving. Start practicing boundary-setting by creating small boundaries in your enmeshed relationship.
While it might seem impossible, you can learn to set and sustain personal boundaries in your relationship. Below, Rosenberg shares his tips, along with several signs that you’re in an enmeshed relationship. When stating your boundary, avoid doing it in a shaming, accusatory or judgmental way, Rosenberg said.
Typically people in enmeshed relationships have a hard time recognizing that they’re actually in an unhealthy relationship, Rosenberg said. A trained mental health professional can help you better understand your relationship and take you through setting and practicing healthy boundaries, Rosenberg said. Instead, emphasize your love without judging the person for being wrong, and “offer something in return.” Then make sure you follow through.
Doing so means acknowledging their own emotional issues, which can trigger anxiety, shame and guilt, he said. It’s the first step in making positive changes and focusing your attention on building healthy relationships, including the one with yourself. This way you’re still responding to their need respecting your own limits.