It’s not uncommon for addicts to have unhealthy relationships with their friends and family. Drug and alcohol abuse takes a toll on relationships, leading to dysfunction and destruction. This is why family therapy is a key component of our dual diagnosis rehab in California. As you heal from your addiction, family therapy provides a safe and supportive space to work through family issues.
Enmeshment is a term that frequently turns up in family therapy. It’s a therapeutic term that refers to relationships between two or more people in which personal boundaries are unclear. This often happens on an emotional level, where two people “feel” each other’s emotions.
Let’s learn more about enmeshed relationships, the signs of being aware of them, and how to set healthy boundaries. This is especially important if you’re in drug rehab and working through family issues.
What are Enmeshed Relationships?
Enmeshed relationships can occur between parents and children, romantic partners, family members, friends and siblings. At first, the relationship might look like you’re extremely close with the other person. However, tight-knit relationships are built on healthy emotional and physical boundaries. In enmeshed relationships, these boundaries are unclear.
Here are some signs that you may be in an enmeshed relationship:
- You believe it’s your responsibility to save, protect or serve another person.
- You’re giving up your personal hobbies to meet the expectations of the other person.
- The relationship you have with the person determines your happiness and self-worth.
- You experience another person’s emotions as if they were your own.
- You suppress your own feelings to avoid conflict or disagreement. And if conflict happens, you do whatever you can to resolve it.
- You can’t make decisions without approval from the other person.
- There’s a lack of privacy between you and your family.
Enmeshment is not healthy. It’s a form of control that can take away a person’s identity and individuality. While it’s sometimes mistaken for being “close,” this is not the case. Why? Because when the person tries to break off and develop their own identity, it creates problems in the relationship.
How to Heal an Enmeshed Relationship
Fortunately, there are ways to heal an enmeshed relationship. Family therapy is probably the best tool, as you’ll be able to work in a safe and neutral environment with a trained therapist. But there are other things you can do:
- Recognize the problem. Pay attention to your feelings and the impact the enmeshment has had on your overall well-being.
- Develop healthy boundaries. Decide what boundaries you are comfortable with. Maybe you want to share your feelings or spend time apart from your family.
- Be prepared. Enmeshed relationships take time to heal, so don’t expect things to fall into place immediately. In fact, expect some pushback, since your family is not used to you speaking up.
- Start small. Work on making small changes, such as spending more time apart. You can then increase this over time.
- Participate in therapy. As mentioned above, family therapy provides professional support for enmeshed relationships. You can also participate in individual and group therapy.
Heal from an Enmeshed Relationship
Setting and keeping boundaries is an important way to maintain healthy relationships, while also taking care of yourself and your needs. Enmeshed and codependent relationships are common in families with addiction, but you can break the cycle. Contact Awakenings Treatment Center to learn more about our family intervention services.