1. Oh boy did this resonate with me! I’ve been taking care of mom since I was 15 and my mom died and there has been anger on my side that I’ve swallowed time and time again. Now she has Alzheimer’s and my life has stopped once again to take care of her. By the time it is actually my time I’m terrified I will be to old to live!

    1. I’m a little confused Rena… maybe you meant to say your dad died? But it sounds as if you’re exactly the person I wanted to reach. Maybe there are ways even now that you could take better care of you — using a service to help with your mom, or allowing others to care for her, at least some of the time. I obviously don’t know, but I might suggest you talk to friends about your options. Maybe you could start that life now. Thanks so much for letting me know.

  2. Thanks for addressing such an important blog. Enmeshment can have long-lasting effects on a child’s emotional development and relationships. Thanks for shedding light on this point. keep sharing.

  3. I think my wife (27F) is trapped in this enmeshment. I shared this whole article to her and she agrees with it, but some unhealthy actions by her parents go unnoticed. When I point it out to her, she sometimes defends their behavior. One specific example seems innocent enough—her father texts her “Goodnight, I love you” every single night without fail—however, her response indicates that this message seems more manipulative than not. And she often becomes anxious or filled with guilt when she can’t or forgets to respond to it.

    1. I remember walking out of a therapist’s office one time when she suggested that maybe my mom was manipulative – that it was enmeshment that is. It’s a very difficult dynamic to see because it looks and often feels like true caring. A great thing to do would be to be supportive of her reading about it more or going to therapy. You may not be the person she can hear this from… and I understand that, for her, it can feel tremendously disloyal to question that kind of caring.

  4. Margaret,
    This was helpful and confirming. My wife gets calls from her mother 5+ times a day, every day, for as long as cell phones have been ubiquitous. She spends the majority of her work breaks and lunches on the phone with her Mom, including disruptions while she’s working. And it’s never important stuff, like gossipping about her brother’s every move. I had to put a stop to mealtime calls, calls while our family is riding together, and my wife abruptly cutting off our conversations when her Mom calls. Though these still happen occasionally. She also goes to their house 2-4x a week, and will hide trips from me by packaging them in with a trip to the grocery store. 95% of the things she does for them, they could do for themselves.
    And her help is never asked for from a position of humility and gratefulness for her time, but rather a “I need you to do this today” position. She has such a big heart, but shoulders so much guilt to the point of being brought to tears at times.
    A part of me feels selfish for bringing this up to her because ultimately I’m asking her to spend less time with her parents. But I feel like our marriage and her mental health are on the line. Again, thank you for the clarity on the subject.

    1. You’re so welcome. It can be a tough dynamic to address. I remember a therapist of mine suggesting my mother could be manipulative; my loyalty to her and not understanding enmeshment back then led me to walk out of his office, incensed that he would suggest such a thing. I called him back, apologized, and said, “You know, you must’ve touched on something.” Good luck to you and your wife.

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