Why does enmeshment cause a couple to fight? Enmeshment is a term we use to describe a relationship that is too close, too “other” centered, and is too dependent on the other person to get their needs met. Most people see enmeshment as the lovey-dovey, gooey love from the movies where the other person is their world, their savior, their soul mate, their everything! And sure, it feels good to be the center of someone else’s world at first, but that yummy relationship status comes at a price – fighting!
While enmeshment feels so good, it will give us only moments of delicious satisfaction but eventually turns into a cat fight! Why? Because one person’s ability to be “okay” is dependent upon the other person in the relationship! I am trying to be okay through you! That means you must think, act, feel, behave in such a way that I feel okay. If you don’t, then suddenly I have a desperate need to change that so I can be okay.
Enmeshment is like two cats with their tails tied together. One cat desperately wants to take a nap, the other cat is starving and needs to eat. As sleepy cat tries to go take a nap, he can’t because starving cat is pulling at him to go eat. They are both desperate to get what they need, but neither one of them can. One of them has to give up their need in order for the other cat to be satisfied. If one kitty gets his needs met, his ‘tail-mate’ has to go without.
It is not ALL fighting, though, the kitties needs will overlap at times and they may enjoy the closeness that being tied together brings. When they both feel sleepy, they may snuggle while they nap. They wake up feeling good, but as soon as their needs come in conflict again, a battle to get needs met will ensue.
Now let’s add a human component that cats don’t have – emotions. This is where enmeshment really gets dicey. Not only do I want to get my needs met, I need you to feel a certain way in order for me to be okay! A person can postpone getting their physical needs met for a time, but when we are required to give up our emotions, something primal rises from the depths and wants to fight. I always say, “the self fights to survive”. The more we deny our emotional selves, the more intensity that builds and the harder we fight to keep it.
While enmeshment brings periods of contentment, the battle of needs will always cause fighting. When we are required to give up our emotions, which are an essential element of our individuality, to maintain enmeshment, look out! The fighting will take on a whole new level!
More next week on how codependence and counterdependence fit into this system!!