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Losing the sight of Oneself in a relationship: 'Enmeshed Relationships'

Often when one begins a relationship of any kind, they focus heavily on the other individual in that relationship. In the sense that what the other felt in a situation, what would they have been thinking for them to have felt/behaved the way they did. It’s a lot like reasoning, thinking and feeling for them. This begins from the initial stages of forming the relationship when the focus is a lot on understanding the other individual’s personality and their habits.

It stems from what one typically sees while growing up, especially in a collectivistic culture. In collectivistic cultures one often learns to always excuse the other person if any behavior of theirs hurts oneself. It encourages understanding one’s own experience from the situation later. For instance if the partner seems to not be punctual with time, instead of acknowledging that it might make one feel disrespected, or irritated, one might assume that the other does not keep track of time, because that’s how they know time management. In that process, they are acknowledging the reason for the pattern of the other’s behavior without noting that while it is their habit, it is hurtful to oneself. In the process, slowly one forgets to also be mindful of their point of views, in the relationship. One might miss out on noting how Oneself is feeling, and thinking alongside with the other individual.

It is most common in romantic relationships. However, it also happens in other relationships such as friendships and with family.

In order to understand the responses and reactions of the other in any situation, we do not take time to understand our thoughts, feelings and experience of the same situation.

Often the realization becomes apparent when one’s needs go unmet for a long time, beyond one’s level of tolerance. It is usually when in the relationship, one allows the entire space in the relationship to be taken by the other, or when they feel cornered. It comes to notice when the individual feels being lost or not visible in the relationship. Such relationships are often referred to as ‘Enmeshed relationships’.

In Enmeshed relationship, the entire space is taken up by the partner


1. There is more of ‘them’ even when narrating about yourself

This is probably one of the prominent markers to catch. Often, in my practice I have seen, when describing about the relationship, and their distress, the focus is often the partner. Instead of talking about how they felt, what they thought, and what is bothering them, it becomes about the experience, feelings and often even the probable rationale of their behavior. For instance, when one feels hurt that the partner does not include them in decisions; when narrated, it might sound a lot like,

They ( the partner) are always making decisions by themselves. That is probably because they have always lived by themselves, and have made decisions on their own without anybody else’s interference or input. They are not used to, and also don’t like to seek advice/opinion from others, even family”.

2. Lesser accountability of how one perceived and felt in the situation

Individuals fail to acknowledge or register how they felt in the situation by the reaction/actions of their partner.

3. Feeling a loss of autonomy in the relationship

It’s like feeling a passenger in this tumultuous ride the partner is taking them on. It is difficult to see the resources or choice of doing one has. It begins to seem one is only reacting to the partner, rather than responding or being their own self, and functioning as per themself. For instance, feeling like they are not able to catch a breath to gather their thoughts on certain decisions they want to make for the relationship, rather they are always having to respond, and be present for the partner and their actions in the relationship.

4. Thinking for the other person

Spending hours and your Energy to know or decipher the thought pattern or why they said or did what they did. Instead of understanding and stating what the situation evoked in oneself and left oneself feeling and thinking, one indulges in figuring the ‘whys’ for the other person; what triggered them to respond/react that way, did something else happen to lead them to behave or speak in this way, etc.


When one takes it up in therapy, the individuals are able to understand the pattern and reasons for feeling lost, confused. One is able to identify why they are feeling trapped and unpleasant despite wanting to sustain the relationship.

Processing it in therapy can help individuals shift from an enmeshed to a healthy, partnership relationship where they are able to hold their individuality, and also identity as a partner in a relationship.

In the process, therapy helps bring stability, grounding and aspects of certainty in the relationship, and also in oneself and the partner as individuals.

Therapy then helps individuals identify their triggers and the boundaries they would want to be in place. They are also then able to process ways of communicating their boundaries, needs and ways they can fulfill the needs of the other, while getting theirs met as well.

It also helps in reducing the anxiety, stress and the impacts on your other life dynamics and wellbeing.

We, at Becoming Conscious Beings understand it’s not easy to firstly be aware, and then to process aspects of relationships. Becoming Conscious Beings is present, and available to support you in this journey towards building and maintaining healthier relationships for your wellbeing.

- Purvi Balasaria


+91 9080610825


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