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When Does Close Become Codependent?

Oct 19, 2019

When you aren’t educated on healthy boundaries, it is easy to mistake enmeshment for intimacy. For people living with loved ones who have the disease of addiction, this lack of clarity can prove disastrous. Here, we’ll look at the difference between healthy closeness in relationships and dysfunctional closeness.

Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship

Healthy relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners are necessary a necessary and wonderful part of life. In a healthy and close relationship, all parties maintain their identity and sense of self outside of the relationship. Independence and intimacy are equally important. Other staples of a healthy relationship include: supporting one another’s growth and happiness, sharing and respecting each other’s values and goals, healthy communication and listening, and feeling emotionally and physically safe. In a healthy relationship, both parties maintain their own goals while working towards shared goals as a unit. There’s an overall sense of encouragement, care, and honesty, rather than a lack of emotional boundaries, extreme neediness, or desperation. 

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

Closeness vs. Enmeshment

A close relationship involves both parties maintaining levels of independence while feeling intimately connected to one another. While two enmeshed people are often very close, there are stark differences between a close relationship and an enmeshed one. Signs of enmeshment include:

  • Guilt: In enmeshed relationships or families, people often feel guilty for having their own goals. They may feel pressured to live near their relatives as adults and not pursue their own dreams. This can lead to long-term resentment.
  • “Symbiotic” Emotions: If one person is upset, the other person often experiences the same range of emotions. With emotional enmeshment, people are unable to maintain boundaries or effectively express empathy. They may be unable to recognize their own feelings.
  • Rescuing: One person may always be rescuing the other. They may step in rather supporting people to problem solve on their own, creating learned helplessness. This can result in the other party losing their own confidence and avoiding taking responsibility for their own actions.
  • Controlling: One person may always want to control those around them. This can include influencing what they say and do, and what other relationships they form. No emotional or physical space is given for people to act autonomously. In this relationship, compliance is a must.
  • Expectations: Parents may push their children into professions they wish they had gone into themselves. In this instance, adult children who have not been given opportunities to become independent and responsible may find it difficult to manage their own lives as adults.
  • Over Involvement: People in enmeshed relationships often become overly involved with one another. Codependent spouses or parents may become over-involved in their loved one’s activities. In this system, there is often little space for privacy or personal growth.

Signs of Codependence

Signs of codependence vary and can include unstable relationships that are often emotionally destructive or abusive. Codependent relationships are often characterized by being one-sided, wherein one person in the relationship relies on the other to fulfill all of their emotional needs. Codependency was originally used to describe the partners of people struggling with addiction. However, it’s now a widely recognized issue and there are many treatment options available. If you are in an enmeshed or codependent relationship, especially with someone struggling with addiction, the time to act is now. 


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for mental illnesses and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting wellness. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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