13 Signs You’re Enmeshed with a Toxic Family

One of the signs you grew up in a toxic family may include family members that disguise control as care, creating a distorted and unhealthy version of what familial love should truly be. When you’re enmeshed in a family, you have an unhealthy attachment to one or more members that leaves you feeling trapped.

Enmeshment is different from genuine closeness, which stems from an organic bond of mutual love and respect. Close families appreciate differences and support each other through tough times. In contrast, enmeshed families strip away individuality and demand conformity to their expectations.

Unfortunately, enmeshment can make you vulnerable to toxic relationships outside of the family. You may mistake controlling behavior for love, leading to an unhealthy attachment to someone who also seeks to control you.

Enmeshment in a toxic family can stunt your personal growth and harm your relationships. It’s crucial to recognize and address enmeshment to have healthy relationships and a fulfilling life.

Here are 13 signs you grew up in a toxic family:

  1. Guilt is the go-to emotion. You’re not allowed to have your own opinions or goals, and you’re punished through gaslighting and manipulation.
  2. It’s all about the family. Your job is to make them look good, no matter the cost.
  3. They need to know everything about your life, from what you feel to what you earn.
  4. They create a dependency. You’re not allowed to be an individual, and they’ll use financial resources or other means to keep you dependent.
  5. You can’t be yourself. You’re made fun of and disrespected if you try to be who you are.
  6. Triangulation. Everyone talks about everyone else, but nobody talks to the person they have a problem with.
  7. You’re not allowed to have boundaries. Your privacy is violated, and you’re made to feel guilty for wanting space.
  8. Emotional incest. You’re expected to fulfill your parent’s emotional needs and be their therapist.
  9. You’re made to feel responsible for other people’s feelings. If someone is upset, it’s your fault.
  10. You’re not allowed to express negative emotions. Anger, sadness, and frustration are not tolerated.
  11. You’re expected to sacrifice for the family. Your needs and wants come second to the family’s needs.
  12. You’re not allowed to disagree with the family’s beliefs or values. If you do, you’re punished through guilt and manipulation.
  13. You’re not allowed to leave. If you try to break free, you’re punished through guilt and manipulation.

Breaking free from an enmeshed family is not easy. It requires strength, courage, and a willingness to face your fears.

Here are some tips to help you break free:

  1. Set boundaries. Start by setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them. Let your family know what you will and will not tolerate.
  2. Seek therapy. Therapy can help you process your emotions, identify unhealthy patterns, and develop healthy coping strategies.
  3. Connect with supportive people. Surround yourself with people who support you, believe in you, and encourage you to be yourself.
  4. Practice self-care. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Do things that make you feel good and bring you joy.
  5. Create distance. Sometimes, the best way to break free from a toxic family is to create distance. This could mean moving out, limiting contact, or cutting ties altogether.

It’s common to feel pressure to please your family, even at the expense of your own dreams and goals. You might be hesitant to move or take a job because you don’t want to upset your parents or miss out on family events. But this pattern of behavior can be dangerous, as it prevents you from fulfilling your God-given purpose.

Honoring your parents vs. living for them

It’s important to remember that as an adult, your role is to honor your parents, not obey their every demand. You should seek to build a healthy relationship with them while also pursuing your own passions and interests. Failing to recognize this can cause problems in your marriage, particularly if you attempt to pull your spouse into a toxic family dynamic.

According to the Bible, you have a mandate to leave and cleave, establishing your own family unit with your spouse. If you’re unable to break free from your enmeshed family, you risk damaging your own happiness and your relationship with your spouse. It’s crucial to recognize the signs you grew up in a toxic family and set healthy boundaries in your relationships.

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