10 signs you’re in an enmeshed friendship (and what to do about it)

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pexels duong nhan 1477495 10 signs you're in an enmeshed friendship (and what to do about it)

Do you have friends who are so close that nothing—not even your personal growth—can come between you? 

If so, you might be in an enmeshed friendship. But don’t celebrate just now — being in an enmeshed friendship means that you have someone you can depend on, but it also means that you are willing to forget about your needs in order to please this one person.

Sounds familiar?

The truth is that an enmeshed friend is someone whose needs and wants are so intertwined with yours that their relationship feels like a romantic partner — but without the romance. 

So how do you know if you have an enmeshed friendship? 

Let me discuss 10 signs to help you figure out whether you’re in an enmeshed friendship and what you can do about it.

1) You sacrifice your time and energy to please this person

Want to know what the most obvious sign of being in an enmeshed friendship is?

It’s the fact that you’re constantly giving and giving to this person. It’s like you’re bending over backward to ensure that they are okay.

Sometimes you spend time with them even though you don’t want to. The other time, you’re doing things for them that you don’t want to do.

Even when you don’t have time for your significant other, your family, or even yourself — this person is always at the top of your priority list.

Just admit it.

You do this because you want to please them and make them happy, but it also makes you feel good about yourself.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that in an enmeshed friendship, it’s not okay for your friend to have their own life, or to be doing things on their own — they need your constant attention and approval.

As a result, you feel like you’re not enough if you don’t do anything for this person.

This can become so overwhelming that you eventually lose your sanity.

But you really don’t want to become a martyr for this friend, do you?

If so, then it’s time to bring in the break.

Before that, though, make sure that you aren’t just fooling yourself.

This can be difficult, but I’m sure if you think about it correctly, you will find the strength to do it.

2) You feel resentful after hanging out with this friend

Have you ever noticed that you feel resentful after spending time with your enmeshed friend?

Let me explain why this happens.

You feel resentful because you’re not being treated as an individual who has their own needs and desires. Instead, you’re the one who always has to take care of your friends’ desires and fulfill their aims.

Does this sound familiar?

If so, chances are that your enmeshed friend isn’t giving you the space that you need to be yourself.

But having a private space is important for any type of relationship. 

At least, that’s what studies prove — individuals who have personal space in a different type of interpersonal relationship report being more satisfied. This, in turn, results in a higher quality of life and better emotional well-being.

But your enmeshed friend always makes you feel resentful after hanging out, right?

Well, this is because you’re used to giving up your needs and wants in order to please this person. And no matter how hard you try, it’s hard to pretend that you don’t feel resentful sometimes.

So, here’s the thing:

This might be the biggest sign.

You are feeling resentful after hanging out with this friend, and yet you keep on seeing them. Why?

You want to make them happy, even if it makes you unhappy. You want to please this friend even if this friend isn’t willing to please you back. T

This is a sign that your needs aren’t being met. You feel like you are not getting what you deserve out of the friendship, and you are resentful because of it.

You resent this person, but you continue to see her all the same. You feel like you don’t have any other choice.

So how do you deal with this situation?

Be honest with your friend and let them know that their excessive neediness is making things difficult for you.

Give them a chance to change by spending some time apart so they can get to know themselves better — and hopefully, they will become more independent.

3) Your self-esteem is largely determined by your friend

pexels gustavo fring 4871954 1 1 10 signs you're in an enmeshed friendship (and what to do about it)

Let me ask you an important question.

What are some of the factors that determine your self-esteem?

While your ability to make friends, your looks, and even your achievements might be contributing factors, I bet that the most important factor is the opinion of your friends.

This is especially true if you have an enmeshed friendship — because you’re likely to feel validated, loved, and accepted by this friend.

Sounds like you, right?

If you have an enmeshed relationship with a friend, you are willing to do anything to please him or her.

As a result, you will end up neglecting yourself and focusing on what your friend wants. And this is exactly why this person becomes the most important person in your life — because he or she validates your worth as a person.

In simple words, your self-esteem is determined by how well your friends think of you.

If that’s the case, here’s what you should know:

If you feel that you’re not good enough for this friend, then you need to find some courage and end the friendship.

Your self-esteem shouldn’t be determined by how well your friend thinks of you. You should be comfortable enough with yourself to know that you are good enough, regardless of what this person thinks.

But how can you improve your self-esteem? What are some things that you can start with?

Just start with yourself!

I know this might sound simple, but the key to having adequate self-esteem is to reflect on your thoughts, assess your aims, and think about the way you want to do things — it should be determined by your own standards.

To be more precise, you need to start building a healthy relationship with yourself.

I know this might sound confusing, but that’s what I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. In his free masterclass on Love and Intimacy, Rudá shares some practical tips on how you can focus on your needs and get to the root of any type of issue you have in your relationships.

Sounds impressive, right?

If so, why don’t you take some time to watch this incredible free video and find out how you can deal with this frustrating, enmeshed friendship?

If you feel that your friend is not a good influence on you or if the relationship is not bringing you any joy, then it’s time to say goodbye.

Click here to watch the free video.

4) You are constantly worrying about this person’s well-being

As I mentioned, one sign that you’re in an enmeshed friendship is neglecting to take care of your own well-being. But what if you also worry too much about the other person’s well-being?

Is it a sign of being in an enmeshed friendship when you constantly worry about your friend’s well-being?

You know that person who is always worried about the well-being of others, and sometimes worries so much that it becomes a problem?

If you have a friend like this, then you are most likely in an enmeshed friendship.

An enmeshed friend is someone who comes to your mind first, before considering whether there’s something wrong with them. In other words, it means that you are too focused on the other person’s well-being.

For instance, you might feel like your friend needs help solving their problems even though they don’t ask for it.

Okay, there’s no doubt that friends are there to help each other solve their problems. But do you think you know your friends’ problems better than they do? Do you feel like they need help solving their issues even though they don’t ask for it?

Just try to answer these questions because without realizing that you’re spending too much of your effort on your friend’s well-being, you lose sight of your own desires.

Still, I’m not saying here that we shouldn’t worry about our friend’s well-being.

Instead, it can be quite normal to worry about your friend, especially if something bad has happened in their life.

But you are constantly worrying about this person even when there isn’t anything to worry about. You’re constantly thinking about the best way to help this friend even when there is no need to help them.

And guess what?

This is a sign that you are too enmeshed with this person.

So, remind yourself that you don’t need to be so worried about everything that happens in this person’s life. You just need to be a good friend.

5) This person is constantly demanding your attention and time

Okay, one thing is dedicating your time and effort to your friend yourself but the other is when your friend is the one who’s always demanding your time and attention.

Let’s be honest: this is an extreme case of enmeshing, which can be a sign that you’re in an unhealthy relationship.

In fact, if this person calls you every day to check up on you or demands your time, it might be a sign that they’re using you as their emotional crutch and are not allowing you to grow into the person you want to become.

Moreover, this person wants to meet you every day but doesn’t want to give you anything in return.

He or she constantly demands your attention and time but doesn’t want to offer you anything in return.

Well, this is a huge warning sign.

The reason is that chances are that such behavior makes you feel like you can’t be yourself around this person.

When you spend a lot of time with someone, it’s easy to want to impress them. And when you want to impress them, you tend to put on your best behavior and hide your flaws.

But if you find yourself always wanting to be someone else around your friend, it’s a sign that the relationship is unhealthy and needs some work.

The truth is that no one can make us feel inferior without our consent. And we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others, right?

That’s why you should start working on this friendship right now! Otherwise, you might end up being hurt and broken.

6) You find it difficult to set boundaries with this friend

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I briefly mentioned the need for boundaries in any type of relationship above. And now let’s get more specific.

Although it sounds like a paradox, boundaries are needed in relationships that are too close. They help you to set your needs and values apart from those of your friend and to protect yourself from being taken advantage of by this friend.

Why am I so sure?

I’m sure because I’ve read tons of studies conducted by social psychologists that prove that the key to fulfilling relationships is being able to set boundaries.

In fact, according to studies, healthy boundaries create trust in relationships. And this applies to all types of relationships, including friendships.

And a healthy friendship is impossible without a high level of trust, right?

This simply means that when you are able to set boundaries with a friend, there is less drama in your relationship, and you feel more satisfied with the friendship as well.

But if your friend is asking you to do so many things you start to feel like you don’t have any time for yourself.

This might make you feel the need to do everything for this friend without ever feeling like you have the right to say no.

And you know what?

This is a clear sign that you are in an enmeshed friendship. You need to set boundaries so that you can have some time for yourself.

But how do you set boundaries in an enmeshed friendship? 

I’ll tell you what I do: 

First of all, I try to find out what this friend wants from me. Then I ask myself if it’s something that I want to give him or her.

If not, then I tell them straight up and respectfully but firmly say “no”.

If they start nagging me about it and asking me to change my mind, then I kindly but firmly say “no” again and again until the person gets the point.

I know it’s not easy, but that’s the way it works.

7) You feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them

Speaking of having a hard time saying “no” to your friend, have you ever noticed that you feel like you always have to walk on eggshells around them?

You’re always worried about saying the wrong thing or doing something that will upset them. You feel like you can’t be yourself around them because you’re afraid of their reaction.

For example, maybe you’re not in the mood to spend time with your friend but you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Or maybe you feel like there is no way that you can express your true opinion about something because it will offend them.

Well, this is a sign that your friend is enmeshed with you — they are so wrapped up in your life and what they think of it that they are unable to see things objectively.

And this can lead to problems in the friendship.

Why?

Because this isn’t a healthy friendship either, and it’s important to be able to relax and be yourself around your friends.

I’m saying this because I know how it feels when you have a hard time expressing yourself whenever you’re around your best friend.

I’m sure you know what I mean.

You don’t feel like you can be yourself around them. You can tell that something is off between the two of you, and it’s not just that they are enmeshed with you — you also don’t feel like you can be yourself around them.

You find yourself doing things to please them all of the time, which isn’t fair to either one of you.

So, remember: you don’t have to walk on eggshells around anybody, regardless of who this individual is.

Instead, you should try to embrace who you are and be 100 percent, everyone. Trust me, that’s the key to living a meaningful life!

8) You always have to listen to their problems

Let me take a wild guess.

If you find yourself walking on eggshells around your enmeshed friend, then I bet that you always have to listen to their problems.

It’s like you’re wearing a badge that says: “Talk to me about your problems, I’m here for you!”

And because you care about them, you don’t want them to feel bad. So you listen. And listen. And listen some more.

But the problem is that listening to someone else’s problems can be draining, and it can make you feel like the other person needs to tell everything over and over again until they feel better…

And you know what?

This is not healthy for either of the parties involved.

Here’s why: listening to someone else’s problems is a way of validating their feelings, but it doesn’t solve anything.

It just makes both of you feel better at the moment — which is great, but in the long run, it won’t help your friend solve their issues – because they’re still going around telling themselves all their problems without actually solving them.

The result?

At the end of the day, you just feel exhausted from all the above factors and from constantly trying to manage your own emotions when interacting with this person.

That’s why you need to realize that it’s normal to not have the strength to listen to your friends’ problems all the time.

Most importantly, it doesn’t make you a bad person to focus on your needs instead of neglecting your desires and being there for others all the time.

9) You feel like your friend is an extension of yourself

pexels jose mieres 847078 10 signs you're in an enmeshed friendship (and what to do about it)

Want to know what’s the strongest sign that you’re in an enmeshed friendship? You feel like your friend is an extension of yourself.

Let me explain how this works.

In an enmeshed friendship, there is no separation between you and your friend. You probably feel that your friend belongs to you, and vice versa.

You’re so close to each other that it feels like the two of you are one — it’s almost as if the two of you share a soul or something like that.

It means that when something bad happens to your friend, it also happens to you — and vice versa. It’s almost as if there’s only one person in this relationship rather than two separate individuals.

So, here’s the thing:

If you feel that you and your friend are one, if you find yourself thinking “we” instead of “I” or “you,” then you’re definitely in an enmeshed friendship.

Now you might wonder: why is it so bad to feel that you and your friend are one.

The truth is that it’s a good thing to be so close to someone — but only up to a certain point. And when you’re in an enmeshed friendship, this point has been surpassed.

In an enmeshed friendship, the two of you become so dependent on each other that one of you feels like they can’t do anything without the other.

Let’s discuss an example:

Let’s say there’s a guy who used to have lots of friends, but he’s now in an enmeshed friendship with his best friend. This guy gets upset because his friend hasn’t called him for several days — he starts feeling like something bad has happened to his friend, and it also happens to him.

It means that even though nothing bad has happened to his friend, he still feels miserable because of what happened.

But here’s the thing: if your friend hasn’t called you for a few days, don’t think that it’s because they don’t care about you.

Actually, it’s because they have their own matters to deal with. And that’s absolutely normal.

So, try to realize that the feeling of being the one can lead to a lot of confusion in a relationship.

Why?

Because instead of supporting each other, both people become dependent on each other for their own happiness — which isn’t healthy at all.​

10) You stop doing things because they don’t approve of it

And the final yet most common sign of being in an embedded friendship is that you stop doing things because they don’t approve of them.

If a friend is constantly telling you what to do, how to act, and how not to act, you’re in trouble. You need to have some boundaries with your friends and protect your individuality.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be open to feedback, but it does mean that you should consider their advice rather than giving up everything just because they don’t approve of it.

If you’re in an enmeshed friendship, then you will feel like nothing you do is ever good enough for your friend.

And if the two of you are close enough, then chances are that this person will try to stop you from doing things that are important for your personal growth.

For instance, they might try to stop you from finding new friends, traveling, or doing anything that can potentially distract you from them.

And obviously, it is not healthy. That’s why you should try to get out of this unhealthy relationship as soon as possible.

So, let’s explore how it’s possible to overcome such a complex situation.

What can you do about enmeshed friendship?

As you can see, enmeshed friendships can be unhealthy and stifling. If you recognize these signs in your relationship, you may be in an enmeshed friendship.

While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, you do need to be aware of it so that you can make sure your relationship stays healthy.

If you recognize these signs in your friendship, it’s time to take action. You don’t have to end the friendship, but you do need to set some boundaries.

How so?

Just talk to your friend and start setting healthy boundaries. Don’t allow your friend to put you down. Don’t allow them to speak for you.

Don’t allow them to use you for their own personal gain. Don’t allow them to make decisions for you. And don’t allow them to manipulate you or play mind games with your emotions.

If they try, politely let them know that you won’t stand for it and that it’s time for a change — both in your relationship and in yourself.

I know it can feel incredibly comforting to have someone you can depend on, but it’s important to remember that true friendship is based on mutual respect and trust. 

So, if you have a hard time finding strength in yourself to change your relationship and free yourself from unhealthy dependence on your friend, once again, I recommend watching Rudá Iandê’s free masterclass.

I’m sure his practical solutions will help you get in touch with yourself and build fulfilling and meaningful relationships with your loved ones.

Check out the free video here.

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Nato Lagidze

Nato is a writer and a researcher with an academic background in psychology. She investigates self-compassion, emotional intelligence, psychological well-being, and the ways people make decisions. Writing about recent trends in the movie industry is her other hobby, alongside music, art, culture, and social influences. She dreams to create an uplifting documentary one day, inspired by her experiences with strangers.

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