Phone: 631.332.2213 Email: Suezola@me.com Licensed in New York and Florida
What is Enmeshment? “a condition in which two or more people, typically family members, are involved in each other’s activities and personal relationships to an excessive degree, thus limiting or precluding healthy interaction and compromising individual autonomy and identity.” - American Psychological Association Dictionary of Psychology
According to author Dr. Kenneth Adams, Enmeshed Sons Boys can become enmeshed with either or both parents, but more typically become enmeshed with their mother. A boy who has played the role of surrogate companion to his mother feels engulfed, enmeshed, smothered, and intruded upon. His wants and needs have merged with hers and the boy’s identity is lost. Burdened with excessive feelings of guilt and disloyalty regarding their own wishes, these men have lost their sense of self and submerged their most basic needs and wants.
Characteristics of enmeshed sons:
True self is unable to unfold and goes into hiding and a false, people-pleasing self emerges
Sensitive and empathetic caretaker role becomes overdeveloped and central to identity
Rebellious adolescent identity
Ambivalence in commitments
Struggle to fully commit to a relationship leaving spouse or partners feeling “second fiddle”
Having learned to compromise, accommodate or submit to his mother, leading to do the same with others, enmeshed men tend to resent and pull away or attack
Lack of differentiation between self and others, creating difficulties with internal and external boundaries (Your problems become my problems)
Choosing romantic partners that don’t represent a threat or challenge to the parent
Failing to pursue or commit to a workable relationship
Sexuality is filled with intense conflict and shrouded in danger, taboo, ambivalence, and shame
Development of a sex addiction as an escape from engulfment, or to discharge pent up anger
Sexually shut down and avoidant with primary partner as a means of protection
Compulsively attuned to the feelings and needs of others, or, some men may dismiss and become insensitive to protect self
Picks friends to take care of, rescue and emotionally and/or financially support
Overly competitive with men, but has many female friends
Unable to commit to friends, thereby losing friendships over time
Choosing a career to please parent
Not pursuing dreams or overcompensating with work due to feelings of disempowerment
Overly involved and dependent on family business at a cost to true self
Pushing their children towards the enmeshing parent to deflect away from their own enmeshment
Over involvement in their child’s life, repeating the generational enmeshment
Enmeshed Daughters Daughters can be enmeshed with either or both parents. The daughter who is her mother’s companion to replace her absent father may over identify with the mother’s anger and distrust of men and relationships. She may overeat as a way to exert control in the face of feeling smothered by her mothers’ neediness. Daughters who play the role of daddy’s girl may be enmeshed with him in a more romantic way due to him displacing his needs for companionship onto her. She may act this romanticized relationship out in sex and love addiction patterns.
The following are some common characteristics of enmeshed daughters:
Lack of differentiation between self & others
Over-reliance on parents into adulthood
Poor internal and external boundaries
No clear sense of who one is
Fear of intimacy
Love addiction: obsession with fantasy & rescue
Lowered expectations of romantic needs being fulfilled
Tolerance of poor treatment by others
Codependence & emotional care-taking
Overbearing (e.g.,becoming a mother to a partner)
Confuse sex for love
Hypersexual or sexually avoidant
Increased risk of being sexually victimized
May utilize sex as a form of power
Food restriction may serve as way to control how much “mothering” gets in for mother-enmeshed women
May exhibit covert aggression toward female friends
Competition masked as friendship
May be more comfortable with male friends
Likely to hold back and not shine brighter than friends
May befriend women who they perceive to be less attractive or threatening
May feel overwhelmed by the duties of parenting and need to be emotionally present
May be depended on their own children for unmet needs
May entrap children into same pattern of enmeshment
In anticipation of the release of A Light in the Dark: The Hidden Legacy of Adult Children of Sex Addicts, Dr. Kenneth Adam's is conducting survey research on Adult Children of of Sex Addicts (ACSA). If either yourself, or someone you know fits the criteria, please complete the survey HERE.
All submissions will be kept anonymous.
Your feedback is appreciated! The book will be officially released in February 2023. If you would like to learn more about the book and be added to the notification list, please send an email to email@example.com. If you would like additional information on individual or group consultation with Dr. Adams and/or further education on enmeshment, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Did you have a parent whose love for you felt more confining than freeing, more demanding than giving, more instrusive than nurturing? Did you feel trapped in a "psychological marriage" with this parent? If so, you may be a victim of covert incest. Identification of this kind of incest is difficult, since covert incest victims often feel idealized and privileged, not violated and abused. In Silently Seduced, Dr. Adams, through illustrative case examples and perceptive insight, provides covert incest victims a framework to understand what happened to them, how their lives and relationships continue to be affected and how to begin the process of recovery."
Excerpt from book – "Covert incest occurs when a child becomes the object of a parent’s affection, love, passion, and preoccupation. The parent, motivated by the loneliness and emptiness created by a chronically troubled marriage or relationship, makes the child a surrogate partner. The boundary between caring and incestuous love is crossed when the child exists to meet the needs of the parent rather than the child."
"A practical, compassionate relationship guide for women who are involved with mother-enmeshed men, mothers who wish to set their sons free, and men dealing with issues of commitment, sex addiction, and unhealthy attachments. Why can't he commit? Many women find themselves asking this question when in love with a man who won't get married, won't stop womanizing, or refuses to give up his sex addictions. Often this kind of man is bound by an unhealthy attachment to his mother. This phenomenon is called "mother-son enmeshment." In When He's Married to Mom, clinical psychologist and renowned intimacy expert Dr. Kenneth M. Adams goes beyond the stereotypes of momma's boys and meddling mothers to explain how mother-son enmeshment affects everyone: the mother, the son, and the woman who loves him."
Excerpt from book – In his unconscious – and sometimes conscious – mind, a mother-enmeshed man is representing his mother’s interests, while his own have become secondary. If he does something he thinks she wouldn’t like, he feels disloyal to her. If he “gets serious” about a woman, suddenly, without understanding why, he is overwhelmed with feelings of fear, anxiety, and guilt. Ambivalence and withdrawal inevitably follow.
"This is the first comprehensive volume of the clinical management of sex addiction. Collecting the work of 28 leaders in this emerging field, the editors provide a long-needed primary text about how to approach treatment with these challenging patients. The book serves as an excellent introduction for professionals new to the field as well as serving as a useful reference tool. The contributors are literally the pioneers of one of the last frontiers of addiction medicine and sex therapy." Excerpt from book – Sexual addiction can best be conceptualized as an intimacy disorder manifested as a compulsive cycle of preoccupation, ritualization, sexual behavior, and despair. Central to the disorder is the inability of the individual to adequately bond and attach in intimate relationships. The origin of the disorder is rooted in early attachment failure with primary caregivers. Sexual addiction becomes a way to compensate for this early attachment failure.
Dr. Kenneth M. Adams Workshops
Reclaiming Your Voice: Empowering Partners of Enmeshed Adults - A Workshop for Partners of Enmeshed Adults - Facilitated by our Women Finding Freedom Workshop’s Erin Wysong Warren, LPC Supervisor, CSAT, CPTT, the 2 day workshop is intended for partners of adults enmeshed with a parent or family that report feeling marginalized and second in importance compared to the parent or family of their spouse/partner. They have lost a sense of their value and legitimacy in their relationship. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER
This educational workshop will help spouses or partners of enmeshed adults:
Understand the lack of commitment on behalf of their partner
Reduce confusion, personalization, and feelings of diminishment
Face the impact of enmeshment and receive support and validation for losses that have occurred
Clarify desires and needs in the relationship
Create a self-care plan
Mother-Enmeshed Men- From Guilt and Ambivalence to Passion and Purpose-Recovery Enhancement for Mother-Enmeshed Men - Men who have had an enmeshed relationship with their mother struggle with a range of problems regarding commitment, self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, over-caretaking, and addiction. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER
This workshop enables them to:
Identify the trappings of enmeshment;
Understand the impact of enmeshment on their erotic template;
Cope with underlying anger & guilt;
Develop strategies to help them to break free from inappropriate loyalties and learn to live within healthy commitments.
Women Finding Freedom- The Invisible Betrayal of Parental Enmeshment- This online educational workshop will be facilitated by Erin Wysong-Warren, LPC-Supervisor, CSAT, CPTT through Zoom and has been designed to assist women to focus on specific issues they confront when dealing with their enmeshment. Women who have had an enmeshed relationship with either their mother or father and struggle with a range of problems regarding commitment, self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, over-caretaking, and addiction will benefit from this session. This is a uniquely designed workshop specifically for women and is limited to 3-4 women per workshop. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER
This online educational session enables women to:
Identify the cognitive, emotional, physical, and interpersonal trappings of enmeshment
Understand the impact of enmeshment on their sexuality
Cope with underlying feelings of obligation, anger, and guilt
Develop strategies to help them to break free from inappropriate loyalties and learn to live within healthy commitments
Rediscover the individual they were meant to be
Cultivate self-care, spontaneity, and play
How to Put Your Love Relationship First- Couples Recovering from the Impact of the Enmeshment- Facilitated by Amanda Chinchilla, MS, LMFT, CSAT, this intensive Zoom workshop is intended to help maintain the boundaries created in Level 1 and foster a healthy relationship with passion and purpose for both individuals. It is focused on creating a space that is free from the burden of enmeshment and to help unburden the collection of grievances gathered along the way. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER
This workshop enables them to:
Re-establish boundaries that honor the love relationship as the priority
Develop an alliance in the face of enmeshment that leads to greater intimacy and love
Create a couples template that guides you in learning to visit and detach from taking on the problems of the enmeshing parent and family
Disclaimer: Information on this website page "Enmeshment" is provided by Dr. Kenneth Adams and his website overcomingenmeshment.com.
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Susan Zola, LCSW, CCPS, CSAT
T: 631-332-2213 E: email@example.com Licensed in New York and Florida
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology – SUNY Binghamton, 1980 Master of Social Work – Adelphi University School of Social Work, 1982. Private Practice – "Mind Over Matters," 2006. LCSW License #078530-1 APSATS The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists CSAT Certified Sex Addiction Therapist IITAP The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals CCPS Certified Clinical Partner Specialist