Enmeshment – against the odds

“If I’m not enmeshed then I am alone”

These are the harrowing words I’ve just read on a forum I’m on by someone who is currently shocked at how her enmeshed family have gone totally silent on her (giving her the silent treatment as a manipulation tactic). The words hit me because that is exactly it isn’t it?

With a narcissistic mother like mine, (perhaps any toxic personality disordered parent?) you are either a source of supply or you are literally of no use and so therefore, discarded. It sounds simple and obvious when I write it like that, but in reality trying to fully digest this stuff on a deeper and emotional level is so hard.

I’ve been reading loads the last few days about enmeshment and engulfment with a narcissistic mother. I haven’t really read anything that I didn’t already know, but sometimes just reading things over and over again helps to shake off any bits of doubt or denial that try and creep back in from time to time.

For me personally, my mother was an ignoring narcissistic mother until I was old enough to be of any use to her. That happened when I was a late teenager, maybe 17 or so and I now understand that this happened when I started to kill off/hide my true self and tried to be more like her. My mother applauses people like her – being like her, doing things she does, having the same opinion as her are all ways of seeking her approval and I learnt that early. Having lived without a proper mother for my entire life, I suppose looking back in hindsight, I thought I’d finally done it – I had finally got her love and approval. I learnt to shape myself to be as similar to her as I could be. I learnt to let her make my decisions about everything in my life – my job, my friends, boyfriends, clothes, plastic surgery(!!), anything and everything. She had total control over me to the point where, like all engulfing narcissists, I was an extension of her rather than my own separate self.

We were fused together. Add to this the fact that due to her narcissism, I had to parent her. I had to be her best friend and her confident about her man troubles, sex life, friendships and financial problems and I switched off having any of my own needs or feelings to always keep try and keep her good. I literally cloned myself into a “mini me” as she called me (something I now understand every engulfing narcissistic mother wants!).

I started drinking and smoking with her, I went to clubs with her, I let her dress me, tell me how to do my make up, tell me what boys (or men) to date. There were no boundaries whatsoever. I think the saddest thing about this is that I genuinely thought we were close. I really believed she was my best friend. That we had the best mother and daughter relationship ever – and after 17 odd years of feeling complete neglect, I couldn’t be happier.

I now understand my need for her love and approval is what cost me my entire being. I let her engulf me, smother me, control me – I fully submerged my self to her.

Unfortunately as I now understand, she was living vicariously through me and so the decisions she made for me, the directions she pushed me in etc weren’t for my own good. They were for her own good. Me and her were now the same person and so she has every right to take this control. I was a weak puppet who was completely unaware of this. Maybe that’s just as well?!

I leant the hard way that if I dared to do something or make a decision without her – on my own (god forbid) I would pay. Unless of course that decision benefitted her somehow. She would get so angry with me if I made the “wrong” decision and as punishment she would either rage, withdraw or give me the silent treatment. The withdrawal was the worst, she would literally cut me off and I would feel like I had for the 17 or so years she was neglectful of me. I would have another taster of what life would be like and that would scare me into compliance again. So I would make sure to seek her “advice” so as to not upset her. I became her finger puppet.

It shocks me writing this quite how bad this is. I have hundreds, maybe even thousands of stories I could write to evidence this but I’ll save that for another time.

When I met my now fiancé though, I was living on my own (down the road to her – obviously), but I spent every weekend at her house, drinking and smoking with her – listening to her problems, telling her mine. But when me and my fiancé got more serious, he started to see her bad behaviour and we started to discuss it. Over time I told him of the neglectful ways I had been treated as a child growing up. I cried to him about things that had happened, he saw the dynamic at play well before I did. Sadly due to my engulfment with her I had become extremely codependent and felt lost without someone telling me what to do and say. She tried her very best to get me to break up with him. She tried EVERYTHING!! She told me he would never love me as much as his ex wife, that he would always put his children before me and I wouldn’t be able to cope with that – she told me we would never have any money, that he didn’t love me or he would have proposed by now, she even looked up his medical records at the hospital she worked in as she was convinced he couldn’t have any more kids and was going to trap me and then leave me childless.

Because of this I was extremely insecure in the beginning of our relationship. I was constantly triggered by his ex wife and their history, worried sick about him not wanting kids with me one day, scared she was right that he would get back with his ex wife, scared he didn’t love me enough.

Thank god I then took myself to therapy.

So here I am, 4 years later. 4 years after meeting my now fiancé and 4 years into therapy and I’m still figuring all of this out. The engulfment/enmeshment was really severe huh? I didn’t even know. I wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn’t of got my therapy. What if I was still being manipulated by her? What if I was still her finger puppet? I would be so lonely I’m sure as she would have driven away any suitable and healthy boyfriends or friends.

Anyway, pulling away from her and separating myself from her is clearly causing all sorts of problems for her. I don’t think she can quite believe that the girl she engendered for so long is not reliant on her anymore.

She is FURIOUS that I am living my own, independent life, that I make my own choices. The fact I am getting married in 3 weeks time must be such a hard reality for her to bare. No wonder she didn’t come to my dress fitting – I think the reality of me standing there dressed in my gown, marrying someone that I’ve chosen myself, against her will, must be excruciatingly painful for her. She can’t bare it. Who do I think I am?

Writing this has helped me make sense of things once again. I know this stuff but putting it down into a coherent narrative helps to cement it in a bit better.

With my mum, it truly is enmeshment – total control or nothing. I think she’s just about given up on me now, and I guess what’s why I feel like there is nothing left – because there truly isn’t. Unless I am letting her control my life entirely, or telling her she’s so wonderful, there isn’t anything there at all. She isn’t interested in me as a separate person, she can’t even entertain that as a concept – and so I’m back in that neglectful position I was in growing up – but this time I’m a grown up. A 30 year old woman about to get married. I don’t give her anything, I am no longer supplying her ego in any way and so it’s literally as simple as that. I am no use to her (again). We are entirely different people now (again) – thank god. Our lives are completely different. She can’t celebrate my successes or enjoy my differences – in fact they are offensive to her.

Yet here I am. Nobody’s finger puppet. All bad ass and shit making a life for myself.

There’s not one decision in my life anymore that she has controlled. Not one. Not one decision I’ve needed her “advice” for. In the last year I’ve moved house, got a new job and planned my wedding. She wasn’t even there when I brought my wedding dress (I planned it that way).

So in 3 weeks today when I walk down the aisle with my dad on my arm towards my lovely fiancé, I know I’ve done this all by myself. Against the odds. And when I see her crying, I’ll know it’s through the disbelief she isn’t controlling me rather than any remorse. She is crying for herself, not for me.

I’m hoping this helps me to rid myself of the constant shame and guilt that I feel. Perhaps the guilt I feel is the last ties of our enmeshment – me still care-taking her. So I want to say goodbye to that.

27 thoughts on “Enmeshment – against the odds

  1. Anyone who has been reading and following your blog for a while knows the utter pain you have gon through in trying to break out of this enmeshment TT. I think its amazing and I am so glad you found a true love as that gives you more strength to see the truth. I look back to my own relationship with my Mum and see how I sacrificed myself too and often made excuses for her its hard to say I feel freer since she is dead as that sound callous. I hope your wedding is full of joy and happiness and that you continue to gain strength and self belief. You deserve all the love and happiness in the world and a life outside that terrible prison of narcissism. Hugs ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah what a lovely comment. Thank you so much, that means the world. I know exactly what you mean and I don’t think you’re callous AT ALL!! I think the only saving grace is that we didn’t realise at the time, otherwise the pain would have been even worse wouldn’t it?! Thank you for my wedding wishes, having written this I feel I will have released some of the guilt that I was worried would hang over me. Xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so in awe of how you have found a non-toxic person to be in a functional, loving and happy relationship with. I think it is incredible that you’ve been able to do that despite your NM and upbringing and the difficulties you had in your relationship at the beginning. And you faced all that pain in therapy and broke free – you are amazing and you deserve the best wedding day EVER xxxxx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yeah this was actually the part that leapt out to me from your post… when you wrote… ‘and then I went to therapy’. It suddenly turned the whole direction of the story. Like, i feel like most people wouldn’t have done that. It was unbelievably brave. And I just think you really deserve to have a nice marriage and a nice life. You’re a really impressive person. X

      Liked by 4 people

      1. It’s funny, I have never thought about it as brave. In fact, I went to therapy in the hope someone would love me (! God that’s sad isn’t it). But I am thankful every single day to the work I’ve done in therapy, I’m thankful that this has been able to happen. I often wonder what life would be like for me if things went differently and I am very grateful. Thank you for such a lovely, lovely comment, honestly it’s touched me. Xx

        Liked by 2 people

      2. LMAO I’ll lay off the compliments now before it gets creepy 😂 know I never really comment your blog but I do always read and I have thought these things for a long time. You have a really nice attitude which I admire (lmao ok that’s my last compliment now promise) 💛

        Liked by 2 people

    2. i agree as well! you found a way out! lately your posts have really shown us the depth of the grieving you are doing — i am in the same space too. its so hard, but i hope, for both of us, that it will lead to the next stages: acceptance, healing and resolving the past completely. ❤ to you!
      also EEK WEDDING IN 3 WEEKS!!!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah the grieving has deffo ramped up lately, the wedding has been a real trigger for me – I think it’s the whole symbolism of gong from child to adult or something, I don’t know.

        I have no doubt whatsoever that we will both reach the next stages. Well done to you, well done to us! I feel so utterly grateful we have been able to get even this far, aren’t you? What a wasted life it would have been for us if this hadn’t happened? Re wedding, I know, right? EEEEEKKKKKK!!!!!! X

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Do you know, I can imagine!! Not because you should have to work hard to keep someone good like him, but because I can only imagine how triggering it was that he had an ex-wife and kids. I was with someone about 5 years ago who still ran a business with his ex-wife and it sent me absolutely loopy! I’m hopeful that if I ever meet someone now, I will at least understand my feelings and be aware of my emotional reactions, even if I can’t always control them… You’ve done amazingly, that hard work is paying off. I know the depths of the grief at the moment are all-consuming at times, but it will all be so worth it xxx

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Ah so you do know!!! Me and you have had so many similar experiences it’s spooky! The triggering and insecurity from his ex was HUGE!! But add to that my mother stirring the pot constantly telling me he still loves her, how he would go back to her, how they have history and kids together blah blah blah… it was SOOOOO hard! I hated her. I was so jealous of her, the mention of her name used to make me anxious or angry. Honestly, mental. And then the kids brought their own triggers, the jealousy his daughter felt when around me, my anger when she would climb and lay all over him, my insecurity when she was quiet or funny with me on a Friday night…. my constant fear they told their mum things about me – agh honestly I could go on and on. For what it’s worth though, working with his ex …. woah!! Not even sure I could handle that one now lol! 😂😂😂 xxx

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I remember quite a bit of stuff you wrote about how his daughter triggered you. I’m not surprised about the ex either, especially with your Mum meddling. Man, I can actually hear my Mum saying stuff like that about similar things. Acting like she had my interests at heart and was trying to warn me and look out for me, when it was just her way of getting in there and acting like she knew about everything. One time when I was 17 she drove me and some friends, including a guy I was seeing, to a party miles away in the middle of nowhere. At the party the guy dumped me, and I was basically stranded there all night, wasted and heartbroken and crying on everyone (hello abandonment flashback I didn’t understand at the time!!). I finally got home the next day and she said ‘oh I knew he was going to do that, I could just tell’. FFS. 1) of course she didn’t ‘know’, she just always had to pretend she ‘knew’ everything already, and 2) if she did know – why the hell did she leave me there?!

        I have always been bad enough in relationships, insecure and jealous and clingy and then suddenly feeling smothered and pushing them away, prominent exes are just too much!! I tried to convince myself I was being unreasonable and so never really told him my worries, but one time he left me (we were long distance, a 90 minute drive) to go help her because there was a mouse in her house. That may have been the turning point for me… They didn’t even have kids so no need to still be that involved in each other’s lives! Looking back he had complex-PTSD and DID spectrum stuff going on, so we were no good for each other… Honestly. you’ve done really well finding someone stable and then doing the work to ‘keep’ him.

        Sorry for the essay, ha ha. Trying to distract myself!! xxx

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Don’t be sorry, that was very interesting to read! God, my mum would also always say the whole “I knew, I could just tell” stuff. Gross!!! She also picked a fight with my fiancé not long before we went no contact over the fact I would still need to work when we have a baby…. (lol!). She also banned two of my exes from her house because she didn’t like them! Our mothers sound so like each other. By the way, what that guy did to you was just horrible! What an arsehole.

        I do think we need securely attached people. I think anyone remotely struggling will keep us spiralling around in insecurity or codependency. Xx

        Liked by 2 people

      5. I COMPLETELY agree. That’ll be my next mission after settling with new T…

        Yep, that guy was a mind-fuck. Also 19 years older than me – eek! He was the epitome of the push/pull of disorganised attachment behaviour. I didn’t know if I was coming or going, it made me insane! Once he told me he needed me to be okay ALL THE TIME so he could have his wobbles without affecting me or needing to worry about me. Argh. I broke up with him so many times because whenever I tried I’d get triggered into abandonment flashbacks, which I didn’t understand and so thought I’d made a mistake by ending it. Phew, I’ve come a long way since then!

        Our mum’s must have read some kind of manual haha! xx

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s