Are you in an enmeshed relationship without boundary?

There are a lot of clients of mine being trapped in enmeshed relationships with their significant others, such as parents or spouses.  For instance, a wife is totally dependent on her husband on almost everything.  Her husband asked her to become a housewife after married.  The husband controlled the wife on everything, money, social activities and even family gatherings.  The wife needed the husband’s approval to attend any gatherings with her friends.  Even for family gathering, the husband helped the wife to organise.  The husband never gave the wife pocket money, he only paid the wife’s food and necessities without giving her own power to use money.  As the wife did not know how to drive and how to speak English in foreign country after immigration, the wife is totally dependent on the husband.  After returning to Hong Kong for good, the husband even kept the wife’s octopus card and just gave her while she entered the gate of the MTR station.  In fact, any attempt of the wife to try to be independent activated the husband tendency to punish her with cold shoulder and silent treatment.  The husband needed to know everything about the wife and the wife is not allowed to have her own opinion.

This example is an extreme example of lack of boundary in a marriage.  The wife is not allowed to develop autonomy and to express her authentic self fully.  In the marriage, there is a complete lack of separateness.  The husband seemed to be the parental figure of the wife who had the fear of not being able to control the wife.  The wife was also fear of being ostracized by the husband if she acted independently.  Therefore, she decided not to learn driving or English after immigrating to a foreign country because of her fear of being ostracized.  The wife had learned helplessness.  In fact, there was no true connection in the marriage because either the husband or the wife was not not truly themselves.  The husband constantly adopted a narcissistic control towards the wife without really loving her and empathizing her.  The wife did not live her life with autonomy to develop her true self and express her own opinions.  This marriage showed a false sense of intimacy and closeness between the husband and wife in the superficial level.  It is because there was no clear boundaries in the marriage.  There was also no freedom to have separate realities in the two persons.

The wife, as a result, developed chronic depressive mood and sense of worthlessness.  She was totally out of contact with others and lack of genuine social interactions.  Her core needs are constantly being unmet.  Without clear boundaries between the husband and wife, the wife was trapped and was never able to be her true self.  Despite the fact that this example was quite extreme, everyone needs to develop healthy boundaries with oneself, one’s significant others and anyone in one’s life.  It is because we can only live our true self when there are clear boundaries in relationships.  In a nutshell, boundary is essential.

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