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  • Ann Yeong

That's not love, that's enmeshment



If I cared enough about you in my younger years, I would hardly think twice about dropping everything and coming to your aid when you needed me. I thought that love meant always being available, being willing to put my beloved's needs above my own always, and doing everything I can to make sure my beloved is happy.


I thought that intimacy meant always checking in with each other - multiple times a day even - and knowing each other's every thought.

I thought that love meant that there are no secrets between us, that we would always seek each other's opinion and be influenced by each other. I thought that intimacy meant always checking in with each other - multiple times a day even - and knowing each other's every thought.

When I love someone, I felt that I had the right to share whatever I wanted or needed to share with you. And conversely, that I had the right to know your intimate secrets. And if I felt that you were withholding information from me about your life or about your feelings, it would make me feel really rejected and abandoned.

I would be so identified with the relationship that I would feel lost without knowing what was going on in your life.

In fact, sometimes it would make me feel betrayed because I would feel that I trusted you enough to share all these details about my life. And yet you didn't reciprocate, you didn't trust me enough to share your secrets with me. I would be so identified with the relationship that I would feel lost without knowing what was going on in your life.

For a long time I thought this was what love is - and I tried to love to the best of my ability. I prided myself in being available to my friends and family whenever they needed me. I even went so far at times prioritising helping others over my own responsibilities. It never occurred to me that this might be unhealthy or even wrong. How could it be wrong, when I was loving someone?


I was used to experiencing love as rescuing others from pain or telling others what the right thing to do is so that they don't make a mistake and suffer the consequences.

My lack of boundaries made it hard for me to say no to anyone who expressed a need to me. And on the flip side, I expected others to not say no to me either. I was used to experiencing love as rescuing others from pain or telling others what the right thing to do is so that they don't make a mistake and suffer the consequences. I felt that it was my responsibility to guide and teach other people how to live their lives. That was what I knew, and so that was how I loved. And unwittingly, I caused harm to others without ever intending to do anything else but love them.

I would feel unloved because I felt that other people were not doing the same thing for me. I yearned for another person to love me so much that they would immerse their lives in mine, just as I immersed my life in theirs.

Yet there was a shadow to my loving. While I tried my best to love this way, I would feel unloved because I felt that other people were not doing the same thing for me. I yearned for another person to love me so much that they would immerse their lives in mine, just as I immersed my life in theirs.


You see, I was giving in order to receive. I needed to be needed because it gave me a sense of being valued. But really what I wanted was to be the recipient of the kind of love that I was pouring out. Nobody had shown me how to direct that love inward to myself. So, I was forever waiting for someone else to offer me that love that would make me feel valued, and it never occurred to me that I needed ME to value myself.


The pain of those broken relationships and the pattern that became evident in my life was in large part what led me to reflect and recognize that there was something about the way that I formed attachments that was not really free or truly loving.

When I look back at my life now at some of the painful ruptures in relationships that I have had, I see them as blessings. More often than not the ruptures had happened, at least in part, because of my lack of boundaries. The pain of those broken relationships and the pattern that became evident in my life was in large part what led me to reflect and recognize that there was something about the way that I formed attachments that was not really free or truly loving.

I asked God to show me how He saw me and to show me how to love myself.

It was humbling to concede that I needed to become a beginner again. I needed to begin with a new mind and a new heart and to admit that I didn't know what love was. I didn't even know how to love myself! I asked God to show me how He saw me and to show me how to love myself. I asked for grace to have the courage to begin saying "no" to those who are used to me always saying "yes". And I asked for the grace to grow in freedom to love others without losing myself.


Enmeshment is a distortion of love for it seeks to cling and tie one another down and make each person out in the image we need. Love on the other hand sets us free and brings all of us into a fuller stature of who God created us to be. Now THAT is a true measure of love!

Listen to Episode 14 Where Do You End and I Begin? on the Becoming Me Podcast from Wednesday 3 February, 2021. Spotify: https://buff.ly/34vZRf1

Apple Podcasts: https://buff.ly/34rFkIu

Google Podcasts: https://buff.ly/3n9MHgh

Website: https://buff.ly/3kzUylB

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