Michelle Chalfant | The Adult Chair | 379 – Summer Series: Enmeshment, Codependency and Boundaries with Dr. Ken Adams
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379 – Summer Series: Enmeshment, Codependency and Boundaries with Dr. Ken Adams

Do you ever feel like you’re being disloyal to your family for having your own life? Or do you feel like you’re second fiddle to your partner’s parents?


If so, you or your partner might come from an enmeshed family: a system of relating to each other that is based on dependency, guilt, obligation and too much closeness (yes, that can be a thing!). 


In today’s episode, I’m bringing back one of your favorite guests, Dr. Ken Adams, to talk about the important topic of enmeshment – and let me tell you, he is SUCH a wealth of knowledge! 


When I knew we were bringing Dr. Adams back, I asked The Adult Chair® community what you wanted to know about enmeshment, and I was flooded with questions! So, I used this time with Dr. Adams to ask him YOUR questions – everything from the difference between codependency and enmeshment to what to do if your spouse is enmeshed with his or her family to how to let go as an enmeshed parent.


I know you guys are so excited to have Dr. Adams back and to get your questions answered, and I am too! 


Listen to discover:

  • The line between being caring and enmeshment
  • The difference between codependency and enmeshment
  • What to do if you come from an enmeshed family or your spouse’s family is enmeshed
  • How to manage guilt when stepping out of an enmeshed system
  • What a healthy family looks like
  • How different cultural norms can foster enmeshment
  • Tips for enmeshed parents who want to change their pattern of relating to their children or who are struggling with letting go


The key to recognizing enmeshment is to understand that it’s a connection bound by guilt. It goes beyond being caring and even beyond being codependent to the point of obligation, anger and being accused of disloyalty if you don’t follow the family system. 


These feelings of guilt can make it difficult to set boundaries, but if you stay in your Adult, sit with your emotions and hold those boundaries, freedom – and possibly a much healthier family overall – is waiting for you on the other side.


“In those enmeshed systems, dependency is built on obligation and loyalty is driven by guilt.” – Dr. Ken Adams


“Autonomy and separateness feel like disloyalty.” – Dr. Ken Adams


“Sometimes outsiders are viewed suspiciously, which includes your spouse.” – Dr. Ken Adams


“Both partners are responsible for keeping out intrusions”. – Dr. Ken Adams


“Sometimes the guilt is a representation that you’re doing the right thing.” – Dr. Ken Adams


“You don’t let the guilt stop you from continuing the boundaries in that relationship.” – Michelle Chalfant


“It’s really building up self-worth around who am I now…who am I really underneath these masks that my parents put on me.” – Michelle Chalfant




Dr. Ken Adams Website



Episode #256: Understanding Enmeshment with Dr. Ken Adams



Episode #276: Raising Teens from The Adult Chair® with Dr. Pam Staples



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