Archive for April 12th, 2012
Enmeshed - relationships in which boundaries between self and other are blurred and what results is a tangled mess beneath the surface while to all outward appearances the world sees two separate beings
Nice Guys frequently find themselves in these kind of entangled relationships. In an enmeshed relationship it is confusing to figure out who exactly owns which mood, which position, which belief for the other person is quickly drawn into the mood, belief or position. If one becomes depressed, both are depressed. If one decides on a life-style change (such as diet), both embrace the life-style change. Often, from the outside, it appears as though the relationship is the perfect relationship where both parties are a perfect fit in all ways.
The enmeshing Nice Guy makes his partner his emotional center. His world revolves around her. She is more important than his work, his buddies, his hobbies. He will do whatever it takes to make her happy. He will give her gifts, try to fix her problems, and arrange his schedule to be with her. He will gladly sacrifice his wants and needs to win her love. He will even tolerate her bad moods, rage attacks, addictions, and emotional or sexual unavailability – all because he “loves her so much.” (Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy, p. 114)
There is a problem with this. For all of his effort and intention, the Nice Guy isn’t really there for his partner. He is there to meet his unmet needs of childhood. And as a result, as Glover puts it:
“The Nice Guy’s pursuing and enmeshing behavior is an attempt to hook up an emotional hose to his partner. This hose is used to suck the life out of her and fill an empty place inside of him. The Nice Guy’s partner unconsciously picks up on this agenda and works like hell to make sure the Nice Guy can’t get close enough to hook up the hose.” (p. 114)
And what results is a relationship that fights against itself, a relationship of unidentified unconscious conflict where intimacy between the individuals has no chance to authentically appear. But what is perhaps even more dysfunctional is the missing intimacy with the self. Filling the hole makes the Nice Guy oblivious to all the things about himself that are functional, the parts that work. The task for the Nice Guy is to discover those hidden parts of himself that are bubbling under the surface. What does he really want from life, what does he need to feel “complete?” This last part is the hardest to discover for childhood and life patterns have taught him that an “other” is the key to being complete. Yet, the real path to wholeness is to discover the missing pieces within and not put that burden on another person. Once that work is done, there is a chance for real, intimate and healthy relationship.