When Love Turns into a Two-Headed Monster: Enmeshment vs Codependency Explained

If you think that love is all about being together all the time and merging your identities with your partner, you might want to read this article. Love can sometimes turn into a two-headed monster, where there’s no clear distinction of where one person starts and the other ends.

This is not just unhealthy, it’s also downright scary. You might feel trapped and suffocated in a situation like this, and chances are, your partner feels the same way.

It’s time to set things straight and figure out the difference between enmeshment and codependency. Are they different? How are they different? And most importantly, how can you avoid falling into these traps?

What is Enmeshment?

Enmeshment is when two people are so emotionally involved that they lose their sense of self. They become a single entity, with no individuality, no privacy, and no boundaries.

It might sound romantic, like something straight out of a Nicholas Sparks book. But trust me, it’s not. It’s more like something out of a Stephen King novel.

There’s no room for personal growth, no room for independence, and no room for self-expression. You’re glued to your partner’s side, and they’re glued to yours. It’s like you’re Siamese twins who can’t stand the sight of each other but still can’t live without each other.

What are the Signs of Enmeshment?

If you’re not sure whether you’re in an enmeshed relationship, here are some signs that might help you figure it out:

  • Your partner is your only source of happiness.
  • You can’t make decisions without your partner’s approval.
  • You have no life outside of your relationship.
  • You feel guilty when you do something without your partner.
  • You can’t imagine yourself without your partner.
  • You feel anxious when your partner is not around.
  • You have no privacy, and your partner reads your texts and emails without your permission.
  • You share everything with your partner, including your toothbrush and underwear.
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What is Codependency?

Codependency is when one person becomes overly dependent on another person’s emotional needs. They feel like they need to take care of their partner’s every need, even at the expense of their own well-being.

It’s like being a parent to your partner, but without the child actually being a child. Codependent people often sacrifice their own wants and needs to satisfy their partner’s, and they feel guilty when they don’t.

Codependency can be just as suffocating and unhealthy as enmeshment, but it’s not the same thing. In fact, codependency can be a consequence of enmeshment.

What are the Signs of Codependency?

If you think you might be codependent, here are some signs to look out for:

  • You put your partner’s needs before your own.
  • You constantly worry about your partner’s well-being.
  • You feel guilty when you do something for yourself.
  • You have low self-esteem and seek validation from your partner.
  • You have a hard time saying no to your partner.
  • You feel responsible for your partner’s happiness.
  • You have a hard time setting boundaries.
  • You feel unhappy and powerless in your relationship.

How to Avoid Enmeshment and Codependency

The good news is, you don’t have to stay stuck in an enmeshed or codependent relationship. Here are some tips that might help you avoid falling into these traps:

  1. Develop your own identity. It’s essential to have a life outside of your relationship. Pursue your hobbies, spend time with your friends, and build your career.
  2. Set healthy boundaries. Boundaries are crucial in any relationship. Make sure you have enough personal space and time for yourself.
  3. Communicate openly and honestly. Talk to your partner about your feelings, needs, and expectations. Listen to them too and be willing to compromise.
  4. Practice self-care. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, exercise, and healthy food.
  5. Get professional help if needed. If you’re struggling with enmeshment or codependency, consider seeing a therapist. They can help you work through your issues and develop healthier relationship patterns.
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Enmeshment vs Codependency: The Table

Enmeshment Codependency
Two people lose their sense of self. One person becomes overly dependent on another person’s emotional needs.
No boundaries or privacy. Sacrificing own wants and needs for partner’s.
No personal growth or independence. Feeling responsible for partner’s happiness.
Glued to each other’s side. Low self-esteem and seeking validation from partner.
Siamese twins who can’t stand each other but can’t live without each other. Feeling guilty when doing something for self.

Enmeshment and Codependency in Pop Culture

Enmeshment and codependency have been portrayed in various movies and TV shows. Here are some examples:


In the movie “Twilight,” Bella and Edward’s relationship has been criticized for being enmeshed. Bella becomes obsessed with Edward, and they both lose their sense of self in their relationship.

In the TV show “Friends,” Joey and Chandler are often enmeshed, especially in the earlier seasons. They spend all their time together and have no boundaries or privacy.


In the movie “Silver Linings Playbook,” Pat and Tiffany’s relationship is codependent. They rely on each other’s emotional needs to feel better about themselves.

In the TV show “Breaking Bad,” Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s relationship is often portrayed as codependent. Walter needs Jesse to help him with his drug business, and Jesse needs Walter to feel validated.

Final Thoughts

Enmeshment and codependency might seem like two sides of the same coin, but they’re not. Enmeshment is when both partners lose their sense of self, while codependency is when one partner becomes overly dependent on the other.

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If you’re in an enmeshed or codependent relationship, it’s essential to recognize the signs and take steps to avoid falling into these traps. Develop your own identity, set healthy boundaries, communicate openly and honestly, practice self-care, and seek professional help if needed.

Remember, a healthy relationship is built on two strong individuals who come together to form a partnership. Don’t let love turn into a two-headed monster. Keep your relationship healthy, happy, and exciting.


  • Johnson, S. (2018). Attachment Theory in Practice: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with Individuals, Couples, and Families. Guilford Press.
  • Mental Health America. (2021). Codependency. Retrieved from https://www.mhanational.org/codependency