By Dr. Tim Clinton
“I’d die without you.” “You make me whole.” “Without you, I’d be hopelessly lost.” “You define me.” These phrases may sound charming, but this kind of “love” can actually be very destructive. In the name of “love,” it’s easy to put up with all kinds of craziness. To make excuses. To ignore reality.
When we define love as dominance, we feel completely justified in smothering people with too much attention and direction. And when we define love as compliance, we feel so utterly incompetent that we’re happy to let an assertive person tell us how to live. However, such misguided devotion doesn’t truly satisfy us. It robs us of sanity, peace, joy and the true love of a healthy relationship.
So how do you know? Here’s a few signs that you may be in an unhealthy, enmeshed relationship. Do you…
10. Lie to yourself or others?
If you answered “yes” to many of these statements, it’s likely that you may be stuck in enmeshed relationship. These relationships leave a legacy of heartbreak and manipulation. But that legacy can be changed if we are willing to open our eyes and take an honest look at ourselves and our relationships.
We may call it love, but enmeshment is:
• Smothering a weak, needy person with too much attention and direction
• Giving in (meekly or defiantly) to the demands of a dominating person
• Taking responsibility for another’s choices instead of letting him experience the consequences of his decisions
• Losing your identity in someone else, being dominated by them, and taking on that person’s emotions, values, thoughts and behaviors
• Switching roles with your children and expecting them to meet your emotional needs
• Building your relationship on power instead of mutual respect
If you’ve been mistaking counterfeit love for the real thing, then you need a breakthrough—a flash of insight and a dose of courage to take action and change the status quo. A weak, misguided definition of love causes us to give in repeatedly, but a stronger, more accurate view of love directs us to speak and act wisely to address evil, manipulative behavior.
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Connect With Dr. Tim Clinton
Connect with Dr. Tim Clinton at AACC
Tim Clinton, Ed. D., LPC, LMFT (The College of William and Mary) is President of the nearly 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), the largest and most diverse Christian counseling association in the world. He is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, and Executive Director of the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University. Licensed in Virginia as both a Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist, Tim now spends a majority of his time working with Christian leaders and professional athletes. He is recognized as a world leader in faith and mental health issues and has authored over 20 books including Breakthrough: When to Give In, When to Push Back. Most importantly, Tim has been married 36 years to his wife Julie and together they have two children, Megan, who recently married Ben Allison and is practicing medicine in dermatology, and Zach, who plays baseball at Liberty University. In his free time, you’ll find him outdoors or at a game with family and friends.
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