Enmeshment and Enabling: A Dangerous Duo

In many of my cases in which enmeshment has been the primary issue, the twin connection has intensified owing to insufficient parental involvement. However, recently I had the opportunity to speak to parents of twenty-eight-year-old identical twin men who admitted to an overinvolvement in their sons’ lives. More than likely, this ongoing entanglement magnified the twins’ enmeshment.

The two men are the only children in the family. They are smart, handsome, and socially appropriate with other adults on a superficial level. Their mom and dad related that they essentially shut everyone else out of their lives and were more closely connected to their dogs than to other people. Both men seem to have little ambition or drive, even though they graduated with honors from an excellent university. The men have never been separated, and they currently live together. Each has had a few outside romantic relationships. Their dad related that they are highly competitive in terms of exercise and eating: they check in with each other about what they have eaten and how many sit-ups they have done. While both have their driver’s license, only one of them drives.

The parents contacted me in hopes of receiving some guidance about their sons’ lack of career advancement. Both men do menial jobs to help supplement the money their parents provide. The twins make their parents feel powerless and helpless. They do not include them in major decisions or in any day-to-day happenings. One of them will answer a text from one parent, and the other feels that he does not have to respond because his brother already did. It has been quite painful for the parents to recognize that enabling them with money, a place to live, and unequivocal support has contributed to their sons’ emotional unavailability. The parents are fearful about changing their arrangement.

The parents and I decided that baby steps are required to inaugurate change that comes from the twins themselves—they need to feel in control and powerful. The mom and dad agreed that the first step must be telling their sons that they are going to sell the house where the boys are currently living. They will have to decide on their own where they will move and how they plan to sustain themselves financially. The parents have jumped through every hoop for their sons, offering everything under the sun to ensure their happiness. But of course, they are not happy because neither one of them has developed the wherewithal to rely on himself or feel productive.

Overindulgent parenting is nothing new. Nonetheless, with twins the risks seem a bit higher. In this case, the twins are in control, calling the shots and manipulating their parents to rescue and take care of them. Because these parents have glorified the twinship all their lives, acknowledging how the twins have stripped them of their power and rendered them helpless, frightened, and disappointed is a bitter pill to swallow.

Photo by Alexandra E Rust, CC BY 2.0

1 Comment

  1. Carol C

    Very Interested in your work. I am a twin and we were in mashed within a narcissistic codependent household. Now that I’m adult I’m trying to heal and figure things out every month. Every month my mind gets my mind is blown up away. Thank you for your work. I look forward to learning from you.

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