There is an important difference between emotional intimacy with the people that we love and emotional enmeshment.
In a relationship with emotional intimacy, the people involved have the right to be themselves and express themselves due to a high level of acceptance. Trust is built, differences are valued and each person in the relationship feels supported.
In enmeshment, a low level of emotionally maturity of the participants determines that they try to define themselves through the intense relationship, depending on the other person’s opinion or role in order to define their own place in the world.
In the first case, people can be flexible, change and adapt throughout life, because they do not depend on each other in order to know who they are themselves.
In the second case, roles are rigid and the people involved must comply with the needs of the other person. There are rigid established dynamics that when broken can cause anxiety and angst. Manipulation is necessary in order to keep everyone in the order and the relationship stable. The relationship is a mirror, reflecting who they are back to them instead of an individual contruction of self.
In families this can be observed in rigid rituals that must be maintained, parents that have difficulty accepting their childrenˋs new stages in life and also mutual demands that no longer makes sense for a determined stage in life.
In romantic relationships, this can be observed through conflicts that come up when any of the parts want to progress individually, when one the parts tries to change the dynamics in any way or when something happens to affect the purpose of the relationship.