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Understanding Emotionally Healthy and Emotionally Unhealthy Relationships

Updated on February 16, 2013

There are many things not understood about healthy emotional boundaries in regards to relationships. My focus today is to share my perception of what part of that involves.

First, personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to keep from being manipulated by, or enmeshed with, emotionally needy others. That is rather difficult to figure out because those who have been abused usually have no idea what their own identity, feelings or thoughts are, therefore making it harder to figure out how not to be enmeshed with others.

There is a website,, that has listed what it looks like when you have emotionally healthy boundaries. Here is the list:

According to, you know you have established healthy relationship boundaries when:

- You feel like your own person.

- You take responsibility for achieving your own happiness.

- You ask your partner openly and honestly for what you want and need in your relationship.

- You have friendships outside of your relationship.

- You and your partner balance the amount of time you spend together and apart.

- You and your partner do not need the help of alcohol or drugs to feel intimate.

- You respect the ways in which your partner is different from you.

- You have a strong commitment to your partner.

- You accept changes in your relationship.

That same website also lists what it looks like when you are in an emotionally unhealthy relationship:

- You feel incomplete without your partner.

- You rely on your partner to make you happy.

- You are not able to express your wants and needs.

- You are not able to establish and maintain friendships outside of your relationship.

- You and your partner spend too much or too little time together.

- You and your partner use alcohol or drugs to gain a false sense of intimacy.

- You often focus on your partner’s worst qualities.

- You are overly jealous or overly noncommittal.

- You want your relationship to always stay the same.

A visual concept of two healthy people is when you put your left hand against your right hand, with fingers pointed up, palms together, and thumbs against each other, as if you were praying. The left hand symbolizes an emotionally healthy person; the right hand is the other emotionally healthy person in the relationship. An enmeshed relationship is where those figures are bent, entwined and wrapped together, as if it was a little child clasping his hands to pray. When people are enmeshed, they can’t “separate” from the drama of the other person. They can’t stand on their own two feet, tall and strong and as a separate individual with their own identity.

When someone is new to being empowered and strong and confident, their boundaries are very fragile until they are used to feeling that strength on a regular basis. The more a person has practiced those boundaries and lived that empowerment, the more they will feel confident to go out into the world and be strong and emotionally healthy enough to be an example to the world and a witness to the strength of the human spirit.

For those of you who are searching to become empowered, UN-enmeshed, independent, confident and free to live your innate greatness, I am hoping you will check out the link below to find a starting point towards that awareness:


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    • profile image

      Lene Lynn 

      7 years ago

      Shepherd, well thank you so much! I totally agree, we can do WAY more with TWO hands that are not twisted together in enmeshment with another!:) Thanks so much for reading! :)

    • Shepherd's Lamb profile image

      Shepherd's Lamb 

      7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Refreshing! It is so GOOD to meet another writer that knows what setting boundaries means ~ that it's not being mean, but loving...loving oneself and loving another. The imbalance happens when one loves the other while neglecting his/her own needs, or one loves self while neglecting the needs of the other. Two hands that are not enmeshed can clap, direct an orchestra, carry twice the load, hug all the way around, just so many wonderful things. Loved the analogy! Thank you ~ great hub!!


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