How to separate when you are too enmeshed with your parent

Psychologist Kenneth M. Adams, PhD explains why individuation from one's family of origin is essential to building a strong marriage
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How to separate when you are too enmeshed with your parent

Yeah, so how do you work with a situation where somebody in the coupleship or the marriage is excessively bonded or sometimes we use the word enmeshed with a parent? It's good to remember that it's critical for children to separate, sometimes the word is individulate from their parents and really one of the primary roles of the parent is really since children are not our property, it's really to shepard the child into the world. And in order to do that, they've got to unhook. And children differ in their temperments and some kids are more naturally clingy if you will, and so you have to work with them different. Some kids are more naturally willing to run off and without a care in the world, and you might work with them differently, but if they're somebody that's inappropriately bonded with his mother or father, he has to work at separating completely. There was a study done oh, a number of years ago of 50 couples who reported over a seven to ten year period that they were happy and content in their marriage. And so the researcher wanted to know well, what was it about your experience that helped you get there and she had them answer survey data, you know, collected questions that she had them answer and then she rank ordered what they reported as the most important thing in their marriage that contributed to happiness. And you saw things on the list that we would expect, you know, common values, common parenting strategies, a good sexual romantic life, time spent apart from the kids, things that we probably would all put on our list, but the number one thing that they reported that they did that contributed to the success of their marriage was they both separated from their family of origin and became their own man or their own woman. That was what they said was the key to the success of their marriage.

Psychologist Kenneth M. Adams, PhD explains why individuation from one's family of origin is essential to building a strong marriage


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Kenneth M. Adams, PhD

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., CSAT, is a Licensed Psychologist, the Clinical Director and Founder of Kenneth M. Adams and Associates in suburban Detroit, Michigan, as well as a faculty member at the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. As previous Clinical Director for the Life Healing Center in Sante Fe, New Mexico, a residential treatment center for trauma and addiction, Dr Adams created the first inpatient program exclusively for partners of sex addicts. In addition to maintaining an active clinical practice, Dr. Adams is a national lecturer, workshop leader, and consultant in the areas of child abuse, dysfunctional family systems, and sex addiction. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed publications, the books Silently Seduced and When He’s Married to Mom, as well as co-editor of Clinical Management of Sex Addiction. In 2011, Dr Adams received the “Carnes Award” for “outstanding work in the field of sexual addiction and compulsivity”. He is a certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), a CSAT supervisor, and CSAT training facilitator as well as an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) practitioner. Dr. Adams is a member of the American Psychological Association, Michigan Psychological Association, Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), and International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) as well as an advisory board member to SASH and IITAP, and an editorial board member of Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention. For more on Dr Adams visit


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