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  • Writer's pictureDr. Karin Anderson Abrell

Closeness Doesn’t Equal Love

Closeness is definitely PART of love.

But they’re not the same thing—not at all.

In fact, sometimes closeness is the exact OPPOSITE of love.

I talked about this in a speech I gave this week. We examined this reality in light of family relationships.

People say it all the time, “I’m so close to my family.”

And we think of it as a good thing—which it can be, of course.

But then again, too much closeness amongst family members can be smothering.

It can stifle the independence and uniqueness of individual members.

The family’s demands for connectedness supersede its members’ desires for autonomy.

Which isn’t loving.

Family Systems therapists call this “enmeshment.”

It’s actually very common.

And it’s hard to detect because the family’s bond appears so loving.

Until you look beneath the surface and understand that in an enmeshed family system, the closeness is mandated and any efforts members make to assert their independence are viewed as betrayal.

When a 25-year-old son wants to move across the country to take the job of his dreams, he’s betraying his family.

When a 38-year-old daughter decides to spend Christmas with her husband’s family, she’s ruining her family’s traditions.

When a 63-year-old grandma wants to move to Florida, she’s destroying her family.

Is this at all loving? To keep a son from his dream job, a daughter from her in-laws, or Grandma from some sunshine?

Yet it happens all the time—families demand closeness in the name of love.

Don’t get it twisted. Closeness and love are not the same thing.

And they’re not the same in romantic relationships either.

But we’ll save that discussion for another post.


Photo credit: Kevin Delvecchio

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