An emotional tangle occurs when one person has an agenda, often a hidden one, and uses various types of manipulation to control their partner. A tangle can prevent a relationship from growing, flowing, and thriving. Because of this, they usually show up in an unhealthy relationship.
You may have an emotional tangle if you’ve been involved in a relationship with someone who demonstrates the following behaviors:
- Ignored your boundaries
- Turned out to be confusing, mystifying, or difficult
- Hindered or held you back
- Clashed or came into conflict with you
- Controlled or had a hidden agenda
- Manipulated or distorted the truth
Tying the knot is a good thing, when it’s with the right person. Being tied up in an emotional tangle is never a good thing.
We may notice a tangle when there are significant differences between our story – our experience – and their version of the same experience. We may find ourselves saying things like, “No, I never did that.” Or “It never happened that way.” Or “I never said that.” At their worst, tangles create confusion and disconnect us from ourselves by making us feel as though we’ve lost our ability to think straight or have lost touch with our sanity. No matter how much work we do, no matter how many facts we can produce to prove our point, we cannot convince anyone of anything ever, even if we believe that we’re right.
Tangles Can Draw You In
I was once tangled up in an unhealthy relationship and chose to leave it. When we were breaking up, I desperately wanted an apology or some acknowledgement of how badly and unfairly I was treated. I had ended the relationship and was drawn back in it when I tried to defend myself, all because his version of events – which had become a well-known story among our friends and acquaintances – didn’t align with mine. My friends were concerned about how abusive he was towards me and how depleting my interaction were with him. Eventually, I figured out that I wasn’t going to get an apology of any kind from him in this lifetime. Through trial and error, I learned to stay in my own story and feel my ache without judging, trying to fix, or making sense of it. My ache motivated me to make some decisions for myself. I realized I was never going to make him feel my pain or see my point of view. Instead, I learned to live my truth, move forward, and put distance between myself and the mess of that tangle. Most importantly, I learned to never, ever get drawn back into a tangle.
Beware: Tangles are Intoxicating
Tangles are intoxicating especially since the stories that support them are often tantalizing or dramatic. In the mass of a tangle, there is no truth – just intoxication. Consequently, people can become hypnotized and drawn into a tangle. It’s not until after they’ve pulled themselves out of a tangle that they will see it for what it really is – a mass of confusion and all of the people who were twisted up in it.
Tangles can leave us feeling hurt and misunderstood. The pain and ache that we feel inside is the result of a misunderstanding that our happiness and fulfillment, as we work to get clear with ourself, is dependent on someone else acknowledging or owning something that has had an impact on us. We may believe that to be happy our ex has to admit or own what occurred. The truth is that we are not dependent on someone else owning our ache. And, if we choose to wait for that acknowledgement, we end up giving our life over to someone who we are trying to force to be different than they really are.
Undoing Your Emotional Tangle
To undo an emotional tangle start by slowly and deliberately letting go of the stories. Close your eyes and take a moment to allow your intuition to guide you back to the original occurrence — to the moment when you began to feel hindered, controlled, or felt as if your boundaries were being disregarded. Try to look at the tangle from a place of pure love and say, “I know what happened. I am clear and I am not dependent on someone else validating my experience.” This statement will bring you wholly back into yourself and free of fragments. And, the ache will go away.
Continue to breathe deeply and open yourself to feeling the full extent of your ache – your feelings. You can do it!
When you’re ready, you can journal about your emotional tangle in whatever way works for you. As part of that practice, I encourage you to figure out what was important to you in the relationship, moving forward with only that, and leaving the rest of it behind.