Simply put, the dark side of caregiving is enmeshment.
An enmeshed relationship is one between two or more people in which personal boundaries are permeable and unclear. This often happens on an emotional level in which two people feel each other's emotions, and and over-concern for others leads to a loss of autonomous living. One does not have or no longer has a life with their own separate thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, hobbies and so on.
Several online articles about this word help unpack it further.
There are at least 4 types of this dark side which may stand alone or even overlap one or two.
1. The eternal child.
They have been groomed by a parent to always respond like they are still the little girl or little boy, plus that is how the parent continues to see them and treat them despite all of the adult things they do in life.
Psychologically this is called infantalism. This is also a form of emotional abuse.
I have a relative who is still in bondage by this in her early 60's and somehow her marriage has lasted, but not well. She's been to therapy, but quit. She at times wants someone else to fight her war for her, but she will not fight.
2. The hurting child.
They seek to compensate for something that was absent from their childhood. They very often will endure abuse that not one else would in order to possibly see the parent become the loving, non-abusive parent that the never were. Sad to say, but they never will despite all presumptive hope that they will be the exception. We read plenty of this here.
3. The parent/child.
The overly responsible parent/child who is groomed emotionally to feel responsible for the parent almost as if there were their parent. That's called parentification and is also emotionally abusive.
4. The partner child.
This is called covert or emotional incest. This language is a hard pill to swallow, because we normally think of incest only sexually, but the partner child/parent is not sexual. However, it is emotional child abuse.
The partner child is when a parent makes a child their emotional partner either because the spouse is gone because of divorce or death.
Some do this with a child because they are not getting such emotional support from their spouse and it is easier to do this than deal with the marriage problems.
Very often in this relationship the parent will share things with the child that should never be said.
I have a very close relative that this happened to. Their same sex parent told them all about their sex like with their other parent. I'm surprised they got their own life and got married, but I'm glad they did.
In my opinion this is the absolute deepest and by far the hardest to get out of.
Those married to the partner child often feel like there is a third person in their marriage and it can get so bad as to also feel like being a single parent though married or basically single though married.
Sandwich, I've had a few unstable bosses but never even considered the worst one to be an abuser. Interesting concept.
I would also agree that it's a challenge to avoid being drawn into or meshing with dysfunction. And actually, that term has been used so much it's almost diluted to the point that it could be applied to so many situations. We're not like the Borg, so we're all different, with our own coping mechanisms.
I wonder sometimes about the wisdom of creating so many "syndromes." I suppose the purpose is to create some sort of rationalization so that personal issues can be addressed and hopefully resolved. And in some ways it's a method of quantification, of creating more substantive and analytical factors to behavior.
But I think therein lies the difference between us and nonhumans. We're each individuals and there are going to be some differences, some of which others may consider unusual or aberrant.
And that's not to challenge anyone who finds this topic helpful; we each have our own perspectives. I am learning from the responses. And actually, I was completely unaware of these different variations of relationships.
Beretta makes some interesting observations that explain his wife's behavior; I had never make those kinds of comparisons before, so I'm learning from others.
I think to be healthy emotionally we have to put aside worrying that we are afraid or feeling obligated. One bad things about psychological modeling is we can start being trapped by the model itself and start fitting things to the model. If we get too caught up in the FOG model, we could fit any caregiver of an abusive parent into it. I mean, why else would they do it if not for the listed reasons?
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
If you don't know what your triggers are, you can't protect yourself.
There is a book about the partner child. Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners by Adams. It has a chapter about the daughter/dad emotional partnership. Adams also wrote a book about mom enmeshed husbands.There 's even a book with the title, When the Other woman is his mother.
However, neither Dr. Adams nor anyone else has written about about dad enmeshed daughters and the husbands who are married to them. or When the Other Man is her dad.
I hope and pray for the best with your situation, but you have enough material right there for the making of a good article or book that could help other men and their wives who confront the same thing.
Prior to her passing my blood pressure was out of sight I'll go back to the doc in early spring but I've decided to spend the winter months quietly at home, out in the country, just me and my critters, reading, sewing and relaxing. After a lifetime of stress and abuse it's going to take some time but I'll get there.
I"m glad many are fighting for their individuality, but feel sad for those who are trapped because they can't see it or although seeing it are understandably afraid to stop dancing with the emotional blackmailer.
But I would like to just clarify something in your statement of the "dark side of caregiving" that "One does not have or no longer has a life with their own separate thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, hobbies and so on."
I can understand that this happens to some, but want to emphasize that many of us are not swallowed up in this duality of shared thoughts, interests, etc. I think that's obvious from some of the posts here of caregivers fighting to retain their individualism.
I also feel quite strongly that some caregivers, including me, will NEVER under any circumstances adopt some of the beliefs of our parents, especially religious ones and what I consider meddling by outside, holier-than-thou religious influences especially.
Perhaps your post is intended toward those who have become prey to this identity trap. I'm assuming that's the case and that you're not making an assumption that these "dark sides" apply to all caregivers. If so, I do understand that.