Daughters and mothers relationships

Importance And Ways To Improve

Explore the dynamics of the unique bond a mother and daughter share.


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Several people have described a mother-daughter relationship in different ways. Some say, ‘A mother’s treasure is her daughter.’ And others say, ‘While a mother’s treasure is her daughter, a daughter’s sunshine is her mother.’

A mother is a role model, best friend, and a pillar of strength for her daughter. For the mother, her daughter is her world.

As soon as a daughter is born, her mother develops a strong bond with her. As the daughter grows, their relationship changes, but the feelings remain the same.

However, sometimes, there are situations when this beautiful relationship wobbles. This affects both mother and daughter. In such circumstances, it is essential to address the issues and make the relationship better.

This post discusses the relationship between a mother and daughter and gives tips on how to improve it further.

Related: 75 Best 'I Love You' Messages For Daughters, To Express Love

Why Is A Mother-Daughter Relationship So Important?

According to the Journal of Neuroscience, the mother-daughter relationship is known to be stronger than other parent-offspring relationship (1). And this is one relationship that helps a woman carve out every other relationship in life. Hence, it is a valuable relationship for every woman.

Also, it is one such relationship that keeps shifting its nature. As the years go by, certain tricky turns do arrive. That’s usually because of the generation gap. Or when mothers try to protect their daughters by creating certain paraimeters And their daughters rebel. No wonder people say, ‘like mother, like daughter.’

As every mother-daughter relationship is unique, the rapport shared differs from one to another. Some mother-daughter relationships can have a twisted bond right from the beginning, while some can take a difficult route when the daughter starts growing. Any of the dysfunctional patterns between a mother and a daughter could make the bond detrimental.

Quick tip

Remember, tiny little gestures can go a long way in building a strong mother-daughter bond. So show your love and gratitude through words and actions.

Related: 101 Fun-Filled Mother-Daughter Date Ideas

Types Of Unhealthy Mother-Daughter Relationships

Although the relationship between mother and daughter is powerful, it can be challenging. If no effort is made for improvement, it can turn out to be unhealthy. Let us check out some kinds of unhealthy mother-daughter relationships.

1. Controlling relationship

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Some people think that the controlling behavior of the mother is a normal parenting style. But it is not. It takes away the freedom from the daughter and shrinks her desires and passion. Whether the mother is controlling her daughter during her formative years or it is after the daughter has grown up (maybe when she is teen or adult) both strain a healthy relationship.

There are different ways of controlling, while some show anger or indifference, some of them use emotional blackmail. Such a controlling mother-daughter relationship is also termed as a boss-subordinate relationship as the mother tries to monitor and control her daughter’s activities. And the daughter, on the other hand, does everything to please her mother and to get her acceptance.

In some cases, mothers try to control their daughters for protective reasons. Although the intention might not be negative, the outcome surely is. Any controlling nature is considered ill in a mother and daughter relationship.

Related: 53 Incredible Father-Daughter Activities For Deeper Bonding


Emotional disconnect

In the case of emotional disturbances, daughters usually look for their mothers. And when the mother is not available, they may either become lonely or get closer to another member of the family (grandparent, or father, or uncle or aunt).

When the mother distances herself from her daughter, it causes a disconnect in the relationship. Also, this kind of upbringing may leave emotional scars. Hence, this is considered as a dysfunctional mother and daughter relationship.

Furthermore, there are some relationships in which the mother is both physically and emotionally absent for her daughter when she needs her the most. Or there is no physical touch, such as hugging or holding hands between the mother and the daughter. This kind of connection is termed as a ghost relationship.

3. Judgmental relationship

It is okay to mold the daughter to shape her well. But getting critical of her daughter’s every move can add bitterness to the relationship. Ideally, mothers are supposed to encourage and support their daughters and not criticize them at every step of the way.

If the ability to be independent is taken away that may suppress her ability to grow in life. In such kind of parent-child relationship, neither the daughter nor the mother is satisfied. And with every passing day, the relationship takes a noxious turn.

Related: 27 Good Qualities In A Woman That Make Her Attractive

4. Trophy child

In this kind of relationship, the mother uses her daughter just to show off her good qualities or achievements, without thinking about her daughter’s likes and dislikes. The daughter is unhappy most of the time, as her life is being used by her mother to grab the attention of others.

In certain cases of this mother-daughter relationship, the mother uses different forms of communication, such as physical force or verbal abuse. The mother’s unreasonable expectations from her daughter, while the daughter keeps craving for maternal presence. When a mother and daughter share such a relationship, it is completely toxic.

5. Enmity relationship

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Disagreements are common in any relationship, and it also happens with mother and daughter. When fights become regular, competitiveness arises in a relationship. That again leads to resentment. Constant fighting us not healthy in a relationship.

With such a relationship, the daughter may consider her mother as a rival and not as someone who loves her unconditionally.

6. Bosom buddies

One of the common types of relationships shared by mothers and daughters is called an enmeshed relationship. The relationship is affectionate as the mother treats her daughter as a best friend. Both of them share their interests, feelings, and many other things.

While parenting this way, the mother might overlook teaching her daughter proper boundaries. This lack of boundaries would certainly affect the daughter in her ability to grow and have interests and relationships.

7. Role reversal

This pattern in a relationship between mother and daughter usually occurs in the latter part of life. Here, the mother wants support emotionally or financially from her daughter. The daughter’s life is restricted, having to provide everything that her mother requires. Such a kind of relationship is not healthy.

8. Estranged relationship

Estrangement means emotional distancing. There are various reasons behind why a daughter and mother could get estranged. It might occur at any stage in life. Some of the reasons include mother divorcing or marrying another person, daughter or mother disrespecting a spouse, and mother-daughter boundaries being ignored. In such cases, there are few chances of mending the mother and daughter relationship.

A damaged mother-daughter relationship does have chances to repair the relationship.

Point to consider

Spend quality time each day with your daughter to discuss their day and other things in life. Create an environment at home where they can open up about anything without the fear of being judged.

Related: 10 Agonizing Signs Of An Emotionally Unavailable Husband

Effects Of Faulty Mother-Daughter Relationship

The first bond that a girl has is with her mother, and so it leaves a great impact on her entire life. If the bond between a mother and daughter is balanced — with kindness, care, love, carefulness, and some limitations — the relationship is respectful and will blossom. But a damaged relationship would have adverse effects.

  • Low self-esteem: The first attachment of a daughter is with her mother. And this relationship sets the mark for other relationships. The bond between a mother and daughter willreflect on the daughter’s future. A healthy bond shapes the ability to have self-confidence. But an unhealthy relationship would make her doubt herself, resulting in low self-esteem. On the other hand, even a mother is affected when her bond with the daughter is not going as she had expected.
  • Depression: According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, maternal disengagement could be responsible for depressive disorder in children and young adults (2). When the daughter does not share a good relationship with her mother, she might tend to have symptoms of depression. A flawed relationship also adversely affects a mother, and might even take a toll on her health.

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  • Attachment issues: When the major relationship in a woman’s life, such as her bond with her mother, is wounded, she might experience difficulty in trusting and staying loyal to her future relations. She might have insecurities in connecting with others during adulthood.
  • Hostility: When the relationship between mother and daughter is dysfunctional, there arise consistent conflicts at home. This leaves an impact on the daughter, and she might become hostile and aggressive even with others.

There might be many reasons for an unhealthy relationship between a mother and a daughter.

But.. as Nancy Thayer said, ‘It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.’

Though you cannot turn the pages back, you can still fill the next chapter with something good. No relationship can replace a mother’s love for her daughter. That means there are still ways to improve the bond or build your relationship.

Ways To Improve Mother-Daughter Relationship

Take the lead. Irrespective of whatever has happened in the past, either should make the first step to resolve the conflicts of your relationship.

1. Active listener

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It’s hard to listen when you’re thinking about your own thoughts ,’ said Faye E Hage.

Most of the time, you may assume that you are right. Instead of assuming anything, listen carefully to your mother or daughter. Listen without interrupting or analyzing. You can ask questions and get the answers to avoid any more disagreements or confusion. This is the way to connect easily.

2. Walk in her shoes

You never know what your mother or daughter is thinking about until you are in her shoes.when you try to understand from your mother’s or daughter’s perspective, then you may find it easy to reach mutual ground.

3. Open communication

Most of the misunderstandings occur due to no communication at all. Mother and daughter should be open to having healthy and honest communication. For instance, as a mother, if you don’t like your daughter spending the night at a friend’s place,  you should convey it to her by explaining the reasons. On the other hand, as a daughter, if you don’t like your mother’s over-protective behavior, let her know why. softer and emotionally safe communication will surely prove to be effective.

One of the effective ways to have a conversation is to use ‘I’ instead of ‘you.’ For instance, ‘I am feeling sad,’ rather than ‘You are making me depressed.’ Try it and see how it works.


Better boundaries

Irrespective of how close a mother-daughter relationship is, there have to be certain boundaries. Mother and daughter can be best friends, but there has to be healthy boundaries. This not only helps in improving the bond but also maintains a respectful relationship.

5. Forgiveness

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let go of some grudges and forgive to maintain healthy relationships. A mother and daughter canhave plenty of conflicts, but at the end of the day, work to forgive and forget for a warm hug.

6. Quick heal

Usually, we tend to withdraw after an episode of arguments. If this withdrawal goes on to longthe gap between mother and daughter could increase. Instead of waiting, it is better to talk with each other and sort out the matter quickly. This will heal the wounds faster.

7. Acceptance

The mother and daughter are two different individuals with different perspectivesInstead of arguing and trying to always win the discussion, both the mother and the daughter should accept that sometimes there can be no mutual solutions. It is better to agree to disagree and move on in life.

1. How does a mother influence her daughter?

A mother greatly influences her daughter’s outlook on life and social interactions. A mother’s relationship with her daughter sets the foundation for their relationship in years to come. Due to this, the influence of a mother on her daughter lasts for a lifetime.

2. How to repair a mother-daughter relationship?

To repair a broken mother-daughter relationship, you must communicate effectively and be willing to listen and understand each other’s points of view. Discuss the issues that plague your relationship and come up with pragmatic solutions. Forgive each other even when you are hurt and running high on emotions, and express your affection through words and actions.

3. How to describe a mother-daughter relationship?

A mother and daughter share a special bond. A mother’s love for her daughter is unconditional and cannot be described in words. The relationship is characterized by love, warmth, affection, and care.

The mother-daughter relationship may vary among individuals, but each bond is unique and irreplaceable. Mothers and daughters may become best buddies and have the most fulfilling relationship. However, the bond may be tricky for some. For a mother, excessive controlling behavior, being judgemental, or using the daughter as a trophy child may cause emotional distancing, and the daughter may become a rebel. A bad or hostile relationship may cause low self-esteem or traits of depression in the child. Improving communication can pave the way for a reunion. Patch up soon, and heal each other’s wounds to strengthen the bond of unconditional love.

Key Pointers

  • The relationship between a mother and a daughter is special and unique in its ways.
  • Some mother and daughter bonds could be strained or unhealthy due to emotional disconnect or estrangement.
  • Having open communication, listening to each other, and forgiving can help strengthen the bond.

1. B. Yamagata et al.; Female-Specific Intergenerational Transmission Patterns of the Human Corticolimbic Circuitary; The Journal of Neuroscience (2016)

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Uncovering the root cause of mother-daughter conflict

An experienced counselor recently admitted to me that she felt out of her depth when a mother and adult daughter both came to see her for help with their incessant arguing. She said that she struggled to identify the core reasons for their arguments, and she knew that the communication skills and boundaries she tried to instill in them did not address the core reasons for their relationship difficulties.

Sadly, this counselor is not alone. Colleagues frequently tell me that they feel unprepared when it comes to working with mothers and daughters. They blame the absence of specialized training. This lack of focus on the mother-daughter relationship creates unnecessary anxiety among counselors and psychotherapists, and frustration for female clients. For example, only in 2016 was the Adult Daughter-Mother Relationship Questionnaire developed (for more, see Julie Cwikel’s article in The Family Journal). And in my office, all too often I hear mothers and daughters voice their frustrations about the lack of specialized help.

In this article, I share two insights that will help counselors understand the dynamics between a mother and daughter of any age. These insights come from the mother-daughter attachment model I have developed through my 20-plus years of listening to thousands of mothers and daughters of all ages from different countries and cultures. The model makes the complicated dynamics between mothers and daughters easy to understand, explains why mothers and daughters fight, and teaches how mothers and daughters can build strong, emotionally connected relationships.

I chose to specialize in the mother-daughter relationship back in the 1990s because that relationship is central to women understanding themselves. My relationship with my mother had shaped who I was, and when my daughter was born 30 years ago, I knew I had to change the harmful themes that were being passed down the generations. What began as a personal quest became my professional mission.

Mothers and daughters frequently tell me that they feel ashamed about their relationship difficulties. They feel that they “should” be able to get along because popular wisdom tells them that mothers and daughters are supposed to be close. This societal expectation makes mothers and daughters blame themselves for causing their relationship difficulties. The truth is, if my years of experience providing therapy are any indication, many women currently experience mother-daughter relationship conflict.

Based on the inquiries I receive from mothers and adult daughters from different countries, I believe that a larger, societywide dynamic is contributing to their relationship conflict. Often, I hear “hormones” being blamed as the cause for relationship problems, whether it is the teenage daughter’s or pregnant daughter’s hormones, or the menopausal mother’s hormones. Another common reason mothers and daughters give to explain why they are not getting along is their differing or similar personality traits. I have never found hormones or personality traits to be the core reasons for mother-daughter relationship conflict, however. Rather, I have concluded that society sets mothers and daughters up for conflict.

In the first insight, I show that the mother-daughter relationship is not difficult to understand once we realize that mothers and daughters do not relate in a cultural vacuum. In recognizing that mothers and daughters relate within a sociocultural and multigenerational environment, the dynamics between them become easier to grasp. We see how life events, restrictive gender roles, unrealized career goals, and the expectation that women should sacrifice their needs in their caregiving role all shape how mothers and daughters view themselves and each other and how they communicate. To illustrate this dynamic, I share the story of my work with Sandeep, a young college student from England (name and identifying details have been changed).

In the second insight, I explain how patriarchy’s way of silencing and denying what women need is the root cause of most mother-daughter relationship conflict in different cultures around the world. To illustrate, I share my work with Miriam, a doctor from Sweden who comes from a feminist family (name and identifying details have been changed).

Miriam and Sandeep come from different countries and cultural backgrounds, and their families are on opposite ends of the women’s rights continuum, yet their core relationship problem is the same. Both Miriam and Sandeep come from families in which women have not learned how to ask for what they need.

Insight No. 1: Mothers and daughters relate in a sociocultural environment

As is the case with any couple, mothers and daughters rarely fight over what they say they are arguing over. Sandeep and her mother were no exception to this rule. Sandeep was a young college student who lived at home. Her parents immigrated to England from India before Sandeep was born. Sandeep had three brothers, but she was the family’s only daughter.

Sandeep came to see me because she was feeling depressed about how critical her mother was. She was struggling to juggle her college work with the housework her mother and family expected her to do. She said her mother would accuse her of not being a good enough “housekeeper” and not caring enough for her mother when she was ill, which was often.

Sandeep had consulted a counselor before me who had suggested that her mother might be suffering from a personality disorder. I never got to meet Sandeep’s mother and work with her clinically, so I was unable to validate whether this might be the case. Regardless, even if Sandeep’s mother did have this diagnosis, it did not provide Sandeep with the answers
she needed.

Instead, Sandeep needed to understand the multigenerational sociocultural environment in which she and her mother lived. She also needed to understand what was going on in this environment that apparently caused her mother to be so angry and critical, and what caused Sandeep and her mother to believe that it was Sandeep’s responsibility to do all the housekeeping.

When I start working with new clients, I map their mother-daughter history. This is the primary exercise in the mother-daughter attachment model. It is an adaptation of the genogram exercise that family therapists use. The maps focus on the three main women in the multigenerational family, which in Sandeep’s case was Sandeep as the daughter, her mother and her grandmother. I map the experiences the three women have had in their lives, including the gender roles that have defined their lives and limited their choices and power. I also map how the men in the family treat their wives and daughters. Mother-daughter history maps provide an in-depth analysis of the multigenerational sociocultural environment in which the women in the family live and what is happening within that environment to cause mothers and daughters to argue, misunderstand each other, and disconnect emotionally. (Detailed instructions on using this exercise with clients are available in my book The Mother-Daughter Puzzle. )

Sandeep talked about her grandmother’s and mother’s lives and arranged marriages and shared how verbally abusive and controlling her father and grandfather were. She said the males in the family were encouraged to go to college and build their careers, while the females were expected to stay at home to help their mothers. As Sandeep provided these details, her family’s patriarchal structure came into sharp focus. Sandeep represented the first woman in her generational family to finish school and go to college.

Sandeep’s family believed in what I term the “culture of female service,” a global patriarchal belief system that views women as caregivers, not care receivers. Families that subscribe to the culture of female service expect mothers and daughters to be selfless, sacrificial, self-neglecting caregivers. This belief system does not recognize women as people with needs of their own.

Although I never met Sandeep’s mother, it was apparent to me (based on Sandeep’s descriptions) that she had internalized this family belief and did not know any other way of being. This meant that she did not understand Sandeep’s desire to go to college or her fight for her independence. I suspected that Sandeep’s independence felt threatening to her mother. Several reasons explain why Sandeep’s mother was so critical of her daughter and why she behaved in an emotionally manipulative manner — for example, by becoming ill just when Sandeep was busy with an assignment or exam.

First, Sandeep wanted to live a different life than her mother and grandmother had lived, and this likely made Sandeep’s mother feel alone and abandoned. Her only understanding of being female was that of women as caregivers and of “good daughters” stepping into their mothers’ shoes and walking repeats of their mothers’ lives. Sandeep’s mother had done that, her mother had done that, and she expected Sandeep to follow in that role. I suspect Sandeep’s wish for a different life and different relationships felt like a rejection to her mother. It made her feel that her daughter was criticizing the life and values she believed in as a mother.

Second, Sandeep’s mother could have been jealous of her daughter’s freedom and opportunities, even though she probably was unaware that her criticism and anger were rooted in jealousy. Sandeep’s freedom and opportunities might have been an uncomfortable mirror for Sandeep’s mother, reminding her of the freedom she never had and the dreams she had to relinquish.

Third, the mother’s attempts to keep Sandeep from graduating and leaving home could have been linked to her own fight for emotional survival. Sandeep reported to me that she was the only person who gave her mother love and care, so the thought of Sandeep leaving home must have been terrifying to her mother.

For mothers and daughters to build a strong, emotionally connected relationship, it is optimal for both parties to engage in couples therapy. However, if one person is not able, or willing, to participate, healing is still possible. In Sandeep’s case, her mother did not want to participate in therapy. This did not prevent Sandeep from working on understanding and improving her relationship with her mother, however. When one person changes their behavior, the relationship changes to incorporate the new behavior. Of course, Sandeep and I had little control over how her mother would respond to the changes Sandeep needed in their relationship.

My work with Sandeep involved teaching her how to listen to her own voice. Sandeep had become an expert on responding to what her mother needed and being a “dutiful daughter,” but she had little idea about what she wanted for herself, beyond finishing her degree. Sandeep did not know how to ask herself what she thought, felt, or needed emotionally because that conversation was not spoken in her family. My role as a mother-daughter therapist was to help Sandeep uncover the sexism she had inherited from her mother and grandmother that had silenced her voice. I helped her understand the gender inequality her family and culture normalized, and I taught her how to claim her own ideas of who she wanted to be and what she needed in her relationship with her mother — and in all her relationships.

I also helped Sandeep navigate the pushback she got from her mother and father when she stopped complying with their demands to be the family’s unpaid housekeeper. I helped her to understand her mother’s and father’s perspectives so that she had empathy for them and encouraged her to recognize that their anger and criticism weren’t as personal as they felt, originating instead from their cultural beliefs. Alongside Sandeep’s increased understanding of her family’s sociocultural environment, I helped her increase her entitlement to speak her mind, reject unreasonable demands, and carve out her own life path.

Sadly, Sandeep’s parents did not react well to her behaving differently from what they expected of a “dutiful daughter.” After Sandeep left home, her family’s anger and accusations that she had dishonored the family became alarming, leading her to obtain a restraining order against her parents and siblings. Through her therapy, Sandeep learned the degree to which her family members did not tolerate women challenging their long-held beliefs about what women could and could not do and could and could not wear. I had to help Sandeep stay safe and grieve the loss of her family even as she gained her own voice and life.

Insight No. 2: Mothers and daughters fight over their denied needs

My clients have taught me that the denial of what women need, especially when it comes to women’s emotional needs, ripples below most mother-daughter relationship conflict. As I write in The Mother-Daughter Puzzle, when a family does not speak the language that inquires after what women feel and need, mothers and daughters are set up for conflict. It creates an either-or dynamic in which the mother and daughter fight over who gets to be heard and emotionally supported in their relationship because they do not know how to create a normal in which both are heard and supported.

In every mother-daughter history map I draw, I see how the silencing of women’s needs harms women’s emotional well-being, limits their ability to advocate for themselves in their relationships and workplaces, and perpetuates gender inequality. I see how this dynamic makes women invisible, and how being invisible makes women hungry for attention. The inability to openly and honestly ask about what they need creates emotionally manipulative behavior between mothers and daughters and sets daughters up to have to mind read their mothers’ unspoken and unacknowledged needs.

Miriam, a client from Sweden, contacted me for help with her adolescent daughter. Miriam and her mother had benefited from the women’s movement fight for women’s rights. Miriam and her mother were doctors, and Miriam’s husband and father were extremely supportive of their careers. But just like Sandeep and her mother, Miriam and her mother had internalized and normalized the culture of female service, and Miriam’s daughter was angry about her mother’s selflessness.

Miriam’s daughter felt that she had to mind read what her mother really felt and wanted, and she was tired of it. She desired an emotionally honest relationship with her mom. She wanted to feel free to say what she felt and needed and for her mother to speak her mind and stop the guessing games. Miriam’s daughter did not want to feel responsible for meeting her mother’s unvoiced and unacknowledged needs.

The silencing of women’s needs is an intergenerational dynamic that gets passed on from mother to daughter because the mother is not able to teach her daughter how to voice her needs openly and honestly. When the daughter is expected, often unconsciously, to listen for and meet her mother’s unvoiced and unacknowledged needs, the daughter is learning to become an expert on understanding what her mother needs, not on what she needs herself. This means that the daughter will grow up to be as emotionally mute as her mother, thus setting up her future daughter to try to learn to interpret and meet her unvoiced needs.

Women’s generational experience of being emotionally silenced and emotionally neglected is a common theme between mothers and daughters. Happily, I am seeing a huge shift from adult daughters in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are waking up to this patriarchal theme and wanting change. These daughters recognize that they have learned — from their mothers and from society in general — to be far too tolerant of being silent and practicing self-neglect. More daughters are asking their mothers to join them in therapy so that together they can change these inherited behavioral patterns. Mothers and daughters are teaming up and pioneering a new normal in their families — a normal where women are speaking up and demanding to be heard. And they are passing on this new normal to the next generation of sons and daughters.

Mothers and daughters have always led the call for women’s rights. When we understand that mother-daughter attachment disruption or conflict tells the story of how sexist beliefs and gender role stereotypes harm women’s voices and rights, the mother-daughter relationship becomes an unstoppable force for change at the worldwide and family levels.

Sadly, Sandeep’s mother was not able to join Sandeep in her fight to challenge her family’s sexist cultural beliefs. I inferred that too much neglect made Sandeep’s mother emotionally unable to think her way out of her powerlessness. Miriam, having had a far more supportive and empowering upbringing, was able to join her daughter to find a new normal for women within their family. This mother and daughter team coached each other as they decontaminated themselves from their internalized sexism and self-silencing habits.

The mother-daughter relationship has tremendous power to change women’s lives around the world. When mothers and daughters band together, they create an impenetrable wall of resistance against family members who are threatened by women claiming their rights. I have had the honor of working with many pioneering mothers and daughters who dared to dream of a reality in which mothers and daughters are no longer starving for attention and fighting for crumbs of affection. These brave mothers and daughters recognize the harm that patriarchy, sexism, and gender inequality inflict on women, and they have decided that enough is enough. In essence, they are saying, “With us, it must end.”



Rosjke Hasseldine is a mother-daughter relationship therapist, author of The Silent Female Scream and The Mother-Daughter Puzzle, and founder of Mother-Daughter Coaching International LLC (motherdaughtercoach.com), a training organization. She blogs for the American Counseling Association and has presented her mother-daughter attachment model at professional conferences, on Canadian television, and at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Contact her at [email protected] or through her website at rosjke.com.


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When the relationship between mother and daughter is like madness

Special relationship

Someone idealizes his mother, and someone admits that he hates her and cannot find a common language with her. Why is this such a special relationship, why do they hurt us so much and cause such different reactions?

A mother is not just an important character in a child's life. According to psychoanalysis, almost the entire human psyche is formed in the early relationship with the mother. They are not comparable to any others.

The mother for the child, according to psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, is actually the environment in which it is formed. And when relationships do not develop in the way that would be useful for this child, his development is distorted.

In practice, the relationship with the mother determines everything in a person's life. This places a great responsibility on a woman, because a mother never becomes a person for her adult child with whom he can build equal trusting relationships. The mother remains an incomparable figure in his life with nothing and no one.

What does a healthy relationship between mother and adult daughter look like?

This is a relationship in which adult women can communicate and negotiate with each other, live a separate life - each of her own. They can be angry with each other and disagree, dissatisfied with something, but at the same time aggression does not destroy love and respect, and no one takes away their children and grandchildren from anyone.

But the daughter-mother relationship is the most complex of the four possible combinations (father-son, father-daughter, mother-son, and mother-daughter). The fact is that the mother for the daughter is the primary object of affection. But then, at the age of 3–5 years, she needs to transfer her libidinal feelings to her father, and she begins to fantasize: “When I grow up, I will marry my father.”

This is the same oedipal complex that Freud discovered, and it is strange that no one before him did this, because the attraction of the child to the parent of the opposite sex was noticeable at all times.

And it is very difficult for a girl to go through this obligatory stage of development. After all, when you start to love dad, mom becomes a rival, and both of you somehow need to share dad's love. It is very difficult for a girl to compete with her mother, who is still loved and important to her. And the mother, in turn, is often jealous of her husband for her daughter.

But this is only one line. There is also a second one. For a little girl, her mother is an object of affection, but then she needs to identify with her mother in order to grow and become a woman.

There is some contradiction here: the girl has to simultaneously love her mother, fight her for her father's attention and identify with her. And here a new difficulty arises. The fact is that mother and daughter are very similar, and it is very easy for them to identify with each other. It is easy for a girl to mix her own and her mother's, and it is easy for a mother to see her continuation in her daughter.

Many women really have a hard time distinguishing themselves from their daughters. It's like psychosis. If you ask them directly, they will object and say that they distinguish everything perfectly and do everything for the good of their daughters. But at some deep level, this boundary is blurred.

Is taking care of your daughter also taking care of yourself?

Through her daughter, the mother wants to realize what she has not realized in life. Or something that she herself loves very much. She sincerely believes that her daughter should love what she loves, that she will like to do what she herself does. Moreover, the mother simply does not distinguish between her own and her needs, desires, feelings.

Do you know jokes like “put on a hat, I'm cold”? She really feels for her daughter. I remember an interview with artist Yuri Kuklachev, who was asked: “How did you raise your children?” He says: “And this is the same as with cats.

No tricks can be taught to a cat. I can only notice what she is inclined to, what she likes. One is jumping, the other is playing with a ball. And I develop this tendency. Likewise with children. I just looked at what they are, what they naturally come out with. And then I developed them in this direction.

This is the sensible approach when a child is viewed as a separate being with its own personality traits.

And how many mothers do we know who seem to take care: they take their children to circles, exhibitions, concerts of classical music, because, according to their deep feeling, this is exactly what the child needs. And then they also blackmail them with phrases like: “I put my whole life on you,” which cause an enormous feeling of guilt in adult children. Again, this looks like psychosis.

In essence, psychosis is the inability to distinguish between what is happening inside you and what is outside. The mother is outside the daughter. And the daughter is outside of her. But when a mother believes that her daughter likes what she likes, she begins to lose this boundary between the inner and outer world. And the same thing happens to my daughter.

They are the same sex, they are really very similar. This is where the theme of shared insanity comes in, a kind of mutual psychosis that only extends to their relationship. If you do not observe them together, you may not notice any violations at all. Their interaction with other people will be quite normal. Although some distortions are possible. For example, this daughter with women of the maternal type - with bosses, female teachers.

What is the cause of this psychosis?

Here it is necessary to recall the figure of the father. One of his functions in the family is to stand between mother and daughter at some point. This is how a triangle appears, in which there is a relationship between the daughter and the mother, and the daughter with the father, and the mother with the father.

But very often a mother tries to make sure that her daughter's communication with her father goes through her. The triangle collapses.

I have met families where this model is reproduced for several generations: there are only mothers and daughters, and the fathers are removed, or they are divorced, or they never existed, or they are alcoholics and have no weight in the family. Who in this case will destroy their closeness and merging? Who will help them separate and look somewhere else but at each other and "mirror" their madness?

By the way, did you know that in almost all cases of Alzheimer's or some other type of dementia, mothers call their daughters "moms"? In fact, in such a symbiotic relationship, there is no distinction between who is related to whom. Everything merges.

Should a daughter be "daddy's"?

Do you know what people say? In order for the child to be happy, the girl must be like her father, and the boy must be like her mother. And there is a saying that fathers always want sons, but love more than daughters. This folk wisdom fully corresponds to the psychic relations prepared by nature. I think that it is especially difficult for a girl who grows up as a "mother's daughter" to separate from her mother.

The girl grows up, enters childbearing age and finds herself, as it were, in the field of adult women, thereby pushing her mother into the field of old women. This is not necessarily happening at the moment, but the essence of the change is that. And many mothers, without realizing it, experience it very painfully. Which, by the way, is reflected in folk tales about an evil stepmother and a young stepdaughter.

Indeed, it is difficult to bear that a girl, a daughter, is flourishing, and you are getting old. A teenage daughter has her own tasks: she needs to separate from her parents. In theory, the libido that awakens in her after a latent period of 12–13 years should be turned from the family outward, to her peers. And the child during this period should leave the family.

If a girl's bond with her mother is very close, it is difficult for her to break free. And she remains a "home girl", which is perceived as a good sign: a calm, obedient child has grown up. In order to separate, to overcome attraction in such a situation of merger, the girl must have a lot of protest and aggression, which is perceived as rebellion and depravity.

It is impossible to realize everything, but if a mother understands these peculiarities and nuances of relationships, it will be easier for them. I was once asked such a radical question: “Is a daughter obliged to love her mother?” In fact, a daughter cannot help but love her mother. But in close relationships there is always love and aggression, and in the mother-daughter relationship of this love there is a sea and a sea of ​​aggression. The only question is what will win - love or hate?

Always want to believe that love. We all know such families where everyone treats each other with respect, everyone sees in the other a person, an individual, and at the same time feels how dear and close he is.

Daughter and mother: separation is difficult, but necessary!


A person among people

To tell about her painful relationship with her mother, 40-year-old Katerina writes the book “Mom, don't read! Confessions of an "ungrateful" daughter. In it, she lists in detail her childhood and adult attempts to earn maternal love, each time unsuccessful. She does not write for her mother - this is how she tries to get rid of the pain, which "stretched out for many years and has not subsided so far" ...

Natalia is 36 years old and considers her mother her best friend. “We often call each other, go shopping together, and every weekend I come to her with my children. We are very close,” she shares. And after a pause, he admits that the visits are not entirely voluntary. It is worth missing at least one, and she feels guilty. As in her youth, when her mother reproached her for selfishness, constantly reminding her of what she had sacrificed in life while raising her “ungrateful daughter”. .. by forgiving her, nor freed from dependence and guilt. In other words, they never truly matured. Why is it so difficult?

“The relationship between mother and daughter is unique,” ​​says psychotherapist Ekaterina Mikhailova. “They always have guilt and forgiveness, affection and rebellion, incomparable sweetness and incomparable pain, the inevitable similarity and its furious denial, the first and main experience of our “together” - and the first attempt to still be separately...

Competition. Struggle. Fear. A piercing need for attention, for approval. Horror before the power of this need. Love, sometimes manifesting itself in murderous, suffocating forms. The first experience of submission to power, "superior enemy forces" - and the very first experience of one's power over another person. Jealousy. Unspoken grievances. Expressed grievances. And above all this is the uniqueness of these relations. The other one won't."

Merge in order to separate later

In early childhood, almost complete merging with the mother is necessary for the child in order to survive. “The sense of security that arises from such a symbiosis helps him grow, mature and gradually begin an independent life,” says psychoanalyst Elina Zimina. “But if there was no such closeness, the desire to merge with the mother, to feel her unconditional love, may remain the most important, the main one.”

That is why so many adults look at the world through their mother's eyes, act as she would have done, hope for her approval and appreciation.

For a girl, a mother is a perfect omnipotent being of the same sex as her. It is later, from about three to six years old, that she begins to compete with her for her father's love. It is easier for girls to distance themselves from their mother compared to boys, for whom the mother becomes the “object of love”. But if this does not happen, the merger can turn into dependence: they see only similarities in each other, but do not notice differences.

An adult who continues to struggle with his parents most likely never separated from them

Staying in a close relationship with her mother, the girl stops growing up, because she does not feel like a separate person. And only by moving away, you can find differences: “how am I different from her?”, “What am I?”, “Who am I as a woman?”. By holding her daughter near her, the mother prevents her from finding answers to these questions.

“Gradual separation, separation from parents, creates within us the mental space necessary to feel our own characteristics and desires, including our femininity,” explains Elina Zimina. “It is the ability to distinguish between what belongs to me and what belongs to another.”

You can compare yourself with someone who is on equal or almost equal positions with us. However, for a child, a mother is a creature devoid of flaws. To see a real woman in her, you have to overthrow her from an imaginary pedestal. It is enough to recall the intensity of passions between adolescents and parents to understand how painful this deidealization is.

“When a teenager sees real people in his parents, the degree of hostility usually decreases,” says the psychoanalyst. “And an adult who continues to fight with his parents most likely never separated from them.”

But the separation does not end there either, and a girl who becomes a woman, a mother, has to establish a new distance with her own mother every time.

The third is not superfluous

Contradictions and conflicts, overt or hidden, are always present in the relationship between mother and daughter. “A mother can painfully experience the loss of her daughter’s unconditional love when, in the oedipal phase of development, she transfers her love to her father,” explains Elina Zimina. - Unlike girls, a boy at this age continues to love his mother. Therefore, in the relationship of mothers with sons, there are fewer conflicts and more harmony. And in the relationship of mother and daughter, there can be more conflicting feelings: in addition to love, they contain jealousy, envy and rivalry.

Both poles of maternal love are equally dangerous for a daughter: her lack and excess

In this connection, the image of the little girl who was once the mother herself clearly shines through. This image brings her back to memories of her own childhood, her relationship with her own mother, the experience of love and pain.

Both poles of maternal love, its deficiency and excess, are equally dangerous for a daughter. But the relationship of mother and daughter is not a relationship of two, but always of three people. “The father separates them and tells his daughter: “I am your mother’s husband and lover,” explains Elina Zimina. “At the same time, he supports his daughter, admiring her femininity, and makes it clear that later she will meet a man who will give her the desired love.”

The third person who helps mother and daughter separate from each other may not be only the father or the mother's partner. An idea, a passion, a job is something that can completely capture a woman’s thoughts so that for this time she forgets about the child, feels “separated” from him.

Of course, a psychotherapist can also play this role. “With one“ but ”, which is often not taken into account in dreams and plans,” Ekaterina Mikhailova insists. “Any third person is a temporary figure: having fulfilled his role, he must fade into the background, making room for the development of relations.”

Far and near

Where is the boundary between a good, trusting relationship and complete dependence on the wishes and moods of the mother? It is not always easy to find the answer to this question. Especially now, when a friendly relationship with the mother ("mother-girlfriend") is becoming the ideal of many women. But often they hide the lack of distance, the very “uncut umbilical cord”.

Daily calls, requests for advice, intimate details - this is how it looks in real life. But constant conflicts, and even a gap between mother and daughter, do not mean that there is no emotional connection between them. Distance is also not an indicator. “A daughter can be extremely dependent on her mother, despite the fact that they are separated by thousands of kilometers, or live with her in the same house and be independent,” says Elina Zimina.

A woman's natural desire to become independent can be hindered by her mother's desire to keep her by her side, often unconsciously. “Sometimes she perceives the separation of the child as evidence that he no longer loves her and leaves her - perhaps this is due to her own experience of sudden separation,” Elina Zimina gives an example. - She may not be sure of her own femininity and be jealous of her daughter's beauty. Or consider himself entitled to manage her life, because he sees his continuation in it. A single woman can look for a “substitute” husband or her own mother in a child.

If parents allow their children to be free, but are ready to support if necessary, then the separation will take place peacefully

In response, the daughter manifests anxiety - fear of losing her mother's love, self-doubt, fear of men ... Some mothers want to keep their daughter at any cost, others, on the contrary, they strive to “get rid of” it as quickly as possible. At the first teenage attempts to declare independence, they say: “well, you are completely free and independent, you can live as you want.”

But behind this lies rejection. “Adult children also need support,” says Elina Zimina. “And if parents allow them to be free, but are ready to support if necessary, then the separation is likely to pass peacefully and good relations will continue.”

The path to freedom

True independence comes when a woman critically evaluates her mother's attitudes, behaviors, and life scenarios. It is impossible to completely abandon them, because in this way she will be isolated from her own femininity. But to accept them entirely means that she, having remained a copy of her mother, will never become herself.

“Usually, those who manage to unilaterally “withdraw claims” and stop nourishing painful relationships with their hopes, grievances, or playing the role of an ideal mother or daughter, can usually move towards a seemingly desired, but still not advancing independence,” says Ekaterina Mikhailova . Too close relationship is mutual. Often it just seems that “mom won’t let go” - both are not ready to move into a new phase of the relationship, but the responsibility for this is usually assigned to the older one.

If we really want changes, we need to start with a few tough questions to ourselves, Ekaterina Mikhailova advises: “What am I hiding from myself, explaining all the problems of my life with pressure, influence, interference and the need to take care of one or the other? Maybe it's me who fills the emotional void with the game of fighting for independence?

Maybe the world behind me scares me so much that it's easier for me to stay in a strange mixture of duel, dance and embrace with that other woman? What do I hope for, continuing to sort things out, reconcile, quarrel, reproach - or pamper and please? Maybe, in the depths of my soul, I still believe that it will be possible to prove something, that “she” will agree, accept, approve ... "

How do we know if we have really managed to become independent and have broken the mother's umbilical cord? This is so if we are no longer torn apart by conflicting feelings, no longer tormented by internal conflicts. If we ourselves regulate the degree of trust and distance in relations with the mother, without feeling guilty. We can objectively assess what we are similar and what are different from each other. And finally, if we feel that we are connected with the mother in certain bonds, but not tightly attached to her.

As adults, we begin to build relationships with mothers in a new way. However, with some of them, this is especially difficult to do. Psychologist Susan Cohen and journalist Edward Cohen list 10 common types.

  1. Narcissistic . She dreams of seeing in her daughter a pretty doll who would think only of her mother.
  2. Supervisory . She has a rule for every occasion. And every time she tells her daughter that she did not fulfill it.
  3. Opinion dependent . He worries about what the neighbors will think - even when his daughter has long grown up and left the city.
  4. Seductive . Always dressed in fashion, too short, too tight.
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