How to handle a difficult mother
13 Grown-Ass Strategies For Handling Your Mom If She’s Toxic
If you have a toxic mom, your knee-jerk reaction to her most dramatic moments might include: arguing, yelling, crying, hanging up the phone, and generally acting exactly the way she’s acting. It’s tough not to respond this way when someone is guilting you, manipulating you, and generally playing with your emotions. But it’s more helpful if you learn how to deal with a toxic mother in a healthier way — for the sake of both of you.
Most of the best strategies are all based on setting boundaries. “If you don’t set up boundaries and limits, you are subjecting yourself to her toxicity, mind-games, gaslighting, emotional deficiencies, rage, or whatever it is that makes her toxic,” Lesley Koeppel, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle.
These are the techniques many toxic parents deploy when trying to get their way, and that’s what’s at the root of it all. Toxic moms like to ignore the fact that you have your own agency and needs, psychologist Dr. Therese Rosenblatt, PhD, tells Bustle. They’re often too self-absorbed or immature, and can potentially feel threatened by the fact you’re thriving — either intentionally or not. “This [type of] mother is temperamentally more concerned with her own needs,” Rosenblatt says. “She may not realize it, but she treats the child as an extension of herself.”
It may be tough to change this dynamic, especially if your toxic mom’s behavior has been impacting you since the dawn of time. But try to remember that now, as an adult, you get to a) recognize all the ways her actions negatively impact you, and b) develop coping strategies. As Koeppel says, “You are now stronger, older, and wiser and although it is difficult, you can protect yourself in a way that your younger self could not.” Here, 13 ways to deal with a toxic mom that are definitely worth a try.
1. Figure Out Your Boundaries
It may be difficult to tear yourself away from your mother’s behavior, much less have the guts to set up healthy boundaries — especially if you’ve been dealing with her toxicity for a long time. She’s taught you to rely on her, react to her, and bend over backwards for her approval. But boundaries will help to change the way you interact.
"Becoming less codependent is a process of recovery," Dr. Alicia Meyer, PsyD, a psychologist, tells Bustle. "Boundaries are so important, but developing the internal self-confidence to set those boundaries is necessary first."
It may help to meet with a therapist as you figure out what’s OK and what isn’t. They can help you identify all the areas of your life that her toxicity has impacted and which boundaries will help create a healthier situation. Pro tip: Write it down so you don’t forget.
2. Have A Serious Conversation With Her
Find a time — preferably in a neutral setting, like a coffee shop — where you can have a heart-to-heart with your mom about how her behavior makes you feel. (You won’t want to spring the conversation on her over breakfast, during a phone call, or after you’ve both had a long day.) If you time it right and establish the conversation as important, she may have an easier time listening.
As you talk be sure to use “I statements” to keep the focus on yourself as you explain how her words and actions make you feel. Give her a chance to respond, then share what your boundaries will be going forward and ask if she’ll be able to respect them.
If she agrees, cool. You can refer back to the talk whenever she needs a reminder. "If that doesn’t work, you will at least feel better that you tried,” New York City-based licensed psychotherapist Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT tells Bustle
3. Limit The Amount Of Time You Spend Together
If your mom is unwilling or unable to respect your boundaries, that’s when you’ll want to start limiting the amount of time you spend together. "Back off slowly," Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, LCSW-C, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. "For example, if you usually see or talk to her daily, pull back to five to six days per week."
If her toxicity is still bringing you down, slowly pull back to three days a week, until the level of interaction feels right. And if you have the option to visit less often, do it without guilt. Hopefully, more space will allow you to hold onto some form of a relationship, without it ever getting too intense.
It’ll also show her that you don’t need to see her, which might cause a problem at first. Toxic people tend to react negatively to change and boundaries, but don’t let them prevent you from doing what you need to do. With time, she will start to understand that no amount of drama will change your mind.
4. Pick & Choose What You Tell Her
When you’re dealing with a toxic relationship, you may want to limit what you talk about with your mom. “It can be helpful to reflect upon past experiences where you have shared personal information with her,” Jennifer Grant Schliessman, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. “How did she react? Did you feel safe, acknowledged and seen, or judged?” If your mom’s toxicity centers around throwing things back in your face, or having an over-the-top reaction, you may find it helpful to keep personal life details to yourself.
For example, Schliessman says, if telling her about your recent date will lead to prying questions, negative commentary, or uncomfortable judgment, tell your friend instead. It would be amazing if you could share these parts of your life with your mom, but keeping them to yourself — and sparing yourself the drama — is always going to be the healthier option.
5. Don’t Let Her Sway You
Just like with toxic partners, a toxic mom will try to manipulate you by acting as if you and your choices are the reason she’s upset. “This often results in feeling as though you need to caretake your mother’s feelings, as opposed to her being responsible for them herself,” Rachel Landman, LMHC, a counselor with Humantold, tells Bustle.
The guilt trip could be about anything. “For example, stating that switching majors would be very disappointing to her, which in turn causes feelings of insecurity and a sense that one cannot trust their own instincts about their interests and desires,” Landman says. And do you need that? No.
Remind yourself that you no longer have to make her happy or change your life so she doesn’t get upset. "[Say to] yourself over and over and over, 'This is my life and I may love my mom, but I cannot let her manage, influence, and bring me down,'" Dr. Joshua Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. "Say it in the morning, say it midday, say it before you go to bed." Hopefully it'll stick.
6. Let Another Family Member Know What’s Going On
While it may be tempting to keep this toxic relationship a secret, it really does help to let another family member know what’s going on. “Perhaps you are not the only one bearing the brunt of her toxicity,” Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PhD, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, tells Bustle.
You may be able to form an alliance, so to speak, with a sibling or another parent. It’ll also help to know you aren’t alone in this treatment.
7. Ignore Toxic Comments
Another strategy? Ignoring toxic comments completely. “They are designed for engagement and the minute a response is given, boom, you are back in the dynamic most likely feeling awful about yourself and angry you engaged,” Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, a mental health expert and licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle.
Instead, laugh to yourself internally and stay neutral. But if you do want to respond, Kelman says, you could say, “Mom, I love and care for you, but I will not respond or be able to spend time with you if you say these things. If you can relate to me with empathy and positivity, then I am all for spending time together.”
8. Don’t Take It Personally
While a toxic mom’s comments can feel very personal, begin training yourself to let it go. “Let it go in one ear and out the other and remind yourself that this is her stuff and lack of self-esteem that is being dumped on you,” Kellman says. It’s not a reflection of who you really are.
If tough emotions start welling up, remove yourself from the situation and reach out to a friend, family member, or therapist. Vent, ask for advice, or simply talk about something else until the feeling passes.
9. Prioritize Yourself & Your Needs
After years of being controlled by a toxic mom, it can feel pretty radical to focus on yourself and your own needs. But that’s exactly what you need to do when you’re around your mom, and also when you’re not.
“If you don't fulfill their needs — if that's who you are, if you recognize yourself in that — then remind yourself verbally that you're allowed to prioritize yourself,” Rosenblatt says. Do whatever feels right in the moment for you, especially if your mom is pushing your proverbial buttons.
10. Try To Be Empathetic
It could be that your mother’s behavior stems from something in her past. “Often, a toxic mom is toxic because her own needs were not met as a child,” Koeppel says. “So you can try an empathic response to get her to calm down.”
Think about what’s upsetting her or why she’s over-reacting, and respond in a way that’s caring and kind. Say something like, “It sounds like you are very angry about XYZ. That has to be really difficult.”
Let her talk and see if that leads to a productive conversation. But remember to bring up your boundaries if she starts dragging you down.
11. Try A “Feedback Sandwich”
Since many toxic people react negatively to feedback, attempt a “feedback sandwich” the next time you need to talk to your mom. “This is a form of communication where your constructive criticism is sandwiched between positive feedback,” Molly Zive, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle.
Say something positive, then offer some constructive feedback, then immediately follow with more positivity. Going forward, this may be the best way to chat with your mom without the convo going south.
12. Adjust Your Expectations
Apart from reiterating your boundaries, it can help to give up the idea that if you do this one thing (whatever it may be) that your mom will change and magically become the mother you wished for and deserved, Landman says. Continuing to hold onto hope that she will one day wake up different sets you up for painful disappointment, so adjust your expectations and look for the love, support, and advice elsewhere.
13. Consider Cutting Off All Communication (At Least For A While)
If things are particularly toxic, it may be best to avoid talking to your mom altogether, Meyer says. This is called going “no contact” and it’s often the best course of action when dealing with a toxic person. “In cases of abuse this is certainly appropriate,” she says.
Not only will it allow you to find peace, but the space will also give you time to work on yourself and sort through all the trauma you’ve likely experienced. Once you come out to the other side, you can decide if you’d like to reach out. But if not, that’s 100% OK.
Lesley Koeppel, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker
Dr. Alicia Meyer, PsyD, psychologist
Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
Jennifer Grant Schliessman, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker
Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, LCSW-C, licensed clinical social worker
Rachel Landman, LMHC, counselor
Dr. Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PhD, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University
Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, mental health expert and licensed clinical social worker
Dr. Therese Rosenblatt, psychologist
Molly Zive, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker
This article was originally published on
Dealing with a Difficult MotherDealing with a difficult mother can leave a daughter wondering if she is worthy of love.
From infancy and beyond every daughter learns who she is, how to love, and be loved, first from her relationship with her mother. This relationship is the foundation of attachment and identity.If this relationship weren’t loaded enough… from the beginning mothers and daughters are tasked with the intricate dance of attaching and letting go.
Every step taken is a step away from mommy. If all goes well, mom is working herself out of a job and daughter is growing into her own. In health, the adult daughter stands on her own strong, confident, and independent.However, for many mothers and daughters, this dance becomes complicated and convoluted.
If mom has a narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic personality disorder has traits thereof, or… is just plain difficult there will be trouble. The difficult mother’s mothering will be woefully impaired and daughters can have a lifetime of suffering because of it.The attuned empathetic daughter frequently falls into the trap of the “good” daughter.
She puts her mother’s emotional needs ahead of her own in ways that are hidden even to her. If the good daughter remains unaware of the traps laid for her she will never reach her full potential and step into the life she was meant to live.
Table of Contents
What’s Wrong With My Mother?
What Is The Good Daughter Syndrome?
How Should I Deal With Mom?
How Can I Practice Self Care?
How Can I Be A Better Mother?
How Do Mother Issues Affect My Romantic Relationships?
Culture & Feminism
What’s Wrong With My Mother?
You’ve noticed something is wrong with your mother.You know you are dealing with a difficult mother you just don’t know exactly what is wrong with her- if anything.
Her emotions are up and down, and, in many ways unpredictable. Controlling, defensive, and, at times self-absorbed, her emotional lap is not a safe place for you to land and never has been.
You just can’t seem to make mom happy.
You learned to walk on eggshells or not rock the boat.
When you look back you realize how much of your life you tried to make mom feel better about herself? Before you realized it was an impossible thankless job, you spent much of your childhood being good for mom so mom would be happy?
You didn’t, you couldn’t, have known any different.
Today I am going to pull back the psychological curtain.
Not in a harsh blaming way but a reasoned scientific way to help you understand what you were up against and are dealing with as you try and relate to your mother.
I have been where you are and have raised two daughters to adulthood. At times I have been the difficult mother, at other times the wounded daughter Having been on both sides of the aisle, and, as a psychotherapist spending over 30 years listening to mothers and daughters, I’ve learned why the buck stops with Mom.
Deep insecurity drives the difficult mother’s behavior.
She covers this insecurity up to herself and others through a set of psychological defenses. These defenses impair her ability to mother her children in a way that puts their needs first. Her children develop an insecure attachment style that affects her in all aspects of life.
These defenses may be pervasive enough for her to warrant the diagnosis, narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic or she may have traits of these disorders.Either way, the defenses are designed to hide the terrifying emptiness she feels inside.
They make it hard for her to be supportive of her daughter. She may cover her deficits with her overinvolvement or helicopter parenting as a cover for covert narcissism or be super clingy and not let you go weighing in on your life with criticism and judgment. She may even make you her emotional partner, a process called parentification.
“Mom calls me many times a day and I don’t pick up. I put off calling her back as long as I can. I know this hurts her feelings but what she doesn’t realize is this – although I am swamped with guilt, I feel suffocated and resentful. Where did I sign on to be her emotional partner? I wish she would let me go to live my own life. “
Where it comes from
Your mother’s problems are a result of her childhood wounds compounded by a patriarchal culture that hasn’t valued women.
If she didn’t get what she needed at critical points in her development, she carries these wounds into adulthood. If she was deeply damaged she can be nearly impossible to deal with.
Can you relate?
Mom just can’t take criticism. Regardless of how carefully you put your complaint, mom can’t admit any wrongdoing.
No matter what you say, she always has a comeback. Does she think she is untouchable or perfect? That would be an easy answer, but you know, that’s not the whole story. Despite what looks like arrogance on the outside, you know she is an unhappy person on the inside. It pays to have an understanding of the underlying reasons of what makes mom difficult.
Learn what you are dealing with and come up with a strategy
What Is The Good Daughter Syndrome?
Feeling they are never good enough, daughters typically respond to a mother who can never be pleased by taking on one of two roles.
1) They rebel against mom’s demands and adopt a black sheep role or scapegoat and shrug off any attempt at pleasing mom.
2) They take on the good daughter role and buckle under to mom’s demands, working endlessly to be for good for mom in order to gain her approval and love. The attuned empathetic daughter frequently takes on the role of the Good daughter.
This pattern of placing mom’s needs at the center of the mother/daughter relationship while squelching her own will result in what I call the Good Daughter Syndrome.
Are you suffering from the Good Daughter Syndrome?
Take the Quiz
What the GDS looks like specifically
The empathetic attuned daughter of the narcissistic/difficult mother frequently takes on the role of the good daughter to shore up her mother’s deficits. Driven to look good for mom and be good for mom, she does so at her own expense.
The daughter, covering for her mother’s fragile self-esteem she is caught in the good daughter trap. Although she is held back by her mother’s problems, she wonders if her mother can help being the way she is. Tasked with the impossible job of making mom happy, she suffers from feelings of inadequacy and works endlessly to please everyone.
Tragically, she isn’t fully conscious of what she is doing or what this dynamic is doing to her. Hard to face head-on consciously she may struggle with food issues, or establish co-dependent relationships with men.
Anxiety is her constant companion as she struggles with the impossible demands of a mother who can’t be pleased. What she doesn’t know is that she is carrying her mother’s insecurities into her own life and it is costing her dearly.
This Syndrome goes far beyond the normal tensions involved in a daughter’s separation and individuation. The ways this narcissistic/difficult mother appropriates her daughter’s life is apparent throughout her childhood. Although she may not be aware of the full scope of the problems involved in the Good Daughter Syndrome she may know she –
- Never feels “good enough” no matter how hard she tries
- Struggles with self-doubt and second-guesses her decisions.
- Let’s others have way much control over her
- Feels guilty when she says ‘No”
& more ….
Maternal Narcissism: Trapped in the Role of ‘Good Daughter’
Like a bucket with a slow leak, the narcissistically defended mother’s good feelings about herself are in constant need of a refill.
Behind the Mask: What the ‘Good Daughter’ of the Narcissistic Mother Would Tell You if She Could (World of Psychology)
This daughter, trapped in the role of the “good daughter” of the Narcissistic Mother must hide her true self behind a mask of faux perfection.
How Should I Deal With Mom?
When you are dealing with a difficult mother, the truth is- she is operating from a deficit. Chances are, she hasn’t reflected or psychologically can’t reflect on how her behavior has affected you. Do I say let her off the hook? Certainly not, but hoping she will change is not a strategy. If you don’t do something to break out and break the cycle nothing will change. Here is why most strategies don’t work and what will work.
Enabling mom’s difficult ways will not help you, nor will it help your mother. Awareness is your first step to freedom. Then you need is a plan to stop enabling her and free yourself.
Your problems with your mother mirror your problems in life. Instead of simply blaming mom you can raise your awareness, find your voice and claim your life.
- What if you knew a better way to stand up to mom even if you struggle?
- What if you could ask her to stop giving you unwanted advice and what to do instead?
- What if you stopped worrying that you were too sensitive and asked instead if mom too intrusive?
- What if you knew how to handle those difficult visits home from a place of power.
- What if calling mom out was made easier?
- What if you could tell mom why you avoid her calls and what she could do- so you’d pick up?
How Can I Practice Self Care?
Waiting around for mom’s permission to take your life back will get you nowhere. You need to learn how to stand up for yourself and embody self-confidence. Any change in your relationship with mom is going to involve letting go in the service of moving on and moving forward with your life. It is your turn when you say it is.
When to Break Free & How
How long will you put your own life on hold and let mom’s needs dictate your life? Do you swing between resentment and guilt, get angry with mom only to back down out of guilt? Do you get so frustrated you wonder if you should go no contact or low contact?
How Can I Be A Better Mother?
Now it’s your turn. You have your own daughter and you are calling the shots. With each developmental stage, you are reminded of what you didn’t get, reminded of the painful feelings you had to endure.
You vow you will be a better mother.
You tell yourself, the cycle stops here. You won’t be passing down the limiting messages you got in childhood. The ultimate healing comes from giving your daughter the self-esteem you never got in childhood. You can turn the pain of your childhood into sensitivity and compassion for your daughter. By turning this around, you restore and heal a part of yourself. This is the ultimate positive outcome.
The problem, however, is that you have no idea how to do it other than do the opposite of what was done to you. This can backfire in some predictable ways. Before you know it, you are in danger of indulging your daughter the way you indulged your mother- leaving you exhausted and rung out. You need to learn ways of connecting and supporting your daughter while modeling self-worth and promoting resilience. It is the ultimate win-win. Empower her as you empower yourself. Tap into your Feminine energy and soar.
How Do Mother Issues Affect My Relationships?
The good daughter syndrome has far-reaching consequences for the good daughter’s romantic relationships. Let me break it down for you.
By establishing an unhealthy relationship template during childhood, the difficult mother sets up her daughter to choose bad boys and settle for far less than she is worth in her dating relationships.
When the good daughter chooses mom over her partner she undermines her romantic adult relationship. This happens in ways that are subtle but deadly, particularly when it comes to her sex life.
Mothers & Sexual Traumas
A daughter’s first line of protection against sexual assault and abuse needs to be her mother via the messages a mother gives to her daughter. When a woman’s own mother does not believe nor validate her daughter’s experience of sexual assault or abuse, her daughter’s trauma is compounded.
Motherhood & Feminism. It wasn’t that long ago we were in the fire as the patriarchal fires sought to silence our internal voices. As a result, we carry deep in our psyche’s the marks of the patriarchy. Unless we wake to the ways this mark is passed down we will continue to pass down this oppression at the unconscious level. To break this cycle of oppression we need to stand up to our mothers. As the daughters of the awakening, daughters rising, liberate ourselves, and reclaim our feminine power. This is good for all mothers and daughters. Won’t you join me?
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Do you relate?
If so, here are some ways I can help on your journey from Good Daughter to Empowered Woman:
Do you have The Good Daughter Syndrome? Take the Quiz (It’s Free)
Read the first two chapters of The 4 Good Daughter Traps- Break Free of Your Difficult Mother and Take control of Your Life …for Free- Go here!
Watch & Learn Video Course – Practical Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic, Borderline, or Difficult Mother That Work– Tips honed from working with daughters of difficult mothers for 30 years, as a psychotherapist.
What Kind of Good Daughter Are You? Conflicted? Independent? Obedient? Take this (Free) Quiz
Consult with Katherine- Private Coaching – When it’s time to tell your story.
Worn out, and exhausted from the endless back and forth, you are desperate for a 3rd party to help you navigate your relationship with Mom. You ask yourself, "Should I take my mother to therapy?" You think- if she won’t listen to me, she will surely listen to an...
( conditions for mothers of estranged daughters) ( If you'd rather listen- go to the end of the post for the audio version) You've cut Mom off...and now she wants a second chance. Should you let her back in or stick to your guns and stay no contact? You don't...
(How to deal with an elderly Narcissistic mother) You thought mom was a handful when she was in her prime. WELLLLLLLL Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse. SURPRISE! Instead of softening with age and becoming a sweet old lady, if she has a personality...
Daughter and mother: separation is difficult but necessary!
Man among men
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 "has 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 place 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 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 that little girl who once was her mother 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 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 close to her, 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, usually manage to 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.
- Narcissistic . She dreams of seeing in her daughter a pretty doll who would think only of her mother.
- Supervisory . She has a rule for every occasion. And every time she tells her daughter that she did not fulfill it.
- Opinion dependent . He worries about what the neighbors will think - even when his daughter has long grown up and left the city.
- Seductive . Always dressed in fashion, too short, too tight. She flirts with any man she meets, including her daughter's friends.
- Choke . Helps even when the kids don't need it.
- Borderless . Takes the successes and failures of his child very close, too close to his heart...
- Critical . Reproaches everything that the daughter (not) does, as well as what she dreams about.
- Closing eyes . Thinks things aren't going so badly, even when things can't get any worse.
- Omniscient . She had long ago done everything that her daughter hoped to do someday, and much better than she did.
- Accusing . Always dissatisfied, but waiting for the children to put their lives in order to satisfy her desires and dreams.
Text: Anna Fateeva Photo source: Getty Images
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Psychologist and psychotherapist Tata Feodoridi tells
“I endured everything for you”, “You won’t succeed”, “Why do you do this all the time” - from childhood, a child can become a victim of a toxic relationship with his mother, which will then affect his future. Together with psychologist and psychotherapist Tata Feodoridi, we figure out who mothers-victims and mothers-critics are and how to deal with pressure from a parent.
The problem of the lack of unconditional maternal love
Unconditional maternal love is a warm, enveloping blanket of acceptance and calmness, support, caress and warmth. Psychologists often compare maternal love to a charged battery. A girl or boy who received it in childhood goes through life much easier, they believe in themselves and it is easier for them to cope with difficulties.
A key ingredient in motherly love is the absence of conditions. “Whatever you are, I love you”, “whatever happens to you - I love you”, “lost, failed, mistake, fall - I love you”. However, just as a battery is charged, it can also be discharged. And, unfortunately, for children who, as they grow up, did not feel this unconditional maternal love, it is very difficult to live. They are more prone to depression, abusive relationships, doubt whether they are worthy of love at all, whether someone will treat them well, accept them as they are, and not break them.
Types of mothers in toxic relationships
There are three main patterns of behavior of mothers who subject their children to conscious or unconscious pressure.
Such mothers often put pressure on the patient, creating complexes: “you are short” or “you have a big nose”. When their daughter grows up, she becomes her harshest critic: she constantly doubts herself, feels dissatisfied with herself and often even hates. Such girls have global problems in romantic relationships and any other areas of life. They belittle themselves, criticize, do not accept and literally smear on the wall. And no matter how beautiful, charismatic, smart and talented a girl is, she will still look at herself in the mirror and think: "I am ugly and do not deserve anything in this life. "
Girls who grew up with a mother who is always ashamed engage in masochism throughout their lives. They are in an abusive relationship, they endure humiliation, beatings, an alcoholic husband and all sorts of bad attitudes. Sometimes from the outside it seems that they are ready to put up with absolutely everything.
Humiliation always stands next to shame. It can be of a different nature - through psychological or physical violence - and of any format: humiliating statements, coercion to some awkward actions, shame, ridicule, ridicule, jokes. Criticism of a child by shaming mothers reaches its climax and turns into a format of public spanking. This is a very aggressive form of relationship. Mothers can put pressure on a child not directly, but indirectly, for example, by saying: “What you want is disgusting. What you like is disgusting." In such relationships, there is no sexual education, or it is a shameful topic, which then results in problems in further emancipation.
This is a story about an unfortunate mother who endured a lot for the sake of her children. “I lived with your father for you”, “I denied myself a lot for you”. Mom may not even say anything directly to the child, but she will show it with her whole appearance. In fact, such parents themselves cripple their lives in front of their children, for example, if they constantly endure alcoholics, beatings or psychological abuse.
When the children of such mothers grow up, they begin to feel guilty towards them and they are ashamed to be happy. Their typical words are: “I want to go on vacation, I have a good family and children, but I know that my mother is doing very badly. I tried to get her out of the situation, but she doesn't want to. I am ashamed that everything is fine with me, but she is not.” The second scenario is copy-paste. When children grow up in an atmosphere of tolerance, they often carry this format of relationships into the future.
Who is to blame
There are no guilty or wrong people in this situation. People simply cannot find a common language with each other, and a problem arises: just as the mother did not accept the children and their actions, in the future the children themselves cannot accept the choice of the mother.
A healthy relationship between a child and a parent should always be on an equal footing. The child should not educate the elder, and the elder should not crush and humiliate the child.
What can you do to improve your relationship with your mother
Start chatting and building a dialogue. Most people have learned to speak, to use words in a sentence, but have not learned how to convey their thoughts. The main problem in toxic relationships is that people cannot understand each other, because they do not know how to talk to each other.
Refuse categorical language in conversation: “You don't want to spend time with me at all. You don't care about our relationship!", "You don't love me."
Try to build sentences based on the following principles:
Fact: “Yesterday she told me...”, “At a family dinner you agreed...”.
Emotion: “I felt sad and thought about it all day”, “I got so angry with you.”
Injured need: “I miss you a lot, I miss the time spent alone together”, “After all, I finally feel fulfilled and happy, and suddenly it seems to elude me”, I want to understand that you are always on my side I want to trust and feel safe.”
Parent's interest: "I see that you miss my attention, we spend little time together", "Give me the opportunity to pursue a career, and I will try to plan my time better so that we see each other more often."
Request: "I beg you, don't do this again.