Why does the breakdown of the mother-daughter relationship happen?
As a little girl, I would spend hours looking at my mother’s beautiful dresses and sorting through her jewelry box, and I thought my mother was the most amazing woman living some sort of magical adult life. I wanted to emulate her, be like her and receive her love. I even remember the joyful moment she bought me boots that matched hers, and still treasure a photograph of us together in our matching boots, jeans and jumpers.
I think most little girls love and idolize their mothers, it’s our first ever relationship with another person, and our tender young hearts are often devoted and full of love.
As we grow and become more aware, that early veneration often changes into other emotions. For some daughters, it becomes a more realistic version of that prior adoration – love, mutual respect and friendship. For others though, their relationship with their mother starts to move in another direction entirely. I know many women whose relationship with their mother has broken down, with little love, respect or positive feelings left.
Some complain that their mother nags them to change their ways, their clothes, their hair or looks, their parenting or lifestyle, the list is endless. Some have mothers that interfere, demand or try to control their lives. Some have mothers who judge and compare them to others or to themselves.
Many women are resentful there isn’t the relationship they want, wishing for a more loving, caring or supportive mother.
Yet many still try to please or pacify their mother, to meet her expectations no matter how it makes them feel or the impact it has on their own family, all to continue to receive approval and love and ensure their mother’s happiness.
Here’s the real truth.
When you do this you are contributing just as much to the breakdown of this relationship as your mother. Your mother may be placing her expectations on you, yet you are doing the same in return by expecting her to be the ideal of what you think your mother should be like.
In any relationship, you can’t change another person. You can only change yourself and your responses to that person. And this certainly applies in the mother-daughter relationship, even when it is your first and often longest relationship.
If you try to think of your mother in a more objective way, as a woman rather than your mother, then perhaps you can gain some perspective.
Try to see your relationship with her not as a mother/daughter one but as a relationship between two women. She is a woman placing her expectations on you and you feel hurt because she is not meeting the expectations you have placed on her.
If it were a friend and your relationship had reached this point, how long would that friendship last? Just because it’s a relationship with your mother, doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your own feelings to make her happy. You are not living life for her. Neither should you feel resentful that she is not living up to your ideal of a mother.
Expectations kill a relationship.
Just as with any relationship, being open and honest with your feelings, needs and wants is important to improving a damaged mother-daughter relationship.
In some cases, your mother may not be truly aware of what she does and how it makes you feel, and just bringing it to awareness can be enough to instigate some positive changes. In other situations, you may need to firmly and lovingly set boundaries about what is good for you in your relationship with her.
Feeling resentful of your mother, complaining or feel sad about a poor relationship with her is only detrimental to you. It doesn’t change anything, and hurts you more than anyone. I’m not advocating ending the relationship with your mother just because it doesn’t meet your ideal, nor to become demanding about what you want or force change to happen.
Instead, first practice acceptance of what the situation has become, accept that your mother is her own person free to act how she chooses. Then understand that even if you make the first move in trying to improve things, it may still not be perfect. As with any relationship, you may need to set healthy boundaries, or occasionally take a “time-out“.
Also, understanding why a mother can become demanding, nagging or judgmental helps to view the situation with less emotional entanglement. See her as a human being, a human being who may also be experiencing a whirlwind of emotions. Perhaps, she is feeling a void in her life that they are expecting their child to fill. This void could due to any number of things – sadness, fear, resentment, low self-esteem, anxiety etc. But it not up to you to heal, fix or change her.