When a woman has a daughter who thinks she is wrong, she realizes that her mother was right all along. Mother-daughter relationships are layered and convoluted. The bond may seem unbreakable, but at one stage, it can morph to a point where each other’s presence seems unbearable. And then, somehow, they mend their differences and emerge as a loving support system.
Unfortunately, these changing dynamics can be difficult to navigate. However, all is not lost! Even if you have hit a rough patch, maintaining a healthy mother-daughter relationship is within the realms of possibilities. All it takes is some thorough introspection and modulation in behavior. Here is a comprehensive guide that may help. Scroll down.
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Why Do Mother-Daughter Relationships Matter?
The importance of mother-daughter relationships came to light when a study revealed that the relationships between mothers and daughters are the strongest amongst any parent-offspring relationships (1).
In fact, it serves as the cornerstone of the future of any relationship a woman may have with those around her. The mother-daughter relationship holds the internal working model of attachment, which dictates a woman’s connection with others.
This effect also makes sense considering that mothers and daughters may have shared experiences, which scales up to form such a bias and cause mothers to favor their daughters (while fathers favor their sons) (2). Additionally, a mother’s mental health proves to be a vital marker in determining her daughter’s potential mental health conditions (3).
The relationship between mother and daughter is the most valuable connection a woman enjoys in her life. And given the role of maternal figures in translating valuable emotions and life skills like empathy, kindness, and affection, it can be the foundation of how society performs as a whole.
Now let us look at what a healthy relationship between mothers and daughters look like.
Traits Of A Healthy Mother-Daughter Relationship
- They acknowledge each other as individuals and spend adequate time – neither too much nor too little. The mother-daughter duo recognizes and respects boundaries. They make reasonable commitments to each other and come through on them.
- They accept each other the way they are rather than forcing them to conform to a particular set of ideals.
- They can disagree without being disrespectful.
- Most of their conversations are open and honest, without guilt-tripping the other into doing or saying something they would not engage in on their own volition.
- Both contribute equally to the relationship, and none of the parties bear the upper hand.
- Mothers should allow their daughters to experience (and overcome) failures, while daughters should encourage mothers to widen their horizons and push their mental barriers.
In contrast to what we have seen in the previous section, here are the signs of a toxic mother-daughter relationship.
Signs Of Dysfunctional Mother-Daughter Relationships
- You are quick to pass judgment or be judged, and most of the criticism is harsh and counter-productive. Being dismissive of each other’s actions or emotions.
- The relationship is extremely taxing on one’s emotions, time, and attention.
- Off-hand, distasteful, or unwarranted jokes about hurtful things.
- If your relationship constantly involves drama, it is far from healthy.
- A toxic mother-daughter relationship makes you the source of happiness, which can come at the cost of your mental health.
- You feel helpless when it comes to setting boundaries or standing up for yourself.
- You find yourself constantly bickering with each other.
- Involve problematic behaviors such as gaslighting, manipulation, guilt-tripping, and minimizing.
Relationships between mothers and daughters can be broadly classified into the following categories.
Types Of Mother-Daughter Relationships
The BFF Duo Becoming good friends with your mother or daughter has more perks than earning a friend for life. Such a relationship rests on the pillars of trust, love, and mutual respect, where mothers and daughters freely express themselves and share emotional experiences. It instills the confidence that your mother or daughter will always be there for you for support, advice, or to lend an ear.
1. The Detached Strangers
Here, the mother and daughter hardly know anything about each other’s lives because they choose not to get involved or do not care enough. Either way, disengagement makes the relationship strained and can lead to poor mental health.
2. The Enmeshed
While detached mother-daughter relationships sever the cord, enmeshed relationships compact them into one. It is one of the most toxic forms of relationships as it sets unrealistic expectations that result in devaluation.
The mother fails to respect boundaries and tries to seek validation through her daughter. On the other hand, the daughter feels pressured into living up to her mother’s expectations regardless of her desires.
Therefore, both of them lose their identity and individuality, leading to a relationship breakdown. This attachment style is common in abusive mother-daughter relationships where one is narcissistic, and the other is co-dependent.
3. The Control Freak
It may be hard to differentiate between enmeshed and controlling mother-daughter relationships. However, both are not the same. While a mother may push her daughter to perform better, a controlling one will shrink her passions or desires. Some may even try to pass off this behavior under the guise of being protective. It restricts the child, limits their potential, and takes away their independence.
4. The Discard-Dismisser
We find one-sided rejection in this kind of difficult mother-daughter relationship. The dismissive action can be due to apathy or because the mother or daughter is impossibly hard to please. It leaves them longing for recognition and appreciation for the efforts they put into the relationship.
5. The Helicopter Tyrant
“Why? Because I said so”. If these words sound far too familiar, you have a mother who conceives herself as the ultimate authority. While they may have the best intentions at heart, the constant micromanaging, criticism, and interference make the mother and the daughter feel that any deviation from this pattern will result in failure. As a result, the mother-daughter relationship turns parasitic.
6. The Roles Reverse
Children have to parent their kids with time. If the daughter acts like a responsible adult from an early age, while the mother behaves like a sibling or liability more than a parent, the mother-daughter relationship is dysfunctional. Such a relationship is common in daughters of mothers who are young, immigrant, alcoholic, or depressive.
Healthy mother-daughter relationships will give rise to confident, compassionate, caring, and empowered women. On the flipside, troubled relationships can set the stage for a range of emotional and mental issues.
Effects Of A Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationship
- Poor Self-Esteem: An abusive mother-daughter relationship can normalize bad behavior and set the bar too low for interpersonal relationships. Being treated unfairly will have both parties doubt themselves and negatively affect their self-esteem.
Depression: Emotional distance or detachment can lead to mental health issues like depression.
- Commitment Issues: The mother-daughter relationship breakdown can make them wary of those around them. This dysfunctional bond leaves behind deep-rooted insecurities that may reflect into other relationships.
- Poor Conduct: Emotionally abusive relationships between mothers and daughters can breed unresolved resentment, jealousy, and hostility, leading to unreasonable and unpardonable actions.
Even if you have a thriving relationship with your mother or daughter, there’s always room to improve it. Here are some actionable tips on how to foster a healthy mother-daughter relationship.
How To Improve Mother-Daughter Relationships
- Be the first to extend the white flag rather than waiting for the other to make the first move. If your attempts are met with silence, learn to give up and sever the cords when necessary.
Since you cannot control how the other person reacts or behaves, healing must start with the self. So work on yourself first.
- Encourage the willingness to change and create an environment where you contribute to each other’s personal growth.
- Set realistic expectations on the kind of relationship you wish to have. Be pragmatic about the same as behavioral changes may take a while to show effect.
- Learn each other’s love language and find ways to express care in a manner that influences the other.
- Try to incorporate transparent and open-ended conversations to put across your point without triggering defensiveness.
- If you find the situation escalating, declare that you wish to discuss this issue later. This will help you manage your emotions effectively.
- Foster an ecosystem of trust, especially during the tough adolescent phase, so that the relationships between mother and daughter stay honest throughout.
- Learn the art of active listening by echoing the other person’s concerns. Let them know that you are comprehending their intent and emotions.
- Gain an outsider’s perspective or put yourself in the other’s shoes to empathize with their condition and respect their feelings.
- If you cannot reconcile your differences, try to forgive the other person without condoning, minimizing, or pardoning the core issue.
- Maintain the subtle balance of staying close and connected without compromising on your individuality and beliefs.
- Establish healthy boundaries so that you can assert separateness in case of toxic mother-daughter relationships.
- Become comfortable with the idea that some issues may not resolve, and you may end up in a deadlock where you agree to disagree with each other.
- Rather than dredging up things from the past, prevent any further relationship breakdown by focusing on the present.
- Follow the 20-second rule. Put forward your perspective in 20 seconds or less during a conflict. Then, allow the other party to speak about their experience in the next 20 seconds. This technique enables you to stay on track of the current conflict than digressing.
- Stay respectful towards each other even during a conflict or disagreement. Avoid involving third parties for resolution or badmouthing the other.
- Set aside a fixed date, time, and schedule for routine mother-daughter hangout sessions.
Despite holding mother-daughter relationships to the highest standards, they may not necessarily live up to the expectations. Fortunately, there is always room for hope, healing, and improvement. Take the lead to initiate change, and the rest will follow soon after. Consider speaking to a therapist or counselor if you are sensing a relationship breakdown. After all, you can only make the situation better by acting on it.
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