Someone said, ‘A mother’s treasure is her daughter.’ That’s perfectly true. However, we have an addition to it — ‘While a mother’s treasure is her daughter, a daughter’s sunshine is her mother.’
For a girl, her first role model, first best friend, and first everything is her mother. And for a mother, the daughter is a reflection.
With time, the relationship may keep taking different turns, but the sentiments between a mother and her daughter remain unmatched. You experience episodes of friendliness, arguments, amusement, encouragement, and above all, there’s constant unconditional love.
But at times, the relationship could wobble. And that could have an ill effect on both the mother and the daughter. Nonetheless, addressing the issues and understanding each other can help to improve the mother-daughter relationship. We tell you all about it in this MomJunction post.
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, on the one hand, try to protect their daughters by creating certain perimeters. And daughters, on the other hand, try to come out of those lines. 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 couples could have a twisted bond right from the beginning, while some could take a wrong route when the daughter starts growing. Any of the dysfunctional patterns between a mother and a daughter could make the bond detrimental.
Types Of Unhealthy Mother-Daughter Relationships
Although the relationship between mother and daughter is powerful, it might get bitter. 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
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 since always or it is after the daughter has grown up (maybe when she is teen or adult), both are unacceptable for 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.
2. 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). It is the kind of relationship in which the mother has her priorities, and she doesn’t give the deserved attention to her daughter.
When the mother distances herself from her daughter, it causes major damage to the relationship. Also, this kind of upbringing may leave a scar on the daughter’s life. 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 and finicky of daughter’s every move can add bitterness to the relationship. Mothers are supposed to encourage and support their daughters and not criticize them at every step of the way.
The independence of the daughter is taken, which suppresses her 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.
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 just to get heads to turn towards her. The mother keeps on having unreasonable expectations from her daughter, while the daughter keeps craving for maternal life. When a mother and daughter share such a relationship, it is completely toxic.
5. Enmity relationship
Disagreements are common to arise in any relationship, and it also happens with mother and daughter. When fights become regular, competitiveness arises in a relationship. That again leads to resentfulness. Constant fights and no mutual conclusions are not healthy in a relationship.
With such a relationship, the daughter may consider her mother as a rival and not as someone who loves unconditionally. And the mother would not get respect from her daughter. This kind of relationship between a mother and daughter is also termed as a rival relationship.
6. Bosom buddies
It is one of the common types of relation shared by mothers and daughters and is also 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 her by giving so much love and freedom, the mother might overlook teaching her certain aspects of the discipline. This would affect the relationship when the daughter starts growing up and when she has her interests.
7. Role reversal
This pattern in a relationship between mother and daughter usually occurs in the latter part of life. Here, the mother wants to support emotionally or financially from her daughter. And she doesn’t pay heed to her daughter’s needs. The daughter’s life is restricted, and she has to provide everything that her mother requires. Such a kind of relationship is not at all healthy for a woman.
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 other’s spouse, the mother has a favorite child, 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 could have unfavorable effects on them. However, there are chances to repair the relationship.
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 would reflect on the daughter’s future. A healthy bond shapes the daughter to have self-confidence. But an unhealthy relationship would make her doubt herself, resulting in low self-esteem in most of her life. On the other hand, even a mother is affected when her bond with the daughter is not going as she had always 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.
- 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 when she is outside.
There might be varied reasons behind the unhealthy relationship between a mother and a daughter. Mother’s marital status, her financial status, her relation with parents, and security could be some reasons that might have detached her from 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, anyone of you should make the first step ahead to resolve the conflicts of your relationship.
1. Active listener
‘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. But that’s not right. Instead of assuming anything, listen carefully to your mother or daughter. Listen without interrupting and by analyzing her feelings. 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. Conflicts usually arise due to the generation gap. But when you try to understand from your mother’s or daughter’s perspective, then you may find it easy to come down to mutual conclusions.
3. Open communication
Most of the misunderstandings occur due to no communication at all. Mother and daughter should be open to having healthy and frank communication. For instance, as a mother, if you don’t like her to spend 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. A softer and brief 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. Also, make sure not to involve other people in your conversations. That’s how you can have open and healthy conversations.
4. 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 a thin line between them and some limitations around them. This not only helps in improving the bond but also maintains a respectful relationship.
For a good journey, you need to drive smooth on the bumps. That means you should let go of some grudges and forgive to maintain healthy relationships. A mother and daughter could have plenty of conflicts, but at the end of the day, you should forgive and forget for a warm hug.
6. Quick heal
Usually, we tend to pause after an episode of arguments. If this pause is extended with time, the 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 that you must have ever thought of.
The mother and daughter are two different individuals with different perspectives. There would be disagreements at various points in life. Instead of arguing and trying to 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 the disagreements and move on in life.
The daughter is the mini version of her mother. So, irrespective of what has happened, the bond you share is irreplaceable. Patch up soon, heal each other’s wounds, and become the strongest team of the family.
Do you have any of your mother-daughter stories to share? Let us know in the comments section.