Dr. Romance Video: Repairing a Dysfunctional Mother/Daughter Relationship
(Watch the video here.)
When you hit your teens you and your mom had a bad time, and you still are. Maybe she's not the mother you always wanted, but she's yours. How do you bury the hatchet and repair your connection? This will also be helpful for moms trying to repair relationships with daughters. You may never be best friends, but you can learn to appreciate each other and get along.
As the daughter of a mom who was seriously depressed (which I only understood when I grew up) I know it can be difficult to get along. Some moms are easy to be around, and others are more difficult. It's not that your mom's a bad person, others may get along with her fine, but you may have to work a little bit more to understand what she means, to not take what she says the wrong way,or use a little more patience around her, because your mom's personality or style is quite different from yours. It's worth the work, because your differences will stretch you a bit, and enrich your life and understanding in ways don't happen with people who are more like you. Challenging relationships can be the most rewarding. If you don't have an easy time with your mom, but still want to get along, check your own thinking first. Instead of trying to get what you've always wanted from your mom, think of finding a way to enjoy her as she is. Find something you can appreciate about her; something she does well, the way she dresses, her good friends, her hobbies. Make that the focus of your time together.
If you have trouble getting treated like an adult around your mom, the following guidelines can help you move the relationship from child-parent to a more equitable connection.
Guidelines for Growing up within your Family
1. Call her "Mom" or "Mother" instead of the more childlike "Mommy" or "Momma". It will make you think differently about your interaction.
2. Change your conversation to be more like the conversations you have with friends. Don't limit it strictly to family memories, or gossip about family members, or questions about your personal life. Before you speak with her, take a minute to think of what "grownup" topics you'd like to talk about. Current events, sports, work issues (just facts and events — avoid complaining) political or local neighborhood issues are all grownup topics.
3. If you have children of your own, share with your mom on a parent -to parent basis.
4. Don't react if your mom does or says something annoying. Just ignore it, and change the subject.
5. Don't ask your mom for advice — try offering your own expertise instead — but offer it as you would to a friend. Don't push.
6. Pay attention to the balance of your interaction. Don't let your role slide into all giving or all receiving, try to keep the score even, as you probably do with your friends.
7. In general, treat your mom like the mother of someone you care about, and not your own. After all, if you were with a friend's family, and someone did something odd, you'd just ignore it, and you wouldn't let yourself be drawn into family squabbles. You'd just be polite and pleasant, for your friend's sake.
After following these guidelines for a few months, your interactions with your mom will change, so that you can relax and just be your adult self. You'll find that you have more fun after you leave your old childhood behavior patterns and emotional leftovers behind.
(Adapted from It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction)