Last week, we delved into the inner workings of romantic relationships and discussed five tips for strengthening those dynamics. With Mother’s Day less than a week away, I thought it fitting to continue the conversation about relationship dynamics by addressing one of the most complex relationships in existence – those between mothers and daughters.
Mother-daughter relationships vary widely from one to the next. Some mothers and daughters are inseparable, others barely speak to each other. Some rely on each other as stable and insightful sources of inspiration and wisdom, and still others completely disregard each other’s opinions. While some relationships certainly do fall on one end of either of these extremes, the vast majority of mother-daughter relationships exhibit elements of each of them.
In my time as an online psychotherapist, I have worked with several women struggling with their mother-daughter relationship. If you are looking for ways to improve your relationship with your mother or your daughter, here are a few strategies that you may find helpful.
1. Set Clear Boundaries
First and foremost, it is imperative that you know where the other person stands within your relationship. If you are uncomfortable or unwilling to discuss a certain topic, for instance, it is important that you (politely) let the other person know that the topic is off-limits. Setting boundaries requires a level of honesty with yourself, too; before you can communicate your needs to your mother or daughter, you have to know what they are.
2. Use “I” Statements
Women are famous for being intensely emotional. The emotional and empathetic strengths women bring to the table definitely have their time and place, but it is important to be able to keep your emotions in check, too. Be careful not to get so caught up in your emotions that you make accusatory statements and tell the other person how they’re behaving/acting. Take deep breaths and only speak in statements that reflect how you feel. Laying judgment on the other person won’t help anything.
3. Let Go Of Unrealistic Expectations
Unrealistic expectations are often behind many of the disagreements we encounter in our day-to-day lives. For example, you may expect that your daughter should send you a gift on Mother’s Day, even though you know she hasn’t for the past several years. If you hold on to this expectation even though you know it is unrealistic, you will probably end up being disappointed and frustrated. Letting go of unrealistic expectations can be hard (especially if they are something you intensely desire), but you will probably ultimately be happier for it.
4. Don’t Wait For The Other Person To Reach Out
If you are unhappy with the current dynamic of your mother-daughter relationship, do something about it. Don’t play the classic waiting game, hoping that she will finally break down and make the first move. The longer you wait, the more frustrated and helpless you may end up feeling. Instead, set up a time to talk with your mother or daughter and let her know how you feel about the situation. Chances are she has been unhappy with your dynamic, too, and will be grateful to you for reaching out.
5. Leave The Past In The Past
Many women make the mistake of clinging to old wounds and bringing them back up during any argument or similarly heated conversation, making it difficult to fully address the issue at hand. As a result, nothing truly gets resolved and the patterns continue to repeat themselves. While it is important to address issues as they arise, it is equally important to leave them in the past once they have been discussed. Addressing the issues that are only relevant to the present moment will allow your conversations to be much more productive.
6. Maximize Your Common Interests
Even if you and your mother/daughter seem like the two most opposite people in the world, chances are good that there will be at least one activity you can both enjoying doing. (You are related, after all!) Make a point to identify what this activity is and incorporate it into the time you spend together. Sharing activities you know you both enjoy will help you build positive memories together, which will help to strengthen your relationship.
7. Step Away From The Conversation When Emotions Run High
What happens when emotions get too heated? More often than not, people end up saying things they don’t mean and/or end up taking things personally that were not intended that way. If you find yourselves in the middle of a conversation that is quickly escalating, pause and step away. It may be hard to walk away from a conversation that feels “unfinished,” but recovering from an unfinished conversation is far easier than recovering from harsh words that were not intended to be said.
8. Seek Help From A Third Party
If used appropriately, these suggestions should go help you guide your mother-daughter to a healthier, happier balance. If you are struggling or are looking for extra assistance, however, don’t be afraid to reach out! I offer online counseling sessions to help you work through the issues you may facing and develop strategies for moving forward.