Most of us want to have a happy, healthy relationship with our mom, and make a big effort to keep things running smoothly. But that doesn't mean we don't all accidentally do things to make the mother-daughter relationship difficult. Whether it's picking fights, forgetting to call, or constantly bringing up the past, certain habits can make the whole thing way more toxic than it needs to be.
If you're lucky enough to have a great relationship with your mom, then you likely have healthy boundaries and a mom who respects them. But that's not the case for everyone, and it can really kick off the problems for mothers and daughters.
"Parents in general, and mothers in particular, have a difficult time transitioning their roles in the relationship with their daughters," couples counselor Julienne B. Derichs LCPC tells Bustle. "Adult children often resent mothers who continue to parent them and who are overly critical and demanding. This puts a tremendous amount of strain on the mother-daughter relationship." While it's obviously not all your mom's fault, let's focus on that dynamic and the common ways daughters tend to add to the problem.
1. Never Setting Aside Time To Call
You know how you always mean to call your mom but never do? While this is incredibly common, it's definitely not a great way to maintain a relationship with her. As psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky says, "Not keeping in contact, making phone calls, visiting, or letting [her] know about major life events are all ways to ruin a relationship with your mother." So don't let another day (or week, or month) go by without checking in.
2. Not Figuring Out How To Handle Conflicts
Knowing how to deescalate tense situations is key to maintaining a relationship with your mom. So go ahead and set up a game plan. "You must define your expectations and rules for engagement, which include frequency and length of visits," says Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist. "Have a plan in place for handling difficult situations and include a getaway exit plan."
3. Blowing Off Family Get Togethers
If you want to keep your mom in your life in a healthy way, it's a good idea to set up plans you both can look forward to. "Create a meaningful family ritual, whether it be a weekly Sunday night dinner or a monthly Friday night dinner," Walfish says. "Keeping it regular for your mom gives her something to look forward to and anticipate." Just make sure it's not too frequent to the point you feel smothered.
4. Sending All Sorts Of Mixed Messages
While it's fine to ask for help while also being your awesome independent self, try not to send too many mixed messages. "Daughters can send mixed messages about when, where, [and] how they want their mother's input, help, or interventions," says Derichs. This can leave your mom unsure about what's a boundary and what isn't, thus putting stress on your relationship.
5. Taking Without Ever Giving Back
Moms are pretty amazing in that they can give and give, and never expect anything in return. But, as Derichs tells me, feeling unappreciated 24/7 can take a toll. Does she listen to your problems? Does she always stop by with homemade food? Return the favor by helping her out, or doing something sweet that she'll love.
6. Comparing Her To Other Moms
This is definitely something that might spill out during an argument, but that doesn't make it OK. "Comparing your mother to a friend's mom will cause problems in the relationship," says NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "Saying things like 'I wish you were more like...' will only make your mother feel bad about herself." And that is not worth it.
7. Making Comments About Your Mom's Appearance
Mothers and daughters can be pretty darn critical of each other, often to the point of things getting out of control. So do your best to keep any judge-y thoughts to yourself, even regarding little things like her outfit or her hair. As Hershenson tells me, constantly criticizing your mother's appearance is a sure fire way to ruin the relationship.
8. Constantly Bringing Up The Past
If you and your mom are on the brink of a bad relationship, don't add fuel to the fire by bringing up mistakes from the past. "Take a time out and do some deep breathing instead of lashing out," Hershenson suggests. "Consider both sides of the argument and find ways to be empathetic towards your mom, even if you disagree."
9. Assuming Your Mom Is Being Super Judgmental
When it comes to interacting with your mom, it's best to give her the benefit of the doubt. As registered psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrance tells me, daughters often assume their moms are being judgmental. "Sometimes that could actually be legitimate and the mother is judging the daughter, and sometimes it could just be that the daughter is hyper-sensitive." If you aren't sure, it's better just to assume she's not — for the sake of your relationship.
10. Forgetting That You're A Grown Up, Too
Transitioning yourselves into an adult relationship, where your mom treats you like a bonafide grown up, can be tough. But one way to do it is by always acting like a grown up around your mom — no matter what. "Daughters ... tend to forget that they're adults once they get around their parents," Ferrance says. This can lead to passive aggressiveness and, again, problems with boundaries.
11. Expecting Her To Be Perfect All The Time
Holding your mom to an impossible standard is certainly a recipe for fights, and maybe even a ruined relationship. "All moms are human, even yours," Nikole Benders-Hadi, a Doctor On Demand psychiatrist, tells Bustle. "While mom may strive to be a perfect example, that is not attainable. Don't let past hurts or disappointments affect your current relationship."
Because even though it can be riddled with conflict and emotions, there's nothing quite like a mother-daughter relationship. Doing whatever you can to make yours as healthy as possible, including recognizing your own downfalls, is definitely worth it.
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