Mother-daughter relationships can be the best ever. If you're lucky, your mom is someone you can go to for support, advice, and a shoulder to cry on. (And, of course, some amazing comfort food when you're feeling down.) But if you two have a toxic relationship, things likely won't be this good. If the case is extreme, it can help to realize when/if things with your mom will never improve.
While it can be difficult, recognizing a truly toxic situation is always a good thing — especially if it means making the decision to cut ties. "It is helpful and healthy to accept that it won’t improve," says Rhonda Milrad, a relationship therapist and founder of the online relationship community Relationup. "Acceptance means that you are realistic about the limitations in the relationship and are not expending your energies trying to turn it into something that it can’t be."
Once you come to this realization, it'll be up to you to decide how much contact you want going forward. " You can ... set appropriate boundaries that can help you have the healthiest relationship possible," Milrad says. While it's up to you, this may mean calling less, establishing healthier boundaries, or parting ways completely. Read on for some signs it may be time to do just that.
1. She Has Zero Idea She's Doing Anything Wrong
In order for your mom to change her ways, she kinda has to realize she's doing something wrong. "Things will not change unless your mother comes to recognize her issues and seeks out help for them," Milrad says. "Short of that, you just have to learn how to manage her behavior." Again, this'll be about setting up boundaries or cutting off contact — whatever you decide is best for you.
2. She Gets Defensive When You Try To Talk
Defensiveness has a way of shutting down communication before it even begins. If this is your mom's go-to tactic, it may be difficult to improve the situation. "She might shut down, get sad and hurt, or get angry and insulted," Milrad says. It can create vicious cycle that's difficult to remedy.
3. You've Talked About It (A Million Times) And Nothing's Changing
Have you approached your mom about your mother-daughter issues? If there was any hope of change, it'd be clear she listened and is making an effort to smooth things over. That's why, as Milrad tells me, it's not a good sign if she goes right back to her old ways — especially if she seemed open to the idea of rectifying the situation.
4. You Can't Truly Trust Her
In order to have a healthy relationship, you both need to be able to trust each other, NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells me. Does your mom make a habit of sharing your secrets or throwing things back in your face? If so, it's unlikely you two will have a healthy connection any time soon.
5. She Isn't The Most Supportive
All mother/daughter relationships are different and not all moms can offer their undying support. But if it seems your mom goes out of her way to be unsupportive, take note. "If your mom continues to criticize you and put you down instead of building you up or encouraging you, your relationship isn't improving," Hershenson says. "Your mom should be someone to lean on, not someone who tears you down."
6. She Sucks At Apologizing
It's OK to have arguments and disagreements, as long as they end in sincere apologies. "If your mom continues to say or do something wrong without apologizing, your relationship isn't improving," Hershenson says. "Acknowledging what her part was (even if it was simply upsetting you) and discussing what she could do differently in the future is important to having a meaningful relationship."
7. She Has All Sorts Of Boundary Issues
It's up to you how much or how little your mom is involved in your life, so take note if disrespects your choices. "If she continues to ask personal questions or won't take no for an answer, these are signs of boundary issues," Hershenson says. "Moms are not our friends and shouldn't be treated as such. Separating our lives from parents is important for healthy relationships."
8. Your Mom Doesn't Seem To Want Anything Different
Family issues can become engrained, so don't blame yourself if it seems things are too far gone. As counselor and psychotherapist says Merrie Haskins, MS, LPCC tells me, there are a lot of things you can't make someone do or feel. And change is one of them.
9. She Has A Mental Health Issue
If the strain in your relationship is due to an undiagnosed mental health issue (like borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder) then you can't reasonably expect things to improve until you mom seeks treatment. If she refuses, life coach Aricia E. Shaffer, MSE tells me it might be necessary to accept things will stay the same.
10. She Is Struggling With Addiction
While you'll obviously want to be there for your mom if she's dealing with a mental health issue, Shaffer tells me it really can make things impossible. And this goes for struggles with addiction as well. While you can offer support and help, it only helps up to a point. If the situation has become too toxic, the best thing you can do is get out.
11. You Aren't Making An Effort To Change
As much as you want your mom to change, it's important to realize your role in this, too. "If you aren't actually doing anything about it and are expecting her to be the one to change, the relationship is guaranteed to stay as it always was," says holistic psychotherapist and relationship coach Shirani M. Pathak, LCSW. Do you contribute to the fights? Do you have unhealthy boundaries as well? It's important to pay attention, since most issues are a two-way street.
Be ready, however, to move on if things seems unfixable. While we all want to have a healthy relationship with our parents, sometimes the best thing to do is accept it'll never be possible. And that's OK.
Images: Unsplash, Brooke Cagle; Pexels (11)