Whether you talk to your mom all the time or you have a more distant relationship, it might be hard to figure out what a healthy relationship with her should look like as an adult.
Setting boundaries with your mom might be something you need to do if you're experiencing certain problems in the relationship, according to experts.
One major sign that you
do have a quality, balanced relationship with your mom is if you both feel responsible for maintaining a healthy relationship, Vanessa Watson-Hill, LCSW, a therapist specializing in caregiving and parent issues and owner of Living In The Second Half, tells Bustle. "An adult child should not be the sole person carrying the emotional weight of maintaining a healthy relationship," she says. But if your mom seems to genuinely care about regularly working to improve your connection and make sure that it's mutually beneficial, that's a great sign.
If things aren't as balanced as you'd like, you might need to start setting boundaries by limiting the time you spend together, replacing her negative talk with positive talk, and speaking up when the way she's acting or speaking is bothering you, Watson-Hill says. It can also be helpful to build a support system of trusted people in your life who can help you manage your relationship with your mom.
Here are some signs that you need to
set boundaries with your mom, according to experts.
She Puts Her Needs First
Love of mother and daughter. Smiling mother and daughter talking on couch at home. Asian Mother With Daughter Sitting On Sofa At Home Chatting Shutterstock
"If your mother’s needs are always coming before yours, this may demonstrate
enmeshment," Christine Scott-Hudson, MA MFT ATR, a licensed psychotherapist, marriage, and family therapist, and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. As an adult, you'll probably begin to look after your mom in a new way that didn't really happen as a child. But even with a healthy reciprocity, your mom should still be taking care of your emotional needs. If she's consistently refusing to talk about what's happening in your life, but wants you to comfort her, that's probably a sign that you need to set some boundaries. "If your mom’s needs are drowning out your own, stop and take a breather," Scott-Hudson says.
She Makes You Feel Worse About Yourself
In a healthy mother-child relationship, getting to talk with your mom should leave you feeling peaceful and refreshed the majority of the time. "One way to identify when we have poor boundaries in our relationship with our mother is that when we spend time with them, either on the phone, or in person, we begin to feel overwhelmed, manipulated, trapped, controlled, discounted, bulldozed, and silenced," Scott-Hudson says. "Pay close attention to the exact moment that you begin to feel suffocated with your mother, because that is likely the precise moment when your boundaries are being overstepped," she says. Be sure to speak up during that moment so that
you and your mom can address the situation before it begins to cause resentment.
She Needs You To Solve Her Problems
Annoyed teen girl sitting on sofa with arms crossed, not listening to her middle aged mother. 45 year old woman lecturing her stubborn daughter. Relationship problem, age gap and different generations Shutterstock
Every once in a while, your mom might ask you for your advice about handling tension in a friendship or considering a move. But if she's constantly coming to you with problems, you probably need to set a boundary. "Many adults who had to assume adult responsibility at an early age for the emotional or physical needs of their mother, are coping with the impact of
parentification," Watson-Hill says. While it can be totally healthy to lend a helping hand every once in a while, make sure that you aren't solely responsible for solving every issue your mom has.
The next time she calls you for help, try trouble-shooting together and ask your mom what she thinks she can do to address the problem, Watson-Hill says. This can help you get back on track to finding a healthier balance.
She Repeatedly Criticizes Your Partner
As your parent,
your mom wants to protect you. This might mean raising any concerns she has about your partner when she first gets to know them. But if your mother is consistently criticizing your partner's every move, a boundary needs to be set.
The next time she makes a snide comment about you partner, say something like, “Mom, I am sorry you don’t like my partner, but I do," Watson-Hill says. By asking her to stop telling you that she doesn't like your partner, this can help establish boundaries around your parent-child relationship
and protect your partner's feelings.
She Wants Constant Interaction
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Your mom is probably one of your biggest fans, and so it makes sense that she would want to spend quality time with you. But you should also feel free to turn down her requests to make plans every so often. "As an adult, you're not obligated to spend as much time with your mother as she wants to spend with you, especially if you don't want to or it's eating into other social obligations with friends and relationships,"
Lauren O'Connell, a licensed and marriage and family therapist specializing in psychoanalysis, tells Bustle. "Feeling guilty or unable to say no to these requests is a true sign you are having boundary issues," she says.
Even if it feels uncomfortable, be clear with your mom about the time you have free to spend with her so that your relationship isn't built on interacting out of a sense of obligation.
She Has Strict Expectations For You
If your mom believes that you could conquer any dream you put your mind to, that's probably not something that really bothers you. But if you have trouble telling the difference between the things that she wants for you versus the things that you want for yourself, that might be a sign that you need a healthy boundary. "Mothers often have hopes, dreams, and expectations for who their children are and will be," O'Connell says. "However, if you find it confusing deciphering between your hopes and dreams and hers, that is a true sign you need to work on your boundaries with her."
Try asking her to give you a little bit of space when it comes to discussing your career or personal milestones so that you can figure out what's next for you.
She Criticizes Your Appearance
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When you were a teenager, you might have felt guilty if you cut or dyed your hair when your mom specifically told you not to. But now that you're older, you shouldn't feel guilty if you get a haircut or wear clothes that you know she wouldn't approve of. "Mothers have strong opinions about the way you look and dress, but as an adult, she literally no longer has the right to decide how you should look or dress," O'Connell says. "If every time she sees you she still comments and criticizes your clothing, hair, or body, it is time to set some boundaries and limits around those types of conversations."
Start by telling your mom how critical comments about you affect the way you feel. If she realizes how painful her words can be, she might realize that it's time to keep her negative opinions to herself.
If you still live with your mom, it might make sense for her to split some of the household chores with you. But if your mom is washing your dishes, paying all of your bills, or making your doctor's appointments for you, that's a pretty good indication that you need some boundaries, O'Connell says. Every parent-child relationship looks a little different, so if she helps you out with a few bills or cooks for you every once in a while, that might work for you. But make sure that you're taking responsibility for your own life. "In a general way, as we move into adulthood, our parent's role in our lives is supposed to shift from active participant to trusted background support and mentor," O'Connell says.
She Makes You Feel Angry For No Reason
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You probably aren't very surprised if you feel upset after having a heated argument with your mom. But if you start feeling frustration towards your mom and can’t seem to pinpoint why, it could be a sign that you are feeling smothered,
Ashley Carr, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor with experience in boundary setting, tells Bustle. "Anger is usually a clue that something feels unfair or unjust," she says. "If you feel frustration, try to think about whether it was something specific that she said or did, or if you are feeling generally frustrated and need to set healthy limits on the relationship."
If you're having some problems in your relationship with your mom, don't assume that distancing yourself is the only answer. Clear communication about boundaries could be just the thing you need to have a more positive connection.