In today's culture, the relationship between a father and child is a common narrative. It's so popular the term "daddy issues" was coined after it, referring to women who have poor relationships with their fathers and, in kind, have poor relationships throughout their lives. But you know what? There's something really sacred about the relationship you have with your mother. Culture so often has remedies for children who have negative relationships with their fathers, but how to repair a toxic relationship with your mother rarely seems to make it mainstream.
Whether your mother hasn't been a part of your life or your relationship is strained, broken mother-daughter relationships are more prevalent than you might think. Though mainstream culture might not address it, studies show that almost 30 percent of women have had a toxic relationship with their mother at some point or another. "It can be hard to have a strained relationship that outsiders don't understand," psychologist Elisabeth Graham tells me in an interview. "Often times, it makes individuals feel even more lost and hopeless about fixing a damaged relationship if they feel they're understood in other relationships as well." She goes on to state that anger, trust issues, fear, and shame, are common effects of having a toxic relationship with your mother. But where do you begin? How do you take the first steps in repairing your relationship with your mother? "It won't happen overnight," says Graham. "Like any healing process, this will take time." During that time? Graham as a few suggestions for how to heal.
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1. Lower Your Expectations
"So often I see clients going into a reconciliation attempt with an ideal in mind," Graham says. "And so often, they are disappointed." Graham recommends going into things with an open mind, and little to no expectations. "The less you expect, the less chance of being let down you encounter."
2. Make The First Move
If you're feeling the need to repair your toxic relationship, make the first move. "Waiting for your mother to make the first move will only breed more resentment," Graham says. "Initiate contact and set up a time where the two of you can talk openly and honestly about moving forward."
There's a good chance you'll have an earful for your mother once you get her in the room. Instead of launching into a full throttle attack? Try listening. "One of the hardest things to do is really listening to someone who has hurt you in the past," Graham says. "Listening is the most important part of any reconciliation."
4. Be Prepared To Communicate
Just because you're ready to listen doesn't mean you should keep your mouth shut. "Don't expect your mother to do all the work," Graham says. "Be prepared to talk about your feelings and what you want out of your relationship, and you're less likely to feel ambushed in the situation."
5. Practice What You Want To Say
If you think that communicating your part is going to be difficult? Practice. "If you're uncomfortable with talking about your feelings, hurt or otherwise, out loud, try practicing what you're going to say a few times before you actually sit down with your mother," Graham says. "If you've practiced a script in your head, it will give you dialogue to pull from when you're in the moment with your mom."
6. Learn To Forgive
Forgiving is different from moving on. "The process of forgiveness can be the most difficult of all," Graham says. "But when you learn to forgive, you lift the weight of expectation and resentment from your shoulders, allowing you to pursue a healthier relationship with your mother."
7. Stay In The Present
"Try not to bring up past transgressions," Graham says. "Staying in the present will help you both in your attempts to move forward. Relying on the hurt and toxic nature of the past will do neither of you any good." In order to move forward, you have to let go of the past.
8. Set Boundaries
Set boundaries with your mother before you approach any situations. Whether it's staying at a hotel while you're home for the holidays, or agreeing to keep some subjects off limits, Graham says that creating a solid set of boundaries can help you in your quest to move forward.
9. Agree To Disagree
At the end of the day, there are some things you're just going to have to let go. "Recognize that you won't see eye to eye with your mother on all things," Graham says. "It's actually healthy for mothers and daughters to have differing viewpoints on certain things." You are not your mother, and your mother is not you. You are two different people, and learning to recognize and appreciate that can take you a long way.