Navigating a Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationship
A toxic mother-daughter relationship is a dysfunctional relationship that can be detrimental to your physical, mental, or emotional well-being. It can manifest in various ways and is not something that just develops out of the blue. Typically, there’s a history of self-centered, overly critical, controlling, manipulative, or combative behavior.
When thinking of toxic mother-daughter relationships we usually tend to attribute them to the mother’s dysfunctional actions, but often it’s the daughter who is causing the toxicity in the relationship.
Signs of a toxic mother.
Look for these signs of a toxic mother in your relationship. If you find them, consider reaching out to a Christian counselor for help.
She puts her needs before yours. A toxic mother expects you to drop everything to attend to her needs. If you say no, she may respond with anger, criticism, or by trying to lay a guilt trip on you.
She constantly criticizes who you are and what you do. A toxic mother fails to provide you with affirmation or security. Rather, she seems to always be looking for something to criticize. Nothing you do is ever good enough. She puts down your accomplishments and lets you know, in sometimes insidious ways, that you have failed to live up to her expectations of who she hoped you would be.
She is controlling. A toxic mother will try to micromanage your life. Even though you are an adult, she still tells you what to do, what to wear, and how to behave.
She is a manipulator. A toxic mother uses manipulation to get what she wants, and she’s a master at playing with your emotions to make you feel guilty or responsible for her bad behavior.
She humiliates you. A toxic mother constantly makes negative comments or jokes about you in front of family or friends.
She lacks empathy for your feelings. A toxic mother minimizes your problems and ignores or belittles your feelings, accusing you of being too sensitive.
Your opinions hold no weight with her. There’s no room for discussion or compromise with a toxic mother. If you disagree with her, she accuses you of being disrespectful.
She disrespects your boundaries. A toxic mother consistently ignores your stated boundaries.
She is abusive. A toxic mother may be physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive. This may manifest as screaming at you, calling you names, hitting you, or giving you the silent treatment for hours or even days at a time.
She is a blame shifter. A toxic mother blames you for her wrongdoings and negative emotions.
Signs of a toxic daughter.
These signs of a toxic daughter may indicate you are suffering in your emotional health, and a Christian counselor can help you.
She is contemptuous. A toxic daughter may be rude, disrespectful, and show no regard for your opinions, values, or boundaries.
She is selfish. A toxic daughter tends to be self-absorbed and cares only about her own wants and well-being. She doesn’t care about your needs or what you have to say.
She is domineering. A toxic daughter may yell and use threats to try and intimidate you into giving her what she wants and to get her own way.
She blames you for everything. A toxic daughter will find a way to twist every bad thing that happens to her into being your fault.
She is a manipulator. A toxic daughter will scheme and use manipulative tactics to get her way such as acting sweet and nice when she wants something, and then reverting to her insolent self after she gets it.
She is passive-aggressive. A toxic daughter will show passive-aggressive behavior toward you by doing things such as giving you the silent treatment, not returning calls or texts, or “forgetting” to do things you asked her to do.
Most common types of toxic mother-daughter relationships.
If you see any of these dynamics in your relationship, be sure to consult with a caring counselor for healing and perspective.
Bosom buddies. Mom wants to be her daughter’s best friend and lives vicariously through her. The relationship is warm and close, and communication is open and honest, but it is hard for the mother to discipline her daughter appropriately because she is too entangled with her daughter’s life.
Enmeshed. There are no real boundaries between the mom and daughter. They tell each other everything and need each other for everything as well. This toxic co-dependency prevents the relationship from maturing into a healthy mother-daughter one.
Ghost relationship. Mom distances herself from her daughter physically and/or emotionally and is not available for her when she needs her mom the most. This causes a disconnect in their relationship that can leave emotional scars. When the mother always has more important things to do, the daughter feels as though she doesn’t matter or even exist.
Boss and subordinate. Mom tries to dominate and control every aspect of her daughter’s life, making demands and expecting her daughter to follow her rules and live up to her expectations. She can be rigid and harsh and may lack empathy for her child.
Although her daughter may comply, she feels resentful and may find some way to rebel. This type of relationship leads to perfectionism, low self-esteem, and fear of rejection or being judged by others in the child.
Rivals. Instead of seeing her daughter as a separate person and allowing her to be herself, the mom sees her as a rival or threat with whom she needs to be in constant competition. Mom and daughter are constantly comparing themselves to each other to see who is thinner, smarter, prettier, and so on.
Usually, there is a strong bond between them, and the comparisons are made in a fun-loving way. However, it can lead to the daughter not feeling valued or accepted unconditionally just the way she is.
Combative. Mom and daughter can’t get along and are constantly fighting either verbally or physically. Either way, the damage is the same.
Reversed roles. Mom expects her daughter to continually support and bolster her up, instead of the other way around and shows no concern for her daughter’s needs. The daughter’s life is restricted by her mother’s demands and she learns she must think only of others and sacrifice herself for their needs and preferences. As a result, the daughter grows up feeling neglected and used, which can lead to resentment, low self-esteem, and becoming a doormat.
Practical tips for healing a toxic mother-daughter relationship.
You can take steps on your own to start the healing process. But do not hesitate to seek additional help from a qualified counselor for deeper levels of healing.
Have an honest conversation. Try to determine what causes you to respond negatively to your mother or daughter. Use I statements rather than being judgmental or trying to blame one another. Be willing to take responsibility for your actions and behavior.
Establish boundaries. Set healthy boundaries and be firm about maintaining them.
Voice your needs. Practice expressing your needs and learning to stand up for yourself.
Walk in her shoes. Try to understand each other and see things from your mother or daughter’s perspective.
Take time for regular self-care. Establishing and committing to a self-care routine can help energize you and help you better cope with difficult emotions that arise as you work through your relationship issues. Prioritize things that make you feel better both physically and mentally.
Actively listen to each other. One of our greatest needs in relationships is to be heard and validated. Listen carefully to what your mother or daughter is saying without assuming anything. As much as possible, be open-minded and nonjudgmental, and don’t interrupt or analyze. Accept that you are two different individuals with different perspectives and sometimes you may have to just agree to disagree.
Give each other space. If you never spend time apart, you may not be able to appreciate the time you do spend together.
Be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is the first step toward the healing process. Let go of grudges and be willing to forgive one another.
Consider counseling. A trained mental health professional can help you process your feelings and show you how to cope with your situation.
Christian counseling involves a combination of biblical principles and clinical intervention. If you are struggling with a toxic mother-daughter relationship and have questions, would like to discuss this topic further, or would like to set up an appointment, please give us a call today.
“Momma’s Hands”, Courtesy of Alex Pasarelu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Failure”, Courtesy of Abigail Keenan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sad”, Courtesy of Joyce Huis, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Suspicious”, Courtesy of Alexander Krivitskiy, Unsplash.com, CC0 License