Dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship: How to find your way back together again

Reading time 7 minutes
Dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship: How to find your way back together again

When you were a child, you never doubted. Your mother was there and took care of you. But now the sparks are flying more and more often. Your dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship is getting to you. But you want it to be as harmonious as it used to be.

When daughters enter puberty, the first conflicts often become apparent. Some feel so stressed that they completely break off contact with their mother. That can't be allowed to happen, so you deal with the issue intensively. It must be possible to overcome the disputes.

Why do daughter have such problems with her mother?

You hear about it from many acquaintances: a disturbed mother-daughter relationship seems almost normal. Why is that? You know that mothers can't be perfect. Yet you always find something to criticize. You're embarrassed that she dresses so young. On the other hand, when she looks elegant, you say: That doesn't suit you, it makes you old. You feel that her concern for you and your siblings is encroaching. When she leaves you alone, you think she is indifferent.

Be honest: she can't meet your high expectations. Motherhood is really a difficult job. The many psychological counselors don't make things any easier.

A dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship often arises because the younger generation is looking for someone to blame for their quirks. Most of the time, it is still the mother who takes care of raising the children - so she bears the blame for the children's mistakes.

Sons go through a different development and are more oriented toward the father figure. This is precisely the crux of the matter: Daughters see their mother as a positive (and more rarely as a negative) role model. This works quite well until puberty, but then the search for their own identity begins. This means that daughters recognize the differences between themselves and their mother. At the same time, they increasingly see their own mistakes and those of their mother. This is precisely where the problems between mother and daughter arise.

Signs of a toxic mother-daughter relationship

Toxic relationships are particularly problematic, even in the closest family. A dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship can result from abusive or aggressive mothers. The sooner you recognize the warning signs of toxic people, the sooner you can act. But unfortunately, even loving mothers often act wrongly.

A disturbed mother-daughter relationship bears a strong resemblance to a toxic mother-daughter relationship. Toxic characters, i.e. toxic personalities, make living together particularly difficult. Even if the daughter no longer lives at home as an adult, this problem remains.

In a loving environment, the mother is always there for the children when they need support. But in the toxic mother-daughter relationship, close cohesion is missing. This leads to negative consequences and injuries on both sides. Children can be influenced particularly quickly, so that their self-esteem is at risk.

Typical signs of toxic mothers:

  • When children are treated lovelessly, not only the cuddles and caresses are missing, but also the kind words. This weakens the emotional bond between mother and child.
  • The mother's paternalism shows itself in constant control. Where are you going, where have you been for so long? The mother may also want to determine the children's friends. In addition, there is a certain distrust - this is typical for toxic mothers.
  • Encroachment is shown in the repeated interference in the intimate secrets of the children. The daughter writes a diary: Of course, the mother wants to read it. What do you mean, you won't give it to me? There must be something bad about me in it? Even strict rules in everyday life can seem unpleasant and encroaching.
  • The counterpart to the overbearing, controlling mother is the indifferent mother. Neglect can also cause a mother-daughter relationship. A parent who doesn't care - that can't go well.
  • Some mothers are toxic because they have a strong narcissistic disposition. They see themselves as the center of attention. Here, the daughter becomes a projection figure, an extension of one's own life, so to speak. What the mother herself has not achieved, the daughter is now supposed to succeed.
  • Aggression is expressed physically or verbally. Toxic mothers work with emotional blackmail or even with blows, with pointed comments and similar injuries.
toxic mother-tocher relationship

Causes of a disturbed mother-daughter relationship

You recognize your mother-daughter relationship, but don't know how it came about. So you start researching the causes: After all, the conflicts can best be resolved if you know where to start.

In every family, the problems lie elsewhere. Most often, the difficult situation has developed gradually. The origins lie far in the past, sometimes even in the mother's childhood. And because the upbringing goes on and on through the generations, it is difficult to find a starting point.

Some causes are relatively easy to define. For one thing, daughters can easily criticize their mother's parenting style. This often starts during puberty, when the potential for conflict increases anyway.

Mother unconsciously transfers beliefs to daughter

There are various parenting styles that are related to values and attachment patterns. Personal character also affects the mood and behavior in the family. Mothers and daughters can be shy or aggressive, in need of harmony or manipulative. The mother often gives her Beliefs to the daughter. This happens unconsciously - even if the daughter wants to be completely different from her mother.

A disturbed mother-daughter relationship can also result from problematic or traumatic experiences. A traumatized mother transfers her fears to the daughter, but the daughter does not understand the exaggerated concern.

The question of responsibility is another problem. Many daughters argue with their mother well into old age. Allegedly, she as the parent and caregiver is to blame for the daughter's mistakes. But this ballast cannot simply be pushed away, neither to the mother nor to the daughter.

What to do when mother and daughter no longer get along?

Most often, the conflicts begin during puberty. This is not necessarily a sign of a disturbed mother-daughter relationship. It is often a temporary phase. The daughters become independent persons and keep their distance. They suddenly see the mother as a bad example. Everything is wrong or embarrassing about the mother.

This difficult phase is part of individual personality development - but it is not equally dramatic for everyone.

For a better mother-daughter relationship, it is sometimes necessary to keep some distance. Later, both of them come closer again. This is an important step in the daughter's self-discovery. Without certain freedoms, social skills suffer, because only with the necessary independence can daughters make new contacts. And they can do so without constantly hearing their mother's voice in their heads.

To heal a troubled mother-daughter relationship, you need patience. Proceed gently to avoid injury. The following Tips show you what is particularly important when working on this special relationship.

  • Be understanding of your mother's behavior - she may have struggled with a difficult mother in her youth. In this case, she must first recognize and overcome her own toxic behavior pattern.
  • Be respectful of each other. In open conversation, be honest, but do not attack each other.
  • Set time limits so you don't get on each other's nerves.
  • Think about yourself and boost your self-confidence. Maybe your mother is angry with you, but that doesn't mean you're doing everything wrong.
  • Be confident, but not too naive. Stand by your opinion. If you can't find the words, tell her that.
  • Give you both time - relationship work can take time.

As much as you want to change your dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship: Don't do it "for the sake of peace." Think of yourself and strengthen your self-confidence.

Why do daughters break off contact with their mothers?

If a toxic or dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship does not improve, younger women eventually give up. They leave the parental home, sometimes even before they are of age.

On the way to healing the toxic mother-daughter relationship, many daughters distance themselves. They do this in order to view the situation from a different perspective. Adult daughters in particular want to shape their own lives first. However, the mother's influence could destroy that.

It is difficult to break off contact completely. Women who decide to take this step are fleeing from maternal paternalism and interference. There is simply no other way, no chance. Only with distance is it possible to break free. When the daughters have sorted out their lives at some point, they may contact the mother again. The Hope for reconciliation therefore remains.

Disturbed mother-daughter relationship - overcome the conflicts

There seems to be no end to the family quarrels, even though the children have long since grown up. This is characteristic of a disturbed mother-daughter relationship. The nature of the conflicts and disturbances varies greatly. Some mothers neglect their children, others see themselves as the controlling authority and interfere in everything. Often the mothers apply the experiences from their own childhood - worked well, will work again. But parenting styles have changed, as has society.

If you suffer from the conflict with your mother as a daughter: Remember that she herself is also a daughter. Sure, she makes mistakes, but that's only human. Reproaches will not bring you forward. Criticism does not help in all cases either. It is more important that you talk about your thoughts and problems together. In this way, you will find out more about your behavior patterns and can discuss the important points in more detail.

You may be angry because your mother had something against your great love. But she only wanted to protect you from disappointment. You think that you only did your A-levels because of her - because she really wanted you to. Even if there is some truth in this, this school leaving certificate is a great advantage for you.

Reflect on your actions and deeds

Your criticism should never become a weapon. And it is taboo to shift responsibility for your own life onto your mother. This also applies vice versa to mothers who reproach their daughters.

Always look at your own mistakes, too. Is your mother's pattern of behavior reflected in your actions and words? You are also responsible for this yourself. Reflect on your thoughts and actions - and be honest with yourself.

Especially important for your dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship that you want to heal: forgive each other. Release each other from the burden. Stop to Childhood memories to repeat eternally like a wailing chorus.

There are so many Relationship problems to solve. Do not give the past more energy and attention as needed. Recognize your issues and give yourself time to resolve them, let go, and align yourself in a positive way. In this way, you can overcome your dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. You'll feel freer and stronger - and ready to treat your mother with respect.


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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