This weekend, lots of flowers and cards will be sent to moms who raise daughters and sons. Usually this weekend causes us to reflect on our mother-daughter relationship. It doesn't seem to matter if our relationship is great, terrible or somewhere in between, all daughters have issues with their moms that need to be worked through in order to develop intimacy or a more meaningful relationship.
Because our relationship with our mothers affects all our other relationships, the more we work on making peace and finding a meaningful connection, the more skilled we will be at all other relationships. Our relationship with mom is one of the closest bonds two people can share. That kind of intimacy requires us to define ourselves apart from her and still be emotionally engaged. This is the work we must do in all healthy relationships--be separate but still attached. The better we work it out with our moms, the better moms we will be to our own children.
Sometimes women ask me, “Why do I still feel 10 years old when I'm with my mom and then like a competent women when I'm not?" The reason is you haven't worked through the issues with your mom. You are still that child trying to win her approval and get something from her she is unable to give. Instead of waiting to be approved or validated, you may have to grieve those childhood losses and move on. Then get realistic about what she can give you and see if she is willing to work on your relationship issues and grow the relationship.
You may also have to work on your emotional reactions to her and learn to take your position on any issue without becoming highly defensive or overly emotional. And there are times when you must learn to "drop the rope", to let go of tension and not make every difference an issue.
When she doesn't do what you think she should, do you become angry? We want our moms to be what we want them to be rather than understanding them for who they really are. And when we have an intimate relationship, we take liberties with our emotions. In other words, we let loose because we know she’ll love us anyway and won't leave or give up on us in most cases. So in some ways, she’s safe.
So this Mother’s Day, work on this important intimate relationship that sets the stage for all others. See if you can strengthen the bond, work through your issues and make it a day you look forward to celebrating each year.
Dr. Linda Mintle is the author of I Love My Mother But…, a book that helps mothers and daughters build intimate connections.