Posted September 13, 2019
Even the healthiest mother-daughter relationships are seldom free of conflict, or ‘mum-flicts’ as psychologist Seth Meyers calls them. But we can improve the quality of the mother-daughter dynamic as adults.
Melissa Meredith, writing for Biblicalwoman.com, says that although the biblical imperative is to ‘honour your mother’, the reality is that most women have been hurt by the mother-daughter relationship at some stage.
‘Inevitably there have been imperfect connections that have made us struggle to love, cherish and honour our mothers. There may have been unmet needs, unfulfilled expectations, or unrealised dreams. But does this mean we should just accept the current state of our relationships with our mothers and give up?’
Meredith answers with a resounding ‘no’. Meyers agrees that pursuing a good relationship with your mum is well worth the effort. Ideally, mutual respect and acceptance should define this relationship.
He suggests that improvement begins first by bravely identifying which category bests describes the nature of most ‘mum-flicts.’
- Competitors—A life-long power struggle exists whereby a daughter may seek but never obtain the approval of her mother. Both feel frustrated and misunderstood.
- Stuck—The childhood dynamic never changes with the mother being overprotective and the daughter obedient. Confrontation is avoided by the daughter, and this can seep into romantic relationships where a mother oversteps boundaries causing partner resentment.
- Co-dependents—An invisible umbilical cord still connects the two. While the relationship may look strong, it can be unhealthy with secret resentments and fears. Daily phone calls, emails and text messages become the primary form of communication.
- The Freezer—Little emotional connection exists, and the relationship is defined by obligation. Often this is a personality mismatch and were it not for the biological connection, there would be no relationship.
Meyers suggests taking the following steps to resolve these common ‘mum-flicts.’
- Show appreciation by investing in the relationship. A five-minute phone call with realistic frequency once a week to twice a month is a great start. Try surprise calls or spur of the moment drop-bys where the goal is simply to connect and say hello. Move onto ‘mum-dates’ as the relationship progresses.
- Routine direct discussion that addresses relationship issues is healthy. Try a ‘quid-pro-quo’ method where you each pick behaviour you’re willing to change and make it a friendly challenge to see who follows through.
- Realistic expectations are essential. It can help to keep the self-talk positive by preparing a sentence to use when you feel an argument approaching, like, ‘She can really bother me, but it doesn’t mean she’s a bad person.’
- Most mums have the very best intentions for their daughters and do their best to love and support them. Remember that.
Meredith adds ‘perspective and prayer’ to this list. A simple prayer asking God to change your perspective by helping you see your mother through his eyes has the potential to be both practical and powerful.
Source: Melissa Meredith (Biblicalwoman.com) and Seth Meyers Psy.D. (Psychology Today)
© 'War Cry' magazine, 7 September 2019 p10 You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.