Mother-daughter relationships are among the most significant of our lives, but they can also be the trickiest to manage. We all want to be Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson, but some of us end up feeling more like the Crawfords in Mommie Dearest. Since a healthy relationship with your mom can help lead to a healthy relationship with your daughter, there’s probably no time like the present to fix what might be broken. Here, six things that happy mommy-daughter pairs do differently than everyone else.
According to the authors of Too Close for Comfort? Questioning the Intimacy of Today's New Mother-Daughter Relationship, a healthy mother-daughter relationship allows the daughter to fall down and learn how to pick herself up without mom's help. While there are certainly times at which everybody "needs" their mother's TLC or assistance with a difficult situation, a healthy dynamic encourages the daughter's growth away from the mother. On the flip side of this, the daughter doesn't look to her mom to fix everything, and she doesn't feel resentful when her mom doesn't or can't do so.
Most of us can probably do some work on this front, as it's incredibly tempting to call our moms and talk their ears off about our own lives without once inquiring about theirs. The best mother-daughter relationships are more reciprocal. This doesn't mean that your mom is telling you all the gritty details of her dating life, it just means that you take some time out of the conversation to find out how she's doing rather than making it about yourself 24/7. According to Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict, the healthiest mother-daughter relationships involve active listening, meaning words are reflected back at the person who said them so they feel truly heard. For more advice on how to be a good listener, click here.
... they also resolve it quickly and don't let grudges build up over the span of 50 years (read: incredibly toxic). According to Linda Mintle, author of I Love My Mother, But… Practical Help to Get the Most Out of Your Relationship, healthy mother-daughter pairs also know how to pick their battles. Sometimes, a mom's advice can be annoying (e.g., "You should really try to lose 10 pounds!") but it might be easier just to take it rather than create unnecessary drama. Finally, with respect to any fight, the best mother-daughter teams don't go low in their arguments—the people who know us best can hurt us the most deeply, so it's important to avoid each other's most sensitive spots in the heat of the moment.
According to Cohen-Sandler, "Moms feel threatened and rejected that their daughters are making different decisions. Daughters think their moms disapprove of them and get defensive." If this resonates with you on any level, join the club! The best mother-daughter teams accept each others differences and don't try to make the other person more like them. The authors of Too Close for Comfort? Questioning the Intimacy of Today's New Mother-Daughter Relationship add that when some mothers aren't able to see where they end and their daughters begin, the daughters become unhealthy extensions of their self-esteems, creating innumerable problems for both.
The authors of the blog "My Mother, My Daughter, My Friend" bring up a good point—too little time together, and you miss your mom. Too much, and you feel as if you've never left the house (not a good feeling for any adult). Everyone's boiling point in this regard is different, but it's important to know yours and set boundaries accordingly.
We have a tendency to guilt the ones we love for any perceived slights, but the healthiest relationships minimize this type of behavior. If you have a mom who is particularly prone to guilting you, we suggest trying these tips for diffusing this potential source of conflict.