A friend of mine is fighting with her mother. Now, this is not surprising in anyway. We all know the mother-daughter relationship is a multi-layered and cavernous thing that can be ruined by the smallest misunderstandings. I know these two women well, and they have about a decade of misunderstandings between them. Inappropriate comments made by one, cruel and hurtful comments by another, rude demands for a specific type of treatment, feelings that a husband is unwelcome… all done in the name of having a close relationship, and all motivated by love and a fear of something. When you watch two people who love each other fight, it eventually occurs to you that they are fighting because they want to love each other better and each craves acceptance by the other.
Daughters want to feel that they are succeeding in their mothers' eyes. We want to know that the first woman we ever met and admired holds us in high esteem and regard. She is after all our greatest influence. Years ago, I did a course called The Landmark Forum, and I was trying to figure out the relationship with my own mother. The course leader asked me to stand up each time he said sit, and to sit each time he said stand. This hilarious 30-second exercise showed me that even though I was rebelling strongly against my mother and her ideas, she was still running my life.
I haven’t raised a daughter yet, but I think my mother has always wanted to know what was happening with me, and that I will not embarrass her. She wants what is best for me, according to her.
With these desires at play, you can easily see how so much can go wrong. Daughters can easily be disappointed by a mother’s lack lustre response to what they hold dear. And mothers knowing what their daughters crave, can withhold that approval to get them to do what they want. Daughters can withhold affection and information about what is going on in their lives to punish their mothers or dominate their relationship so that all interactions happen on their terms.
Boundaries also play a major role with each woman having to learn to limit the other’s influence and involvement in her life. A daughter is not a miniature version of her mother – representing her in the world and making her look good, and both women need to accept this. There are some decisions that she is simply not going to be a part of.
In all this of course, forgiveness plays a huge role because both of you are going to hurt each other. Grudge holding kills relationships and the mother-daughter dynamic is no exception. Eventually what I urged my friend is to try and see her mother, not as someone who is out to hurt her, but rather to be a little more generous in her assessment of her and think of her as someone who is doing her best, and who wants the best for her child. Yes, easier said than done.