The relationship between a mother and her daughter is often a complicated one. While there is most-often love, there can also be tension, anger, resentment and a myriad of other emotions, too.
Whether it’s the relationship we have with our own mother or the one we have with our daughter, there are different circumstances to account for and different feelings to deal with.
Dr Deborah Tannen recently explored this relationship in her book and spoke to numerous women about their feelings towards their mothers and daughters.
While she found that most women spoke of a deep underlying love for each other, there were other issues that got in the way of them having a functional relationship together.
“Women talk more than men. Talk is the glue that holds a relationship together for us. But the more you talk, the more chance there is to put your foot in it. And unlike men, women love to exchange secrets and talk about their troubles. So we make ourselves more vulnerable,” she explained.
“I came across so many examples of mothers making critical remarks about their daughters’ hair. After all, isn’t it a mother’s prerogative, if not her obligation, to make sure her daughter looks her best?
“But where the mother sees caring, the daughter sees her mother’s scrutiny as confirming her own fears-that she’s flawed.”
Psychologists say there are eight common themes among mother-daughter relationships:
These feelings can cause huge tension in the relationship, which when not properly addressed can do damage beyond repair.
Dr Tannen says mothers can sometimes take a course of action that only acts to irritate her daughter and drive her further away.
“For example, a mother calls her adult daughter to talk about how lonely she is, which makes the daughter feel guilty,” Dr Tannen said.
“The mother thinks that talking about being lonely will encourage her daughter to call more frequently, but it does the opposite. So the mother calls more often, which makes her seem even more intrusive to her daughter, who pulls back further.”
She stresses that daughters are no angels either and can often do things to hurt their mothers without even realising.
She says daughters should take the time to thank their mothers for all the work they did looking after them for so long.
A few kind words can go a long way towards making a mother feel appreciated for effort she made for all those years.
Dr Tannen also encourages mothers and daughters to put a hold on the talking sometimes and go out and do activities together instead.
She says this develops the relationship in a different ways and works to form a strong bond between the pair.