More on Mother Daughter Dysfunctional Relationship

dysfunctional family
Mommy Please….


“If your progress in recovery is thwarted each time you see your family, if you revert to being a subservient or a fearful child, then you may need to stop seeing them for a while. Most importantly, you may need time to develop your own separate “self”, since it may be impossible for you to maintain a sense of individuality when you are around them.” The Right to Innocence – Beverly Engel

Lisa, one of my readers, made the following comment on the post “welcoming a new year of emotional healing” in regards to drawing boundaries with her mother; “What if there is no me without her?” this post is dedicated to that comment and it applies to all relationship where equal value is out of balance.

I was a really good victim to a lot of people. That means that I conformed and complied to many. I did what they wanted. I was who they wanted me to be. It makes me angry to think of how compliant that I was and that it was still never enough.

I lost myself and I got sick. As I got older, the overall dysfunction that was so familiar to me grew, and I got sicker. This was especially true in the dysfunctional mother daughter relationship with my own mother.

Looking back I realize that in most of my relationships,  the interest that many people had in me was pretty much only about what I could do for them and about how much they could make me into who they wanted me to be. Sometimes that is about power and control. Sometimes it is about ownership and servant hood. Whatever the motive is, it is not healthy and it is not about love. And when we continue to live in that kind of relational dysfunction, the more we lose ourselves.  In my case, the farther I got from my identity, the more depression and dissociation manifested. I lived only to live for others.

In the case of my mother, I think she wanted children because she was looking for a love source of her own. And so she created a love source. And she might have loved those babies to the best of her ability but as we grew older, something happened. She had expectations. She wanted approval and validation and she wanted it from the love source that she created. And when people get love mixed up with ownership, they believe they have a right to get what they need or want from those other people. But love and relationship doesn’t work that way and because she didn’t really know love herself, the whole plan failed.

The foundation of our relationship (overtime) became about my usefulness to her. When I was little my unconditional love and acceptance of HER was all she needed, but as I grew into an individual who had my own individual ideas, I think she felt threatened. And she did things that if I put up with them would prove to her that I still loved her. AND it seemed that she was very mad at me when I could not fill the void in her and make her feel good about herself. She put me down. She reminded me in strange ways that I was nothing. (and somehow I heard that I was nothing “without her”.) She did mean things that when accepted by me seemed to make her feel better because she equated them with love.

I got away from her, but it was never far enough. She sucked the joy out of every accomplishment that I ever had with her sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious put downs and questions designed to devalue me. She mentioned my weight. She put down my husband, my home, and my choices. She made inappropriate sexual comments about me in front of others. I was always on edge around her. And I never thought to confront her about doing it. She even commented that my breasts used to be so nice before I had children. WHY does someone feel the need to say something like that?

When I was small she taught me that I needed her, and I did. But she never taught me that I was capable of being an individual. She never wanted me to stop NEEDING her because it restored her value. I believed that I needed her to survive and even to exist.

And one day about a year after I began to take my life back by doing the foundational work that I write about all the time in this blog, I started to stand up to her, just a bit and just in tiny ways at first. But the more that I grew, the more I realized that my mother and I had a very dysfunctional mother daughter relationship. And eventually I stood up to her in bigger ways. And the tension between us was getting really bad. Then came the day when I said NO MORE. And this time I meant it. My boundary was not in my mouth anymore, it was in my heart now. She knew that I was serious, and she withdrew.

At first I was confused. I could not believe that she didn’t care enough to even try to discuss it. But I had lost my “usefulness to her” and what I didn’t realize is that part of my usefulness to her was in how she got to put me down. I felt so sorry for her too; for most of my life I tried to restore her value, but no one can do that for someone else. (I have written about this stuff under the mother and daughter relationship tabs.) The problem is that my purpose in her life wasn’t about love, value and equality. The way that she treated me wasn’t fair to me and it was when I finally put myself first, something we are told we must never do, that I found my healing.  

When some time had gone by, my mother called and she wanted to try to mend fences. The problem was that she wanted to start from that day and asked if we could “just put it all behind us” and I said no. That is how we had always done things in the past, with me backing down. With me saying that her treatment of me was okay with me, (what I thought was forgiveness) and with me laying there broken and bleeding on the ground once again doing what she wanted and being who she wanted me to be. Always about her, always taking care of her; never about me, never taking care of me. She asked me what my terms were and I said equal respect. That was the last time I talked to her.

As I said, this time my boundary was drawn in my heart. I finally knew that I was worth equal respect, and that I have real value, equal value and that she doesn’t own me.  I finally knew that her life is not my responsibility. She failed me as a mother, but I am not going to fail myself anymore.

I am not afraid anymore to live as me because I found out that the value that they gave me was a lie. I am far more valuable then they ever wanted me to find out about.  I found out that I do not need anyone else in order to exist. I am not defined by anyone else today. AND I am not an extension of my mother.

Please share your thoughts. One of the biggest search phrases used to find Emerging from Broken are the key words “dysfunctional mother daughter relationship”. This is a huge issue in our society. We are not alone in this.

Exposing Truth, One snapshot at a time

Darlene Ouimet

See Lisa’s comment #19  on Welcoming a new year of Emotional Healing

Related posts: Mother Daughter Relationship Nighmares

Mother daughter relationship ~ My poor Mom

252 response to "More on Mother Daughter Dysfunctional Relationship"

  1. By: Jackie Posted: 13th November

    Hi Darlene,
    Appreciate your blog. I know this is a very old thread but its a very present problem for me. I have accepted that I need to make changes to become more self protective with my mother and allow myself to begin healing. I wonder if you have any advice on overcoming the hurt and anger that comes with this acceptance? I have done some work in therapy (and perhaps just need more time), but was wondering if you had any tips for those moments when the pain of “why doesnt she care enough to try?” becomes overwhelming. Thanks for sharing, we aren’t alone!

  2. By: Kelly Posted: 18th November

    Were do i start? For me my childhood was terrible, from such a young age i remember being screamed at constantly. There was MUCH physical abuse, i mean physical, i remember early on my mom literally throwing me down and kicking me and being spanked everyday after school. Never was there A mother daughter kind of relationship. All she needed was her power and control met. At the age of 12 i started having my monthly period and my sister had to tell me what this was, i remember being scared to death.

    What kind of mom allows there daughter to bleed for 3months straight and never takes them to the doctor? I am older now but i juzt cant stand to be around her, she is ill now and i feel nothing! I had 2 sisters 1 passed away and the other one cannot remember her childhood. It was unbearable.

    She was never kind, nurturing or mother like, can someone tell me what was wrong with her? Even now, she continues to try to exert her power but no one goes around her for very long.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th November

      Hi Kelly,
      Welcome to EFB ~ I am glad you are here!
      I hope you will keep reading ~ there is so much info here (450 articles).
      Thanks for sharing,
      hugs, Darlene

  3. By: boxergirl Posted: 30th April

    One of the most frightening things my mother used to do is in the middle of a fight she would scream “YOU DON’T LOVE ME!!!” I would say that I did and she would insist “NO YOU DON’T!!!!!”

    I remembered this when I was reading in the article how some mothers create their children to be “love sources.” I think this was the case for me.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th April

      Hi Boxergirl
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken
      Your mothers words are one of those strange things said (hurled at us) that don’t make sense.. that statement suggests that you would have to ‘prove your love’ by agreeing with her and therefore NOT fighting/arguing. As though loving someone means that we don’t have our own opinion.
      Glad you are here, thanks for sharing,
      hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Nique Posted: 25th November

    Hi my name is Nique this website is a blessing from above. I just recently loss my mother 2 weeks ago she was finally buried last Tuesday after much family drama ???? from my half bipolar brother and her BPD sister whom she didn’t speak to for 15 years but came around only when my mother was doing bad. Anyway my mother battled with a drug addiction after my half sister was almost killed in a car accident and nasty divorce to my then step father who by the way has a temper and is violent. March of 2012 by bipolar half sister committed suicide, my mother went down hill afterwards. I had discovered she was psychologically scared from some things that happened in her childhood and abusive marriage. I always tried to convince her to seek professional help. As you can imagine growing up in that household was tough because not only was she an addict she would often talk about my teeth, acne, and make things up about me to her girlfriends. For years she played me and my siblings against each other. It wasn’t until I got older and wiser I realized how dysfunctional she and her family is. Im blossoming???? to a beautiful woman although I still suffer with self esteem issues and anxiety. I forgive my mother and no love ? fails sometimes but I refuse to deal with her side of the family anymore

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd December

      Hi Nique
      Welcome to EFB! I think you will find a lot of understanding and community here.
      Thanks for sharing, I hope you will visit the conversations on the home page.
      hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Stephanie Posted: 15th July

    Hi Darlene,
    Your article brought tears to my eyes at many points as I can relate. I found your article because I am now an adult trying to recover from dysfunctional family. Unfortunatley, i do not have the means to move out on my own and currently experiencing the wrath of my mother every now and then. The rage in my heart becomes unmanagable. As a last resort, ive tried to get my dad on board to have my mother realize she needs help. I also want relief to express myself all the awful things shes done to me since i was a child, and now no relationship and bitter ignorance at 27. I have 3 other siblings. The youngest is 13. The two middle children are now experiencing the same of dismay. Just wondering if you would have any advice for me … Im trying really hard to break free.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th July

      Hi Stephanie
      Welcome to EFB ~ It is really hard when we are still IN the situation. I am glad that you are here; this website is full of hope and support!
      hugs, Darlene

  6. By: jeanemills Posted: 5th March

    My mother has always used me emotionally. It started at 5 when my abusive father left her for another woman. There were 6 of us. Dad picked his 3 favorites and Mom got the rest. She let us know that we were not quite as good as the other 3. She moped around all of the time felling sorry for herself. I was so young that all I wanted to do was comfort her all of the time. She started seeing another man right after she left Dad. I did not understand why she needed someone else. She worked and went out with this man. My two sisters that were 10 and 15 left me alone to fen for myself. To make a long long story short year after year I was guilted into making mother happy. I felt responsible for her. When I went to work, I helped support myself thru high school and after graduation. Men would come and go while she would come home and cry if they would not want to be with her exclusively or marry her. She was depressed most of the time. Then when she met a great guy and dated him for several years he decided she was not the one. She blamed me for running him away. I would buy clothes and shoes that she could wear to try to make her feel better about herseld and everything I did was for her. Later in life she finally got remarried then he died. She got sick right after that and guess what, Yes I took care of her and rehabilitated her for a whole year, quitting my job and spending 24 hours a day with her. That has been 12 year ago now. She got remarried again after 5 years and her new husband live by me and I feel like I can’t get rid of her. She talks about my weight, belittles my creativity, sucks the joy out of me, is on the phone everyday with a family member telling about how insensitive and mean I am. She has managed to make me the family scapegoat all of my life and frankly I a have had enough. I really believes that she hates me even though I have done more for her than anybody. At Christmas this year she said that my brother, who was abusive to me was coming to see her and she was bringing him over at that time. I said no and she threw a fit at the table with my husband and kids at the table. I pulled her aside and told her that he is not welcome in our home and that it is my decision who to have over not hers. She got histerical and cried and left my house. She did not talk to me for 3 months and it was the best 3 months of my life, even my family said I was much happier. She never appologised to me and treats me as though it was my fault again and again got on the phone with my sisters and brothers. Then she sent home a bottle of St. Johns Wort with my husband. What a witch!!!!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th March

      Hi Jeanemills
      Welcome to EFB
      You are not alone in all of this. There is lots of info on this site about overcoming the damage that this causes and lots of community too.
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: happy2findu Posted: 10th February

    Coming upon your page has been wonderful and reading this article has me in tears as I am currently at a crossroads of what to do with my mother. Any time I confront her she makes me feel like a child, I am always at fault and she is the victim then a week later she acts like nothing happened (but never forgets in case it benefits her in a future argument) She says she loves me and compliments me in birthday cards and praises things that she approves of but the second anything deviates from her plans (Im 24 with a husband and my own daughter, I need to plan my own life) she flips out and calls me names and says hurtful things like shes trying to hurt me. Ive tried talking to hsr but ahe doesnt listen, she can take no responsibility and acts like she is being attacked, I have thought of writing a letter but she has called past letters childish and cowardly because I should be able to talk to her in person but sometimes I just cant get it out in person. Or do I just cut her out completely, but then Im the “bad daughter” who doesnt love her..I have no idea what to do with her…
    Thank you for your words have a wonderful life

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th February

      Hi Happy2findu
      Welcome to EFB
      There is lots of info on this site about what you are talking about. I am sure you will find a lot of helpful insight here. (start in the mother daughter category. There are a lot of articles about dysfunctional famiily)
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Laramar Posted: 30th January

    Amelia –

    What a great way to launch your new life in 2013 – creating an identity that cannot and will not be manipulated by a master manipulator! Welcome to taking care of yourself, honoring yourself, healing yourself – it is not selfish to do these things except in the eyes of people whose only energy comes from leeching off others.

    Time for your mother to deal with herself instead of being distracted by the games she plays with you. I am so proud of you for consciously deciding not to play her game anymore! Happy New Year, Happy New Life!

  9. By: Amelia Posted: 30th January

    First, thank you all so much for sharing. I have spent the past 40-43years (that’s as far back as I con remember believing I was alone and crazy. I now know I am neither.
    Last nite my mother severed our relationship (again) but th%s time is different. I thought if this were my boyfriend or spouse people would think me crazy to voluntary stay in such a situation. Why is it different because she is my mother. Yes, she gave birth to me but outside of that she has’nt fulfilled an of the connotations of mother. I thought ‘How many times do I need to get shocked before I understand don’t touch the red knob’ (Pavlov experiments). I am a.Christian and believe in relationship but relationship takes two. So, indefinatly I will put me as priority and will not be speaking with her. I need this time to stregthen me.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th January

      Hi Amelia
      Welcome to EFB
      You are certainly NOT alone! This website generates 1000 or more comments every month. I realized that it should not be different just because she is my mother. That carries with it MORE responsibility, not less.
      Taking time to strengthen yourself is an excellent idea!
      Thanks for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Laramar Posted: 28th December

    And one of my New Years Resolutions is to tell people I love how much I love them! I love you all!

  11. By: Laramar Posted: 28th December

    Maddy –

    I had a very peaceful Christmas because I vowed, no matter how strong the guilt pressure from my mother, and how powerful my obedient child script, to stay away from my family for the holidays. It has been such a great blessing to have a husband who supports me in this, but also my real family – you folks in my blogging tribe – to give me feedback and support as well.

    I reread your last post here and started crying, but in a good, healing way. That feeling that you are so empowered that it is seeping into your dreams just makes me so overwhelmingly happy for you, and sets such a good example for others who are struggling as you are, to step into your power and not feel shame about refusing to play the destructive, pre-programmed game that is the only way we knew how to please our dysfunctional parental units.

    This Christmas my husband gave me gifts not just as his wife, but for the little abused kids in me, and it was so sweet and so special to those parts of me that just need to doodle with crayons or hug a teddy bear. Just remember Maddy to drop in on those kids inside you regularly – take them out for ice cream or buy them a fuzzy toy every once in a while. And I cannot recommend more highly the benefits of a long, soothing, pampering bath where you reach a point where you are so relaxed and so far from that old identity and those old problems that you almost fall asleep in the tub!

    So this message goes out to Maddy and everyone – I love you all so much, my beautiful wounded warriors, and I wish to us all the most beautiful, empowering, revelation filled New Years any of us could possibly imagine! Thank you so much for your openness, your wisdom, your willingness to be vulnerable, and your very existence, so we all can learn that we are not crazy, we are not evil, we are not stupid, we are not liars, and we are most assuredly not alone.

    Blessings Darlene for giving us this gift, and the highest love and light to everyone!
    Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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