Mother-daughter relationships are complex. Some mothers and daughters are best friends. Others talk once a week. Some see each other weekly. Some spar regularly. Some avoid conflict. Others talk through everything.
Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D, psychologist and co-author of I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict, said daughters often complain that their moms are overly critical and demanding. From moms’ perspective, daughters don’t listen to them, make poor choices and have no time for them.
Whatever your relationship with your mother or daughter, you can always make improvements. Here’s how to enhance your connection.
- Make the first move.
Don’t wait for the other person to make the first move, said Linda Mintle, Ph.D, marriage and family therapist and author of I Love My Mother, But… Practical Help to Get the Most Out of Your Relationship. Doing so inevitably leaves relationships stuck. “Think about how you feel in the relationship and what you can do to change.”
- Change yourself.
Many think that the only way to improve a relationship is for the other person to change their ways. But you aren’t chained to their actions; you can change your own reactions and responses, Mintle said. Interestingly, this can still alter your relationship. Think of it as a dance, she said. When one person changes their steps, the dance inevitably changes.
- Repair damage quickly.
“One of the key principles in sustaining healthy and satisfying marriages is to repair damage quickly,” Mintle said. Healthy couples don’t avoid conflict. They realize conflict is inevitable and they deal with it head on. This applies to mother and daughter relationships, too, she said.
Lack of communication is a common challenge with moms and daughters. In some ways they can be so close or feel so close that they believe that each of them should know how the other one feels. What happens as a result is they don’t communicate. Or they communicate harshly, in ways they’d never dare speak to everyone else, which causes hurt feelings that don’t go away so easily,
- Be an active listener.
Active listening is “reflecting back what the other person is saying,” instead of assuming you already know, Cohen-Sandler said. When you reflect back what your mom or daughter is saying, you’re telling her that she’s being heard and that you understand.