Ready to distance yourself from your mother and figure out who you are? These tips for women who act and talk like their moms (and hate it) are inspired by a reader’s comment…
“Do you think the mother-daughter relationship HAS to be fixed in order for the daughter to be in a functional and happy relationship/marriage?” asks T. on You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends? How to Live in Peace. “In other words, could the reason I always end my relationships have to do with the same thinking/behavior patterns that don’t allow me to be in a happy relationship with my mother? (I am currently single).”
Before I jump into her question, I have to recommend a book or two – because I believe books are the source of power and healing.
In Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, psychologist Martin Seligman identifies four factors that can help people thrive: positive emotion, engagement with what you are doing, a sense of accomplishment, and good relationships. He also wrote Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.
If you need specific ways to detach from your mom – and stop acting and talking like her! – you may find Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents helpful.
Here, I share my thoughts on three fascinating questions from a reader about mother-daughter relationships…
How to Stop Acting and Talking Like Your Mom
“As much as I can’t get along with my mother because of specific behaviors she exhibits, I catch myself acting exactly the same way to people that are the closest to me (and if we also spend a lot of time together uninterrupted, as in a holiday etc),” says T. “HELP!!! By dealing with these behaviors all my life (I’m 33), I have adopted them!! Advice please??”
Write down the specific behaviors you want to change and how they make people feel. For instance, do you hate being as critical and bossy as your mother? Do you offer unsolicited advice, like she does? Write down how it makes you feel when she does it to you.
And, put yourself in other people’s shoes: how does it make them feel when you act like your mother? Go a step further and ask your friends, partner, coworkers, etc how they feel when you act and talk like your mom. Only do this with people you know well. Show them this article; tell them they are helping you become happier and healthier. Invite them to be as honest as possible, and do not get defensive when they share their feelings with you!
When you find yourself being critical or offering unsolicited advice, bite your tongue. You are NOT powerless to act and talk like your mother! It requires discipline and energy to change your auto-pilot reactions, but you can do it. And remember: it’ll only take self-discipline to stop acting and talking like your mom for the first few weeks (or months, depending). Once you get the ball rolling and the habit formed, it’ll be much easier.
Do Mother-Daughter Relationships Have to be Healed to Ensure a Happy Marriage?
T asks, “Could the reason I always end my relationships have to do with the same thinking and behavior patterns that don’t allow me to be in a happy relationship with my mother?”
Of course, it depends on the specific thinking/behavior patterns. I don’t know why you keep ending your love relationships, but the fact that you suspect there’s a connection indicates that one probably exists.
I don’t think daughters necessarily have to have a healthy mother-daughter relationship to have a happy love life. However, if daughters carry their mothers’ pain, negative behaviors, unhealthy habits, critical ways of dealing with loved ones, and judgmental perspective, then of course their love relationships will suffer.
Having peaceful family relationships – as far as it depends on you – is ideal. But you can’t force peace and you can’t force people to change! So it is up to you to make peace with your mother without requiring her to make peace with you, or her even acknowledging your efforts.
You need to accept her for who she is, and you need to figure out what kind of woman you want to be. Worry less about acting, talking, and being like your mom. Start focusing on the type of woman you want to be!
Is your mom unbearably critical or judgmental? You may find When Nothing is Good Enough for Your Mother helpful.
What to Do When Your Mother Affects Your Friendships
Here’s what T. says about her friendships:
“Why do I firmly believe that ALL my girlfriends’ boyfriends are morons (to be polite)? Could it be I’m not noticing something about myself instead? Has it ever happened to you, to think that ALL your girlfriends deserve better?”
The fact that you think your friends’ boyfriends are morons says more about YOU than it does about them. Why are you so critical and judgmental? I’m not asking you to list the guys’ faults — because it’s not about them. It’s about you. I’m asking you why you’re so eager to see their flaws and weaknesses. And, I think this is connected to the fact that you keep ending your own love relationships.
If you want to be a good friend, you need to accept your girlfriends’ boyfriends for who they are. Your friends like these guys, for better or worse. If you want to keep your friends, you need to your mouth shut about the flaws and weaknesses you see. You may think you’re protecting and loving your friends by “helping” them, but in fact you’re chipping away at your friendships.
I think this mirrors your mother-daughter relationship. Mothers are often protective and even critical about their daughters’ boyfriends. This is natural (but not healthy) for moms, because they’re moms. Their job is to protect, like mother bears do. But you’re not your friends’ mother. If you want to stop acting and talking like your mother, you need to stop seeing your friends from a maternal perspective.
For mother-daughter tips for moms, read When Your Daughter Says She Hates You – 8 Ways to Reconnect.
What do you think – do you hate when you act and talk like your mother? Can you stop those behaviors?
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.