Over the last couple of posts, I’ve explained how and why we can end up dating reflections of our fathers (also part two). We can essentially end up carrying around an image of the type of father we wanted and look for men to meet those needs. This, in itself, creates unrealistic expectations, especially when directed at people who reflect our negative beliefs and who are, by their own natures, unlikely to deliver a healthy relationship, Mr Unavailables (and assclowns).

Naturally, if we can find ourselves learning unhealthy ideas about relationships, love and ourselves from our fathers, we can certainly learn them from our mothers too. And this is what I want to talk about in part three.

Not only can we end up dating reflections of our mothers; we can end up dating reflections of their own love habits and ideas that they’ve passed on to us or that we’ve ‘absorbed’.

I have a confession: I’m estranged from my mother. I haven’t spoken to her for over three months. Long-time readers will know that last summer (and many times throughout my life), I experienced various clashes (and estrangements) with her.

There is no war. It’s not like I’m thinking we’ll never speak again, or that she’s just ‘discardable’. That said, I won’t be keeping up any relationship insanity with my mother.

Enough is enough. Everything is my fault, including things that she does that I have nothing to do with. Like her coming to my youngest daughter’s first birthday, having a showdown with the boyf’s mom and then saying that if I was a “better daughter”, it wouldn’t have happened. At almost thirty-three (jaysus I’m only 32 for a few more days), I accept that I’m never going to be or do whatever it is that I’m ‘supposed’ to.

Much like when I’ve dated assclowns and Mr Unavailables, I can tell you right now that there is no magic word or act that will somehow cause my mom to be happy with and accept me. And I’m OK with this.

My mother had her own fraught childhood and that pattern plays out in our relationship. For the sake of myself, my daughters and the boyf, though, I can’t continue to engage in a dynamic that sucks the fricking life out of me. I don’t feel bad about it. Hell, I’ve had thirty-three years to come to terms with it, and I fought it for a long time because I wanted things to be different.

I accept my mother for who she is and what she is and isn’t capable of.

I’m also being my authentic self. I recognise that there is no compromise available in this situation because it wouldn’t be two of us compromising; it would be me compromising myself. That’s just not going to happen anymore.

I have another confession: Until my early 20s I felt very ashamed of my relationship with my mother.

I believed that I was the only person to have a mom who seemed so angry with her all of her life; who called her names, made outrageous accusations, doomed her and said she’d end up as nothing in jail with five kids by thirty; who physically hurt her, repeatedly said she “didn’t have to be born” and that she was just like her ”worthless father”, and much more.

It was a rare day in my teens when I wasn’t criticised. I felt ashamed of being such an awful daughter.

Surely, if I was a good, decent, lovable human being, my own mother wouldn’t curse me out or even accuse me of being at the root of all of her problems?

Surely, if I was someone worthy of being loved, my own mother would love me?

What was so wrong with me that made her so angry?

Why couldn’t she love me and treat me like she loved me? I’m not saying we had to be happy clappers in The Brady Bunch every day, but why did I feel such a hatred directed at me?

Why couldn’t I get ‘it’ (being a daughter) right?

What kind of daughter is estranged from her mother?

For a long time, I carried the shame and the secret of my relationship with my mother.

Something changed, though. Aside from friends noticing or their witnessing events (my mom threw me out of the house for every birthday from 12-18), I stopped pretending. I took the risk of telling things how they really were. Friends were still there, and aside from being empathetic, sympathetic, and supportive, they too had their own experiences to share.

Through this blog, I’ve corresponded and talked with many women through who have very fraught and abusive relationships with their mothers. They have what I call The Other Mother. The type of mother we had in childhood (and in adulthood) isn’t portrayed on Hallmark cards. We don’t see her in Getty Images or in the media unless it’s at the extremes. Our mothers can be cruel, distant, jealous, possessive, and hyper-critical. They treat us like the enemy. Instead, though, there’s a saccharine portrayal of motherhood that fosters deep shame in many women. And that’s daughters and mothers.

Many women today have mothers who carried their own baggage, beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes. They parented and communicated through actions and words, direct and indirect messages, to their daughters that affected how they see themselves, relationships, love, and men.

Only yesterday, I sat with a lovely reader of this blog, and we got to talking about mothers. She blinked in shock when I spoke about my own; I could have been describing hers. Suddenly she didn’t feel so ashamed or alone.

It’s hard to talk about these things, but it’s necessary. Much like when I talked about why men blow hot and cold, being the other woman, everything to do with assclowns and being involved with emotionally unavailable people and the complicated dynamic, and more, as women we tend to feel our situation is unique. When people don’t feel or behave as we expect despite how ’good’ we’ve been, we believe that it’s our fault; we believe that we’re the cause. I don’t want you to feel alone.

In Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, I explain how our mother’s ‘words of wisdom’ and dodgy actions can teach us strange ideas about relationships and ourselves.

Here are some examples:

  • They communicated that if you don’t have a man, you’re incomplete.
  • They tell you that you need to have a man for security.
  • Conversely, they might emphasise that you must not be reliant on men. Apparently, they “let you down and “break your heart.
  • They lament their ‘missed opportunities’ that resulted from parenthood/marriage, so you become apathetic.
  • They ride your ass like Zorro about getting an education and a career. Then, once you have these, their only concern is about why you don’t have a man/relationship for them to brag about/wedding/children.
  • It’s saying crap like “If you don’t find a man and settle, down you’ll become a spinster”.
  • When you call/visit, they burn up energy making comments about the lack of a man in your life.
  • They tell you “Any man is better than no man”.
  • They say crap like “The Cheater is a ‘good man’?”.
  • You look at your mother and see how wholly dependent she is on a man, and it scares you.
  • Your mother behaves in very negative ways. e.g. moody, manipulative, controlling, depressed, emotionally high strung, or may even be a narcissist. Over time, you not only fear being just like her, but you attribute her lifestyle choices, including being a parent or married, to why she behaves and feels this way.
  • She tells/told you that you’re no good, not good enough, a disappointment to her.
  • She knowingly allowed you to be mistreated by a man (or men) she was involved with.
  • When her latest guy was abusive, she didn’t stand up for you.
  • She’s said, “If you can’t hold down a relationship it must be your fault”.
  • If you tell her about something that happened to you, she blames you.
  • If you tell her how you feel about something, she denies and dismisses, so you’re used to feeling invalidated.
  • To add insult to injury, she decides that because she believes she’s had it worse than you or that materially, you’re provided for. You feel as if you have no right to express how you feel.
  • You decide that there’s no point in expressing how you feel about anything or stating your needs; she takes centre stage. Your needs do not matter when your mother is around.
  • She regularly ridiculed things that you said or did, plans you made, aspirations you had.
  • She told you that you wouldn’t amount to anything.
  • Your mother accused you of sleeping around even though you weren’t.
  • She accused you of wanting her man or being too attractive.
  • When your father was verbally or physically abusive, she stood by, encouraged it. Or she told you that it was because he loved you or that you deserved it.

In this type of environment, it’s pretty difficult to wake up as an adult equipped with healthy love habits. It’s not as if you can reference a positive example! This isn’t about not loving or caring about your parent(s); it’s about getting real and gaining perspective. It’s about not carrying blame and shame as weighty baggage throughout your life and relationships.

In part four, I explain more mother behaviours that will have greatly impacted. I also share suggestions for healing from and moving beyond these experiences.

Your thoughts?

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