Why do we get so angry at our moms? Is it because we know we can and they won’t leave us? Is it because we are too much alike? Or is it because it is such an intimate, important relationship that we have lots of expectations?
Have you ever said or thought, “I love my mom but…?” “But.. I get so angry with her. But…I loose control. But…I’m always arguing with her. But…she drives me crazy!”
If so, you are in good company. It’s that lingering “but” that stirs up intense emotion.
Well don’t despair. Whether your relationship with your mom is good, bad or ugly, there are things you can do to strengthen this important connection and bring peace to your relationship.
Anger is one of those emotions that seems to rear its ugly head too often in mother-child relationship. Why is that, and what can we do to prevent ourselves from becoming emotional wrecks, or stop feeling like we are ten years old when we are with her? I answer these questions in my book, I love my mother but…
The emotional intensity between mother and daughter is an amazing and complex force. Often our anger is related to unmet expectations and ideals. When our expectations come head to head with reality, we experience loss, “How could she…? Why would she…? I can’t believe she…!”
One of the emotions that tags along with this let down is anger. If we aren’t careful, we can become stuck in that anger. Our task as adult daughters is to learn to accept disappointments associated with unmet needs or unrealistic expectations, acknowledge them and even grieve then at times, and then move forward.
How do we do that? We choose to accept the reality that our mothers are fallible. Moving on may require forgiving her, adjusting our expectations, or simply coming to grips with the fact that we all make mistakes.
In some cases, moving forward may even require a new awareness that mom has areas of woundings and hurts she has yet to face. Her own unresolved pain may still affect us. And while we can’t force another person (in this case, mom) to confront her pain and deal with it, we can control our reaction to it. Her pain doesn’t have to control or define us once we discern which issues are hers versus ours.
If you are trying to control your angry reactions to your mother, don’t give up.
Most of us want to be grown ups and handle our emotions in a mature way. Sometimes that requires us to look to the past before we can manage our present emotions. If you and your mom have a number of unresolved issues from the past, they will follow you into the present.
It may be that your anger is being triggered from past hurts that you’ve yet to discuss or work through with her. If this is the case, you have two choices: 1) Choose to forgive her for past hurts and stop holding on to those issue. 2) Confront the issues and try to make peace. Keep in mind that it takes one person to forgive (you) and two people to reconcile (you and your mom). So if your mother won’t confront an issue, is in denial about it or refuses to address it, forgiveness is as far as you can go. That’s OK because it will move you out of that angry place.
Regardless of how we perceive our mothers, or what reality may be for us, we are challenged to imitate Christ in everything we do. To love as Christ loved often requires amazing grace and liberal use of forgiveness.
Women often say to me, “She’s the mom. She should be the first to forgive.” My response is usually, “Only children fight about who goes first! You forgive first and release your anger to God. Be like Christ. Don’t wait for someone else to do the right thing first. You take the lead because of Christ in you.”
If you want to rid yourself of anger, remember these six points:
1) Your mother isn’t perfect and never will be.
2) She made mistakes that may require your forgiveness.
3) Try being more empathetic. It wasn’t easy raising you.
4) Try to understand her better as a person–did things happen in her life that influence how she reacts to you.
5)Try to work on unresolved past hurts. You may need the help of a therapist.
6) You can’t change her, but you can change your response to her. Take a deep breath, calm down, be slow to anger and look to God to meet your every need.
For more help with mother-daughter relationships, check out Dr. Linda’s book, I Love My Mother But…