November 27, 2021 at 3:19 pm #389086
Such a simple but complicated problem. My 34-year-old daughter and I have always had a head-butting type of relationship. We are alike in some ways, but different in so many others. I am an empath and highly sensitive. My love language is words of affirmation. My daughter has a stronger personality, not one to get her feelings hurt, more of a “thinking” personality than a “feeling” one. The one thing we both have in common is that we are both very stubborn. She is the mom of my only two grandchildren, ages 2 and 5.
I’ve always felt a need to control her and she has always fought back on that (understandably so). I’ve always “needed/wanted” from her an affirmation of her love and support and felt as if I’ve rarely gotten it, although I know she loves me and she does a lot for me. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and was sick for a year. During that time, her behavior did a 180 and she was completely everything I’ve ever needed and wanted from her. We were very close, communicated constantly and she wanted to be with me all the time. During that time, her marriage was falling apart and ended in divorce. In the last year, I have been there for her 110% and was helping so much with my grandchildren that it was almost like a co-parenting situation. I felt needed and appreciated. She told me all the time how sorry she was for how she treated me in the past, how she couldn’t do it without me, how she never wanted our relationship to go back to what it was, how she loved spending time with me, etc. Due to my personality, I grabbed on to this and helping her with her life and her kids’ lives became my life purpose.
In the past 3-4 months though, she is back on track and doing very well. Suddenly she stopped communicating with me as much as before. I was very hurt and confused and tried to talk to her about it. She explained to me that she needed space, that the tighter I held to her, the more she felt she needed to pull away. That she thinks I have co-dependency issues (I probably do) and she feels like I want her to check in with her daily and answer my texts immediately and that I depend on solely on her for my emotional health. I admit this is true because I had happily become accustomed to that during the previous two years.
I should also mention that she has recently become friends with a family that she has a lot in common with.. church, strong Christian values, Crossfit, and she spends a lot of her time with them, including the mom. I am aware that I have jealous feelings regarding this and don’t understand why she needs a mother-figure when she has me.
Anyway, I know she isn’t asking for anything unreasonable and she isn’t being mean or disrespectful at all. I’m just hurting so much from the lack of communication with her, although I do still talk to her almost everyday, as well as see her and my grandsons often. I feel like I should be glad she is doing so well. But I miss her almost constant company. I don’t feel the closeness and comfortableness with her that we used to have; it seems awkward when we’re together and I cry all the time. I need a paradigm shift.. a change in how I’m thinking about this.. to help me have a healthy relationship with my daughter (which we both want) and to help me move forward. I guess that’s what I’m asking for. Thanks in advance for any advice.November 27, 2021 at 4:26 pm #389135
Your description of your relationship with your daughter has an emotional incestuous element to it and it reads like a romantic relationship, not a mother-daughter relationship. In your inappropriate, an indeed co-dependent relationship with your daughter, you are the traditionally feminine person, the feeling, sensitive, needy, dependent one, the one needing to be told that she is loved (“I am an empath and highly sensitive… I’ve always ‘needed/wanted’ from her an affirmation of her love and support), and your daughter is the masculine person in the relationship: the thinking, independent, strong one, one of actions- not words (“My daughter has a stronger personality, not one to get her feelings hurt, more of a ‘thinking’ personality than a ‘feeling’ one… she does a lot for me“).
The way you describe your closeness with her while you were sick is similar to how a woman describes a romantic reunion with a romantic partner: “she was completely everything I’ve ever needed and wanted from her. We were very close, communicated constantly and she wanted to be with me all the time…it was almost like a co-parenting situation. I felt needed and appreciated. She told me all the time how sorry she was…”
After you got better (I hope that you are now cancer free), she is still very much in your life but not always like before. Your reaction is similar to a devastated, co-dependent romantic partner who is no longer attended to like before: “I was very hurt and confused and tried to talk to her about it. She explained to me that she needed space, that the tighter I held to her, the more she felt she needed to pull away. That she thinks I have co-dependency issues…I miss her almost constant company. I don’t feel the closeness and comfortableness with her that we used to have; it seems awkward when we’re together and I cry all the time”
And then, she’s been spending time with another mother, and you are jealous… as if she is your husband, let’s say, who is spending time with another woman: “she spends a lot of her time with … the mom. I am aware that I have jealous feelings regarding this and don’t understand why she needs a mother-figure when she has me“.
“I need a paradigm shift… a change in how I’m thinking about this… to help me have a healthy relationship with my daughter (which we both want) and to help me move forward. I guess that’s what I’m asking for“- I think that for the benefit or your daughter, her children and for your own benefit, it is necessary that you attend quality individual psychotherapy where you will experience the paradigm shift/ change in thinking that you are asking for. With such shift and change, you will be able, I hope, to move forward toward an appropriate, healthy mother-daughter relationship with your daughter.
December 2, 2021 at 7:11 am #389305
- This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by anita.
I am sorry to hear about your cancer. I hope you are now cancer-free and doing much better.
I am a 27-year-old woman with a difficult relationship with my mother. I am going to present to you some points from a daughter’s point of view.
My mother too is controlling and emotionally dependent on me.
I see some similarities between your daughter and me. I do not know if this holds true for your daughter, but when I am facing a difficult time, the first person I run to is my mother. And for the while that I need her, we have a lovely relationship. After I am back on my feet, and need her less, we are back to our bickering. I feel she treats me like a child and tries to help me even though I don’t need her help anymore. This gets suffocating for me. It does not mean that I dont love her; I just need my space because I’m not a little girl anymore. I suggest that if you are viewing her as your little girl, which I know you always will, you control that. I suggest you view her as another adult, complete and independent, her own person, rather than just your daughter. This may help you be friends with her and really improve your relationship.
Also, my mother barely has any friends. She literally has no life outside of me. She is completely dependent on me for any sort of recreation and fun. This burdens me as I am not always available. I have my own life and friends, and she then feels abandoned when I go with them. If this is the case with you as well, I suggest you make some friends outside of her. Maybe get some hobbies too. Take a vacation on your own. While your daughter is her own person, remember that you are your own person too, and your existence is not limited to the role of a mother.
What Anita said, regarding your relationship being like a romantic one, that is something I have felt with my mother as well. She would make me feel guilty for not spending time with her. When I did, she sulked because she was bitter. I realized how dependent she was on me for happiness, how she needed me to need her. And one day I thought to myself, “OMG! I am not her husband!” And I second what Anita says. Therapy would help you and your realtionship immensely.
Hope this helps…December 2, 2021 at 7:21 am #389309
Also, I would like to add that I admire your self-awareness and think it is great that you are willing to make some changes to your own self for your relationship.December 2, 2021 at 9:39 am #389312
Thank you!! I feel like the beginning of change is awareness <3 <3 <3December 2, 2021 at 9:39 am #389311
@<span class=”bbp-author-avatar”></span><span class=”bbp-author-name”>anonymous03</span> Thank you so much for your reply. Yes, I sound very much like your mom :/ I have done so much research on codependency this week and in fact have made an appointment with a therapist and also have my first CoDependency Anonymous meeting tonight 🙂 Making these appointments is a result of the paradigm shift that I prayed for. I haven’t talked to my daughter specifically about my change in thinking, or my appointments yet, but plan to when the timing is right.
I also have no close friends (I’m a major introvert though so have never “needed” many friends). I am married but I have depended much more on my daughter, and sometimes my son, for emotional support than my husband. I do have my own business (real estate photography) which I love and also photography and scrapbooking hobbies (for which I have been published in magazines). I adore my two grandsons (her children) and thankfully she allows me to be active in their lives.
Currently, I feel like she is, at times, a little terse and abrupt with me. I’m trying hard not to take it personally but am struggling with that. I feel like maybe that’s an attempt to hold me at a distance, do you think so?
Thank you again for your response, your insight is very valuable to me <3December 2, 2021 at 9:54 am #389321
You are welcome, and so good to read that you made an appointment with a therapist and that you arranged for a Codependent Anonymous meeting!
“Currently, I feel like she is, at times, a little terse and abrupt with me. I’m trying hard not to take it personally but am struggling with that. I feel like maybe that’s an attempt to hold me at a distance, do you think so?“- I think so: I think that she is indeed trying to keep you at a distance, and rightfully so, because you’ve been trying to get too close to her, invading her personal space, a space that she is entitled to.
You need to understand the difference between love and abuse: Loving your daughter means respecting her personal space and no longer invading it. Abusing your daughter = invading her personal space.
anitaDecember 2, 2021 at 10:40 pm #389322December 3, 2021 at 5:54 am #389346
You are welcome, Pam.
anitaDecember 3, 2021 at 7:45 am #389353
I’m so happy you booked an appointment for therapy. Just goes to show how much you care about your daughter and family. I’m so glad you found my insight helpful. I was afraid I’d offend you and hurt your feelings.
It is wonderful that you have your own hobbies and business. You sound like such a talented person! I’ve always found scrapbooking very cool. I wanna get into it myself…
It’s good to know you’re a part of your grandkids’ lives… As you should be too…
Yes, her abruptness may be a way of keeping you at a little distance, though I’m not entirely sure what you mean by abrupt. With my mother, she has invaded my privacy before. So now I keep her at bay. I do not show her any pictures I take in parties or trips. She is blocked from my social media. She is not allowed to touch my bag without my permission. My mother was always disapproving of me and my choices; we are very different people. So I guess I do not involve her in my life because I just want to be me without any objections or trouble from her. Also, it just makes me very uncomfortable to include her in my life. Sometimes I cannot even explain why. Does that sound like your daughter?
If it does, please do not take it personally. I know it must sting you. But know she is just trying to protect her space. If you show her you respect her and see her as another adult, she may stop this behaviour.
Also, I just wanna add… It seems to me that you are being harsh with yourself. It is great that you are self-aware and are taking action to better your relationship with your daughter. Bu that can be done with some self-kindness as well.
I hope this helps…December 3, 2021 at 11:55 am #389369
Thank you anonymous03!! By abrupt, I mean she is a little short with her answers to me. I mean she could just be busy at the time, or maybe wanting to keep me at a distance, I’m not sure. I think I should not take it so personally for sure. She and I have very different personalities. She might say something that hurts my feelings for some reason, but did not mean it that way at all, it’s just that I’m super-sensitive. I had my first therapist appointment this morning and my first CoDA meeting last night 🙂 I feel like things are on the upswing as far as how I feel about myself already. Thank you so much for your insight!December 3, 2021 at 3:10 pm #389375
Wikipedia on the topic of covert incest aka emotional incest: “Covert incest is described as occurring when a parent is unable or unwilling to maintain a relationship with another adult and forces the emotional role of a spouse onto their child instead”. Pam (the boldface feature next, and in the rest of this post is my addition): “I.. have no close friends… I am married but I have depended much more on my daughter, and sometimes my son, for emotional support than my husband“.
Wikipedia, definition of covert incest: “an emotionally abusive relationship between a parental figure and child that does not involve incest or sexual intercourse, though it involves similar interpersonal dynamics as a relationship between sexual partners”. Pam: “My love language is words of affirmation. My daughter (is)… more of a ‘thinking’ personality than a ‘feeling’ one… I’ve always ‘needed/wanted’ from her an affirmation of her love and support and felt as if I’ve rarely gotten it… Two years ago, I was… sick for a year. During that time… she was completely everything I’ve ever needed and wanted from her. We were very close, communicated constantly and she wanted to be with me all the time… She told me… how she couldn’t do it without me, how she never wanted our relationship to go back to what it was, how she loved spending time with me, etc… I don’t feel the closeness and comfortableness with her that we used to have; it seems awkward when we’re together and I cry all the time“.
The rehab. com: “The phrase ’emotional incest’ can be a bit misleading… The word ‘incest’ usually refers to sexual acts, but emotional incest isn’t sexual. Instead, it’s a relationship between family members that’s psychologically inappropriate. Most commonly, emotional incest occurs when a parent is lonely and treats their child as a partner… The American Psychological Association defines covert incest as a form of emotional abuse. The adult is prioritizing their needs over the child’s, at the expense of the child’s mental well-being”. Pam: “I’ve always felt a need to control her… I’ve always “needed/wanted” from her“,etc.
The rehab. com, continued: “A covert incest relationship can take many forms, including: … The parent feeling jealous when the child develops relationships with others. This can cause the child to feel guilty about external relationships and avoid building friendships or romantic relationships”. Pam: “she has recently become friends with a family that she has a lot in common with… and she spends a lot of her time with them, including the mom. I am aware that I have jealous feelings regarding this and don’t understand why she needs a mother-figure when she has me“.
More from the rehab. com: “emotional incest can cause severe issues within the family dynamic. The child may struggle with a love-hate relationship with their parent, both in childhood and later in life”. Pam: “My 34-year-old daughter and I have always had a head-butting type of relationship… she has always fought back… She explained to me that she needed space, that the tighter I held to her, the more she felt she needed to pull away… she is, at times, a little terse and abrupt with me… she is a little short with her answers to me“.
Back to the rehab. com: “Healing from an Emotional Incest Relationship: Both the parent and the child will need to heal from an emotional incest relationship. The parent should seek therapy so they can get help establishing and respecting boundaries with their children. They’ll also have to find a new, healthy resource for emotional support, such as a friend. Children will also need to work on healing from covert incest abuse. Many children who have gone through this experience move far from the parent in an attempt to get away as an adult. However, this isn’t a long-term solution as the parent can still reach out and break boundaries with phone calls, visits, emails, texts and other means of contact”.
Psychology today. com: “It is not a recognized clinical diagnosis and does not refer to inappropriate sexual contact, but the term ’emotional incest’ (also known as ‘covert incest’) is sometimes used to describe parents who are unable to maintain healthy boundaries with their children. Such parents may be living with mental illness, substance abuse, an unhappy marriage, or divorce. In essence, such parents feel alone and unloved, and rather than seek support from other adults, they turn to their children for intimacy and care. They may burden children with their own needs, constantly seek their validation, become emotionally or psychically clingy, or try to control the child”. Pam: “I’ve always felt a need to control her… I also have no close friends”, etc.
More from Psychology today: “Emotional incest leaves a deep scar on a child’s experience of closeness and intimacy; specifically, they struggle in intimate relationships as adults. Signs of enduring this dynamic include: Difficulty sustaining intimate relationships”, etc. From the rehab. com: ” Children with emotional incest syndrome are at a higher risk of: Eating disorders, Self-harm, Relationship dissatisfaction, Feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy, Difficulties prioritizing their needs because they become so used to caring for another, Sexual intimacy issues, Substance abuse, Compulsive behavior, Problems maintaining boundaries with people”.
I will close this post with addressing Pam: I am the product of Emotional Incest. I suffered from the misfortune of being born to an emotionally incestuous mother. Please take this information here to your therapist. The lifetime damage done to a child by an incestuous parent is massive. It is not only you who need psychotherapy, but also your daughter and your son. Please understand: your children were not born so to take care of your emotional needs, to make you feel loved, to make you no longer feel lonely. You were supposed all along to take care of them, of their emotional needs, not the other way around.
anitaDecember 5, 2021 at 11:45 am #389425SSSParticipant
Co-dependancy issues aside but not forgotten, you say you are an empath. I’ve known some to state this when they really are not; what they are is highly sensitive to real or perceived threats, insults, their own unhappiness, etc. Empaths can feel as much positive energy from another as negative. If you are an empath, how do you think this enters into the equation?
My adoptive mother had an unhealthy attachment to her only birth child, a son no less, who was the golden boy. This unhealthy relationship was evident to everyone except my mother. The hope I see on your end is that you are recognizing things in yourself (becoming self-aware) and that is critical. Big applause for you! And now, to make it even better, you are working toward an end, toward healing yourself, with the goal of moving beyond emotional dependence. You are not alone in struggling with ED. It may be more outwardly pronounced with you than with some others, but reaching your goal–which will take time–will make becoming emotionally independent that much more rewarding. I’m excited by the thought of you getting there…and in the meanwhile, stop along this path to enjoy the journey. It’s an important one. It’s not just the destination that counts. Take pride in the milestones and accomplishments along the way. Breathe them in and realize how good each step feels. You deserve to be emotionally independent, and obviously, both you and your daughter will benefit from it.
Best wishes on this new path. It can be done.December 5, 2021 at 12:00 pm #389428SSSParticipant
I forgot to add in my above post that to be aware of trading one ED for another. That is, becoming dependent on the tools you’re using rather than mindfully using them as a bridge to freedom.
Example: Becoming overly attached to a therapist or group. It can happen. Just be aware, and ask for qualified tips on how to tell if you are turning into a different yet more-of-the-same ED driveway. We don’t want to park our baggage at another house. : )December 5, 2021 at 12:05 pm #389429
SSS Thank you so much for your insight! I am thankful to be in a position that I am aware, I know this is an important step and moving forward is impossible without it. Although I know I have a long road ahead of me and a lot of work to do, I am feeling hopeful!!