We asked Dr. Jessica Zucker about the best way to approach communicating the things you’ve never said and dealing with core issues with our mothers/daughters. Below is her guide to clearing the air.
When we air longstanding grievances, how do we communicate about things that have been bothering us for years but still haven’t found the right way to express?
There is no one “right” way to communicate about longstanding challenges or brittle resentment bogging down relationships. A more productive way to envision engaging in discussions with our mothers/daughters about difficult issues might be about cultivating realistic goals and maintaining achievable outcomes. We do best in navigating our relationships when we don’t take things personally, when we have a good handle on our audience, and we are reflective about our role in the dynamic. Blaming and shaming get us nowhere.
Take an active role in looking at your contribution to the relationship and ways you might improve the communication.
Mindfully reflect on who you are by jotting down an inventory of behaviors you might strive to improve.
Attempt not to take things personally even when it seems like there are no other ways to interpret interactions.
When your emotional buttons are pushed, don’t react but rather pause and attempt to see the exchange from a distance. Know that her expression of disapproval may not actually be about you.
Be aware of your expectations.They are often the culprit in breeding resentment and can result in crushing disappointment.
Practice forgiveness, understanding, and self-care. Getting the help we need to be the best versions of ourselves can do wonders for our relationships. Honor the simple yet challenging fact that we cannot change people. We can only actively evolve ourselves. It is impossible to do the work for our mothers/daughters. Remember, it is a psychological truth that we are all doing the best we can.
Advocate for yourself and your relationships.
It takes courage to communicate about our longings gone awry. Keep in mind that the act of engaging in the process itself is valuable. Change may not happen overnight but you will feel gratified that you dared to address issues tucked within the fabric of this potent relationship. Be sure to weigh the potential risks and benefits before initiating a dialogue about fresh and old wounds. It might be fruitful to kick off this conversation by explaining that though difficult, the hope is that by talking through these tough topics, a deeper kind of closeness will be cemented.
—>Dr. Jessica Zucker is a clinical psychologist specializing in women’s health. She has a Los Angeles based practice and is a prolific writer and speaker in the area of maternal mental health. Dr. Zucker traveled the world doing international public health work prior to pursuing her Ph.D. Dr. Zucker is currently writing her first book on mother-daughter relationships and issues surrounding the body.