potential estranged daughter


Hello everybody. I know this is a parents site and I have read many of the post. I hope the spirit of my post is apparent for everyone that reads and comments. I love my mother..want a relationship with my mother...wish things were different or that they could change. With that...

I am an adult daughter who is seriously considering becoming estranged from my mother.

I know I suffer from approval addiction when it comes to my mother. My mother was very critical of me through my life. She loved my accomplishments but never really loved me for me. She rarely seemed happy to have me around (she would scorn me), but very excited when my cousins called her. She always criticized my decisions about the direction of my life, opportunities that she felt were poor judgment (like traveling out of the country for the first time as a grad student). As a child, she always told me negative things about me. "You're sorry. Get out of my face, You better learn how to think, You ain't nothing, etc." She just fussed all of the time...about anything.

I was a honor role student, a concert pianist, won oratory contests, leader in school things, Red Cross Volunteer of the year in my city, played piano for our Sunday School, etc. She nurtured these accomplishments and I appreciate her for that. I was never hugged though..or told I love you until I went to college and learned this behavior from my dorm mates. I introduced it to my mother and grandmother, who helped to raise me. It's like...she loved what I did (accomplishments) but not who I was (just plain Cheri). As an adult, I stood up to her and she stopped this blatant negative communication.

My mother has also kept secrets and lied to me about:

- the identity of my father (who she let me think was her boyfriend throughout my youth) who she married when I was about 10. I still don't know who my father really is and she refuses to tell me, because she says, "I'm your moma and that should be enough."

- my last name(s). There's a birth certificate for both last names I had as a youth (I initially had her maiden name then it changed to the name of the man she married). She doesn't feel I should be upset that the last name/paternity obscurity exist.

- about moving in a boyfriend (a man i didn't know well) when I was still living at home (i was 13) and soon after the man I accepted as my father/stepfather passed.

- about her adoption of a son. Myriad of problems based on secrets and manipulation. She did not tell me about the adoption until after it was complete. I found out when I found the announcement cards on the counter. One was addressed to me. Over the years, she's was very protective of him and did not discipline him. She would frequently say, "The TV is my babysitter." When I try to discipline him, she would become angry with me. A real brother-sister relationship never developed, which she blames me for with great resentment.

- She's lied about financial matters.

Finally, the thing that hurts the most is my mother's refusal to be present. When things seem fine, she becomes inaccessible. When I've tried to tell her that she's a large part of my happiness and that feeling connected to her is important to me, she said she's busy and I can take care of myself.

If I call my mother, she doesn't bother to check her voicemail...sometimes the voicemail is turned off....she doesn't answer....she doesn't return calls if I'm able to leave a message on cell phone or home phone. When she doesn't bother to call me back, it hurts. Over the years, I've tried to tell her that she's my family. I would like to be able to count her if I need her...if I'm in trouble...if I'm hurt. She tells that she's busy and I must make a life for myself. She just tells me that I'm grown. When I pull back, she begins calling all of the time. Then she'll say that I don't want anything to do with them (her and the adopted son). She becomes the victim. Yesterday morning, my great aunt (her aunt) passed.

I received the phone call, because I was closest to my aunt outside of her immediate family. I called my mother and her sister to inform them and left mesages for both around 8AM. My aunt called me back with a few minutes. My mother called back the next day (she didn't get the message at home or on cell).

She says really hurtful things and blames me for various situations in our family. She doesn't sense or admit her contribution to any of the problems. I'm very tired of this. It leaves me weakened. It's been a cycle..our cycle for more than 15 years. If I open myself up again, soon I'll be hurt again. I know she's hurting too. I know she loves me, and she knows I love her. I tried setting us up with a family therapist, but she stopped going after 2 visits.

I hope I won't have to call it quits, so I'm working on becoming emotionally detached, accept her as is and expect nothing. This is so hard, because I want my mother. She says I'm her all-n-all. But her actions and behavior towards me has been to the contrary since I was 13. She wants me close enough to feel secure, but she doesn't know how to give/receive love from her daughter. I'm so tired of trying.

Any thoughts? Thanks for sticking with this post. I'm long winded : )

Comments (16)
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dear Adaughter

I can see it took a lot of time and strength to do you post.

Have you considered some counselling ?

Perhaps you could both, or even you, learn ways to communicate more effectively. Learn about what each of you needs, and how you can help each other.

Have you said to your mother that you are considering the estrangement ?

You say that you love each other - well thats a good thing to build a new relationship on.

You seem to have a lot of built up resentment.

I wish you well, sorry I can't offer some more constructive advice. I am sure others will.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I think you summed it all up in one of your last sentences. Her actions and behavior speak louder then her actual words. Why do you keep putting yourself through this torture? You have been trying to get her approval and love all your life and it has not happened yet. I don't think your mom has it in her to do so. Maybe it was the way she was brought up or she is mentally handicapped in some way. Whatever the reason I don't think it will happen. So if I were you I would stop trying. Give yourself permission to just let it go for now. You need counseling to stop this cycle of disappointment you keep heaping on yourself. You keep doing the same things over and over and expect a different outcome. Your mom is the way she is. Don't expect her to change any time soon. You are the one that has to break the cycle. If it were me and a family member had treated me so horridly all my life as your mom has done to you, I would have stopped the relationship years ago.
Get some counseling, and start thinking about you for a change. Make you happy. Stop worrying about your mom. It sure doesn't sound like she worries about you. NancyLouise

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How heartbreaking this must be for you.

I suggest you just back away; you don't need to say anything to her, though you may want to, to hurt her as much as she's hurt you. It would be pointless.

Just stop calling her and trying to win her love and approval, she's made it more than clear that she's unable or unwilling to give it. Get her out of your life for a while, and if she calls or contacts you, be polite and cordial, but don't let her get involved in your life, for now.

Get some counseling if you need to, and get involved in some activities that take up lots of time - sports, pottery, volunteer work, etc. and keep busy and hang out with other people who (while they may have other problems) don't know about your problems.

When you feel like you've got a good balance in your life and you are ready for her (you'll know when that is), make sure it's on your terms, not hers. Approach her as an adult, not a needy child.

Good luck.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I say no to estrangement, unless there is physical or sexual abuse in process -
The reason being, eventually our parents die. Those who have resolved their own issues with regards to their parents have a better time with the death of a parent than do those who have unresolved issues - and you cannot resolve your issues when you have cut them off. I'm not talking about resolving them with her, I'm talking about resolving within yourself the limitations your mother has and accepting the fact that you are not to blame for that, nor are you responsible for her happiness. You cannot change who she is, and you cannot make her become the mommy you mourn never having -

Your challenge is to have a relationship with her within the bounds that you set as healthy for yourself. I would be in great favor of 'taking a break' from her, with regards to time spent and energy on maintaining the relationship - during which time you get counseling to learn how to build those healthy boundaries, and learn what part you have played in this unhealthy relationship (as an adult, that is - as a child, you were innocent and blame free.). Once your confidence is built, you can re-establish a 'different' sort of relationship that will carry you through until she is no longer in this world - at which point, you will be sad, but will not have to bear the burdon of guilt and regret that would otherwise come if you chose to simply cut her off.

In this process you will grow more than you can imagine, and you will have more to give in the other relationships around you.

Good luck,

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks everyone. I've read and am rereading your posts. I find your perspectives very helpful as I navigate through this decision. I continued seeing the family therapist, and she is very helpful. I believe by continuing to put myself in vulnerable situations with my mother, I have not made sufficient progress. I will do the hard work of detachment to break the cycle. I hear you.

Over the years, I have asked my mother to discuss with me the issues that she has with me...and not hold onto them herself. I tried to tell her that family disagreements were normal, but we have to talk about it so that we can move forward. Let me know how I might have overstepped my boundaries so that I can apologize. She says that she has no issues with me, but obviously she holds resentment. In the past, I admitted and apologized for the areas where I felt that I could have reacted differently..more positively (i.e. being critical about the adopted son's lack of discipline and home-training). Thanks again for taking the time to provide your feedback. I appreciate it!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Adaughter, Amyfiddler gave you excellent advice.

From your post, it sounds as if most of your issues are with yourself and your self-esteem. I'm not you and I'm not there, but it also sounds to me as if you are not getting as much out of therapy as you should be getting.

Good luck and please don't cut off all contact with your mother. A little distancing doesn't hurt, but don't cut her off entirely. You will regret it.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

adaughter, My mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. Many years ago a therapist gave me some advice which did help me keep my sanity and continue to be in a relationship. He told me to ignore everything that she did that I didn't like and to praise what I liked. This may sound like strange advice. I did follow it and the result was remarkable.
Without my saying anything to her about what I was doing, my mother reacted to my new behavior at first by behaving worse and then behaving significantly better. My then-husband and my daughter did the same as what I was doing. There was an initial escalation of negative behavior followed by a considerable improvement.
This would not achieve the goal of making your mother provide things that you want and need from her. But in my case, since there was no chance of her suddenly becoming well, it did result in less of the objectionable behavior. I followed this program for about twenty years and then one day I didn't follow it and I reacted and she reacted very badly and then our relationship fell apart. But if I hadn't reacted, perhaps things would have remained bearable. So I offer my now deceased therapist's suggestion as one way to get along with a difficult personality without letting it get to you too much.
I agree with others here that if you can find a solution that works and you are able to continue to have a relationship with your mother, you will feel better than if you avoid dealing with the things you dislike by estranging her. In general if a solution can be found to stay in the relationship, then that is preferable in my opinion. But there are people, and I've met them, who make it such a challenge to have a relationship with, that it is a miracle that they have any relationships at all.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree, you might look into ways of how to deal with BPD - Boarderline Personality Disorder. I thought that term as I was reading your post- but of course there is NO way to diagnose someone I've never met....yet, when you talk about someone who is hot and cold, then you may find similarities there to BPD, and there may be a wealth of info out there to help you learn how to deal effectively with healthy boundaries with someone who has such tendencies.

Keep in mind that was no diagnosis, but rather a place to start.

Good luck

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Reading your post I got stuck on a line in your last paragraph.. "I know she loves me". That is fortunate for you. Approaching 50 myself, last year I wrote something for myself to re-read when the pain reared its ugly head. My story is way to long and painful. But, I have had enough...It kind of went like this:

"I refuse to allow the anger and hatred that consumes you to find a place within me. I refuse to allow you to make me feel I have done wrong or had bad intentions. I refuse to allow you to make me feel I cant do anything right. I refuse to allow you to dismiss me as a daughter or a person. I refuse to allow you to make me feel everything I do is not good enough. I refuse to allow you to make me feel I am unreasonable. However, I do accept that you cannot love me and never will.

Unfortunately, I did allow her to dismiss me. I gave her the option and she chose it.

I hope you don't suffer as I have.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Please don't estrange yourself, you have already said that the two of you love each other. You can still have a relationship with her, just not the one you have always wanted. Take the good she has to offer and be thankful. Give her all the good you have to offer and be thankful you still have her in your life. As long as you can type the words, I LOVE HER AND SHE LOVES ME, an estrangement is not the answer.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dear Adaughter,

There are many qualities that your mother shares with mine. I don't remember hearing "I love you" from her until I was 23 and getting married. She was not affectionate in our home yet when we would travel to her sister's home I would stand back and watch her hug and show other physical affection to my cousins who were just a few years older than I. Still, while in their home, she did not show that to me. She was either extremely critical of me or proud when I achieved the near perfection in school that she could brag about. There wasn't an in between with her.

I was estranged from my mother from the ages of 20 until I married at 23. She disowned me because I moved in with my boyfriend. She wrote me horrible letters and refused to allow anyone in the family to see me or talk to me. If they would have they would have paid dearly. When I became engaged I went to her and told her. She wanted to plan a big church wedding and act as though nothing had happened. I said no and that we were going to have a very small wedding in our home. She again became furious with me. I told her not to come if she felt that way. She and my dad did come and acted as though everything had always been fine.

During the years that we were estranged I began to suffer panic attacks. I went from being a self confident, fit and attractive young woman to being an over weight, nervous wreck that couldn't even go to the grocery store with having a panic attack. She broke me.

Through the years of my marriage she never spoke of what happened between us. It happened again for about a year when I disagreed with her about something. How we reconciled then I cannot remember. She was a hard woman to get along with. She had estranged many of the family relationships throughout my childhood. Those with my father's family and with members of her own family. She was a miserable woman.

I have two children that she and my dad were crazy about. I told myself that I would not allow her to cause me to behave in a way that I would later regret. I made sure that she and my dad had as much time to spend with my kids as possible. I bit my tongue, smiled and agreed with her, let things go. Whatever it took.

My mom passed away 10 years ago. ( I am 49 ) I am plagued at times by her problems and very sad that she could not manage her way through this life without causing such hurt to those that loved her the most and to herself. I don't understand it. I know she had a mother that treated her badly. Evidently she could not break the chain. I have never regretted taking the high rode. She was my mother and I loved her.

If you can work things out in your head and heart to love your mom as she is and set limits for how close you will allow her to be in your life then maybe you can manage a relationship with her at a distance. Many times becoming estranged from your mom only makes you feel worse. It doesn't ever go away. You will think of her with painful remorse and longing at every birthday party, every Christmas and many days when you wish that you could just talk. The relationship will never be what it should and that is very sad. I suggest, from personal experience that you think about what will be easier for you to live with. She will die someday, maybe tomorrow and you will have the rest of your live with the choice that you made. I wish you well. I'm sorry that you have to live with a relationship like this when it should be your sweetest of moments. I truly do understand.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

dear believer - now i'm a believer.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This thread is a year old, the OP may or may not even be here anymore.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As a newly estranged mother I too agree that unless there is physical or sexual abuse estrangement should be the last resort. arms length relationship should be an option until some boundries are established. estrangement is like cutting off a limb-painful and shocking. I am still in shock and was only told he was taking a break from me-i have not seen him for 14 months and he still needs more time. i am in my 60's-how much more time do i have? he has 2 beautiful girls i want them to know i love them and miss them. i want him to be happy as well. relationships can be complicated i guess. 2 years ago i found my biological mother and 8 siblings. i am going slow with her and she is in her 80's but very healthy and very sharp minded. my expectations of her were not realistic and i had to take a step back. she finally sent me a card this xmas and signed it-love mom. it meant the world to me. i wrote to her and thanked her and told her how those two words affected me. she wrote back and agian signed-love mom. at age 60 u would think this is a bit silly of me to get so excited but my adopted mother never told me she loved me and i always felt so empty-now i feel pretty darn good-except for the son part. now i have gone on too long-take care all

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Many times becoming estranged from your mom only makes you feel worse. It doesn't ever go away. You will think of her with painful remorse and longing at every birthday party, every Christmas and many days when you wish that you could just talk."

You are so on-the-mark with that statement, Believer.

Sarahsmom posted an article sometime ago in which it was written:

"But many effects of severing the relationship are not always obvious.

The relationship will continue in some form, even after the rift.

''You can only be physically estranged from your parents; you can't feel psychologically free from them,'' said Dr. Eleanor Mallach Bromberg, an associate professor in the school of social work at Hunter College in Manhattan.

''We battle with them in our minds even after they're dead,'' Dr. Bromberg said. ''That's the paradox for these people. They spend so much of their time avoiding things that remind them of their parents that they become even more involved psychologically with their parents.'' '

The same article also said:

"The barrier between grandchildren and grandparents that comes with such estrangements worries some psychologists. They say parents should pay close attention to the messages they are sending their own children.

''Grandchildren learn how to treat their parents by the ways in which they see their parents treat the grandparents,'' said Dr. Matti Gershenfeld, an adjunct professor of psychoeducational processes at Temple University in Philadelphia. She also teaches workshops on being an adult child and being the parent of an adult.

''If you're estranged from your parents, the odds are your children will become estranged from you once they become adults,'' Dr. Gershenfeld said. ''That's the model they're learning.''

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hi estranged grammie

i loved what you had to say and quote today. There is a reason we were all drawn here and in this high tech world we can help each other with words of experience and knowledge or just listen. When this first happened to me at xmas 2008 i never thought i could be this at peace with my loss. It has been a roller coaster for the last 25 days but now i feel a little bit more grounded. a lot of it has to do with places like this and support of my other kids. there was a person-medusa-that was coming here but now have not heard anything for over a week-another abandonment it feels like. Hopefully she is alright and I am getting stronger every day as well. take care all and god bless

Browse Gardening and Landscaping Stories on Houzz See all Stories
The Hardworking Home How to Tap Your Hall Closet’s Storage Potential
The Hardworking Home: Check out these design ideas for every space and budget
Full Story
Decorating Guides Uncover Your Junk's Hidden Decorating Potential — Scads of DIY Ideas
Release your typewriter's inner planter or a drum set's coffee table. These creative ideas will have you seeing the possibilities
Full Story
Contractor Tips The 4 Potentially Most Expensive Words in Remodeling
‘While you’re at it’ often results in change orders that quickly add up
Full Story