Definitions of Dysfunctional Mother Daughter Relationship


fasle definition of love

My mother didn’t want a child. My mother wanted a dolly that would “give back”. She wanted some “thing” to fuss over and to cuddle with for a short time, and then it was as if she expected me to fulfill her needs because she filled mine for a while. To fill her needs ~ as though I could fill the empty space where she was lacking self value and love.  My mother placed a great deal of expectations on me right from the start, and I didn’t live up to even one of them.

It was as though I owed her something because I was born. Right from the start, this is the definition of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the false definition of love.  Right out of the womb, my mother acted as though she believed that I was going to make her life better and that I owed her for mine.  This was proven over and over again as I went through life and she continually expressed her disappointment in me. If she didn’t have such HIGH expectations about what I could do for her, I could not have disappointed her so deeply.

I was born helpless and innocent. I was born with a right to some kind of safe environment and nurturing emotional atmosphere.  But according to her actions over the years, I was more of a burden then I was a blessing. Perhaps my mother was not prepared for the responsibility and the overwhelming needs of a child? Perhaps she was lost in her own sea of self doubt and perhaps her own value had never been established. But is that something that I should have to pay for? I think not, but it took me a long time to realize that.

Somewhere along the way, I became responsible for my mother’s self esteem. She expected me to restore her order, to restore her value, her worth and her importance as a human being. And I failed, but who could have passed? Who could have accomplished such an unreasonable demand? Surely not a child. This was not my failure. The failure is in that she expected me to be her answer. And this is the definition of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the false definition of love.

And because I “failed” her my mother seemed to resent me; my own mother seemed to hate me. Why else would she have closed the door (on me) when I asked her to stop treating me like I was nothing? Why else would she have walked away (from contact with me) when I asked her to stop blaming me for the fact that her boyfriend came into my bedroom when I was a teenager? Why else would she have offered me to men and used me as bait to attract men to herself? Why else would she come to regard her daughter in those ways if it wasn’t that for some reason my mother hates me?

And the worst thing is that I believed that I was a failure, that I deserved her disappointment in me. I believed that I should have been able to fulfill her emotional needs and prevent her mood swings. I thought that I should be able to be enough for her. This is the definition of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the false definition of love.

And then because her boyfriend DID come into my bedroom when I was barely 14, she saw me as competition. When she took me to bars (when I was 17) to use me as bait and men WERE attracted to me, again she saw me as competition. I could not win. I could not be what she wanted because she kept changing what she wanted and I tried to comply with ALL of it. I tried to be everything she “seemed to expect” me to be and I lost myself.

And this is the definition of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the false definition of love.

How was my own self esteem supposed to grow in that environment? How was my own identity supposed to emerge? Those were questions that no one cared about because I was not born to be me. I was born to become what my mother never was but at the same time not to surpass her worth. I was born to fulfill the missing pieces of her life. But when I even came close to showing some success at anything, she was jealous and she tore me down.  She couldn’t stand it if I was anything that she wasn’t. She wanted me to be her and she hated herself. She wanted me to be different then I was but she hated that too. She couldn’t stand the “her” that was in “me”. She saw me as an object and as her possession, to do with and to regard in whatever way she felt like it on any given day. And as long as she didn’t approve of me, I tried harder which also worked for her and therefore she would NEVER approve of me in case I stopped trying.

And this is the definition of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the false definition of love.

I failed at fulfilling her dysfunctional wishes, most likely in the same way that she failed her own mother, and the cycle of chronic depression and dysfunctional family system went unbroken. The cycle of abuse, the cycle of low self esteem, the cycle of struggle with personal identity and lack of simple happiness, continued.

I never questioned her statements or accusations about me but today when I hear those words echoing in my head, I hear that unspoken implication;  that she had a right to do/ say / feel however she wanted to because she was the parent. She would say that I am ungrateful. That I am self centered. That I am the problem; and she always did. And I was brainwashed, trained and taught to believe it and to knuckle under it, or pay the consequences. But I paid them regardless.

And this is the definition of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the false definition of love.

And I had to realize that in all this dysfunction she had taken my life. I had to realize that I was NOT her. I had to realize that I did not deserve what had happened to me, that I had a right to be me and a right to have a real life as an individual. I had lived most of my life under the threat of rejection if I failed to comply with her wishes and finally I realized that I had been rejected since the first day that I didn’t fulfill her dysfunctional interest in me.

She never was interested in me, but only in what I could do for her. She wanted me to fill the needs not filled for her in her own dysfunctional childhood. She wanted me to make her believe that she was worthy of love.

And I realized that I had to stop following in those same footsteps by realizing that they were the path to nowhere. I had to take my life back. I had to find my voice in all this. I had to stop seeing reality through those dysfunctional viewpoints and realize that the truth about my reality was based in dysfunction. I had to stop believing that I had failed HER. MY normal was false; it was wrong.

I had to look at it the way that it really was, through a new grid. Not through the grid of the way I was “told” and taught to accept as right. I had to finally see through the lies, the manipulations, and dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and see where exactly I had gotten lost. I had to see that it was through NO fault of my own. I had to understand my own value and innocence. I had to realize that I was not a failure, but that they failed me. I had to realize that the “love” I knew was not love and the love she wanted from me was not love either.

In the process of finding my self worth and re-establishing my self esteem I realized that because they failed me didn’t mean there was no hope. It didn’t mean that my childhood and lack of true love from my parents meant that I was ‘no good’

In that process of emotional healing, I stopped the cycle of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and through that process I found my lost identity.  Through seeing the truth about the way things were, I have been able to prevent passing this dysfunctional relationship and false definition of love, on to my own children.

Please share

Darlene Ouimet

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142 response to "Definitions of Dysfunctional Mother Daughter Relationship"

  1. By: Carlos Posted: 22nd March

    This is almost similar to my relationship with my “loving” father. He forced me to do karate lessons with my younger sister but instead of giving us equal treatment, he taught her advanced moves (behind my back) which caught the eyes of our respective trainers everytime we were in class. My thoughts on this? He saw himself in my sister and thus elevated her to a higher state. So I guess it was enough for my father to see his wish for me to do karate for his sake, come into fruition. It didn’t matter if only my younger sister became the “star” of our lessons, for as long as he managed to convince me to do it. Thankfully I have convinced him when I was 16, that enough is enough and we never talked about karate ever again (I don’t regret a thing).

    Furthermore, I was also his “go to person” whenever he had issues with Mom (Main issue: He doesn’t like being told off by Mom when he makes mistakes. Yet when Mom’s not around, he does the same thing to me, even tagging his trusty side-kick in his like-minded mother-in-law calling me stupid, treating me like a criminal etc. Yeah whatever hypocrite).

    So I guess I was once upon a time a pleaser and an advisor to a person who clearly has no interest in seeing me spread my wings or attentively listen to any of my problems. I was designed to lift his spirits, which in turn has resulted in me to almost lose myself. This person claimed that I was the reason why he came back to the family, after being kicked out by Mom years ago when I was only a little kid. The reason is now crystal clear. You returned to us, not to give me a father, but to “mend yourself” through me. I would have much preferred to have been fathered by someone else or not have a father at all.

    Now that I am wide awake I have commenced on “mending myself.” Re-wiring the parts that have been ruptured, will not be done at the expense of others.

  2. By: Dave Smith Posted: 29th June

    Hi Darlene and everyone,

    Another great post to read (again I think, in my case).

    Wanting a dolly to dress up in cute outfits is about as close as my mother came to “wanting” me.

    I am the product of “make up sex” from when my parents almost split but were talked out of it by relatives.

    I’m finally over most of the anger at my mom for dressing me as more of a girl than boy as a kid. But thanks for that mom, and all the teasing and insecurity it brought to me.

    I too became responsible for my mother’s happiness as a tiny tot, but of course failed over and over at that task, and was told by her, my siblings and father that life was so much better before I was born, and I was nothing but a troublesome mouth to feed, who disrupted the entire family by being born.

    It was at around age 5 that I decided I could never have kids and bring anyone into this world without being certain I would not make them feel as I was made to feel as a kid, unwanted, a burden, a failure at everything.

    I can ask myself now, what was I failing at by age 5? Being a happy kid? Being loved? Being taught to love and appreciate myself for who I am, whatever that may be?

    My mother tried to blame me for all of her unhappiness (probably still does) up until we stopped communicating when I was 35 and she was 72 or so, when she started playing the “I’m a sick old woman and nobody loves me” card.

    I could not sit through another phone call or visit where she complained to me endlessly about my father, her husband, and his lifetime of cheating and abusive behavior to her.

    What about Dad’s abuse to the rest of us Mom?

    My family or the concept of a loving family, still haunt me and I have nightmares about them nearly every night, 12 years after being no contact with them all, but at least now I know that I didn’t cause my family to be unhappy, crazy, abusive and all of the other twisted things that they are on their own.

    Simply because they said “no, we love you” over and over in my response to my asking “why don’t you love me?” as child, does not mean that they loved me or even know what love is!

    Thank you Darlene and to everyone who shares here for the validation that we are not alone and that healing and having a life are possible, even if it can take a lifetime of work to achieve, and to undo the damage they inflicted upon us all.

    Hugs to all,


  3. By: Stephanie Posted: 29th June

    I appreciate your writing. While I was reading this article, I could see many of my own thoughts and reflections. I think that those of us who have been through this pathway have done much self examination, while those who caused so much harm do not. I often receive passive aggressive and manipulative comments from my mother in which she tries to assume or invoke guilt as to my feelings of her. I tell her that she does not know how exactly I feel. She honestly cannot relate to who or what I am. She who is extremely religious, conservative and opinionated, vs me–a somewhat more educated and accomplished professional health care worker who is now agnostic. Over time I am convinced that she was a narcissist whose unreasonable expectations for people leave her depressed. Ironically her lack of empathy does chase people away, and yet she hates to be alone. I am what and who I am in spite of her treatment of me. I am severely independent to a fault because I do not want to trouble people, as she did to me. How many of us chose not to have children for fear of carrying this legacy? I often joke, why would I want to screw up another generation! Currently I survive by limiting her exposure into my own life. I only see her on my terms. She has never been to where I live (once I moved out of her mother’s house) because I think that one’s home is their sanctuary. If she does not see it, she cannot talk about how or where I live….and so I have no negative feelings about that. I feel sad about it sometimes, but then again it was not me who created this situation. I do love her because she is my mother, there are however many things that I do not like about her or her behaviour. Thank-you for sharing your heart and soul. It is helpful to know that we are not alone.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th June

      Hi Jamie
      Thank you for sharing, I am sending you hugs. 🙂

      Hi L. Cat and Stitch
      Thanks for sharing. I can relate to your comments. :/
      hugs, Darlene

      Hi Stephanie
      Welcome to EFB ~ It is really wonderful when we realize that it wasn’t US that created this situation.
      hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Jamie Posted: 28th June

    It’s been about 8 months since I asked my mother to respect my boundaries and address some issues I was having with her. And it’s been 8 months of silence. I refuse to continue having a one sided relationship with her where I lay down and take all her crap (when I thought we had gone over things, she’d just start doing stuff again and I’d think, “I guess this is ok, I guess it’s not that big a deal.”). But I realized today that I still had the door to my heart open for her. Almost everyday, when I check my email, I have a moment of anticipation where I think half hardheartedly, “This will be the day that she sends me a message.” For awhile there, I hoped she would send me something mean so I could go off on her. Then it was just anything… Just like when I was a kid, waiting. Waiting for her to see me, to be kind, to have some empathy. It’s hard to admit that. That I have been doing what I’ve always done. Waiting on the porch like a neglected dog. For her to open the door and let me in. For her to care. For her to make an effort. I see so many of you have mothers that run in and just wreck the place (your hearts). Which, I have know idea how I would cope with that because I have a mother who is completely unavailable to me. When I was very little and being molested by her boyfriend, I had a recurring nightmare where all these monsters were trying to get in and hurt me. I’d tell them that my mother was asleep and to go away. They would force their way in and chase me up the stairs of this scary house. I would run to where my mother was sleeping. And she would never wake up. No matter how hard I shook, she was unmoved by me. That is what she is like for me. She has never woken up to me. She can’t see me. She doesn’t know that I am anything besides something SHE created, what she has me pegged as in her head.
    I’ve realized today that it’s time to close the door all the way. She’s no longer welcome here. I give up. I guess that’s what’s been aching in a corner of my heart all these months, that I don’t want to give up, but there is nothing I am willing to do any longer. But, why should she come for me when she couldn’t or wouldn’t even protect me as a helpless child. When she spited and hated me for needing protecting. When she hurt and abused me when I needed shelter, nurturing, and time to heal. If that doesn’t even compel a person to empathy, no age and nothing will.
    I think I am a good person. I am starting to see the integrity and courage in what I did in response to my environment as a child. That I was never the weak one, I was courageous where she was a coward. And I am a positive and hopeful person at heart that held on to hope for a tedious amount of time. A complete contrast to the definition my mother has of me. I think the naive innocent optimism I have held onto that someday she will see me is actually a good thing. Even if I was a kicked dog a few times. I don’t have to be mad at myself about it anymore. But I know now that it is misguided and misused and I will turn my attention to where it belongs… my children, husband, good friends, adopted family, and most importantly myself.
    Door is closed to her. Finally. So many flies in here from leaving it open… =P

  5. By: cat Posted: 28th June

    Reading these post, I don’t think most people are fit to be parents, it really is sickening how careless they are. There should be a law to have to go through some counseling before giving birth.
    I a, 49 and I have neer had any children my mother told me never have children and never get married, I remember her telling me this daily, i never thought i deserved a family of my own and now I now why, what a B!

    My mother is EXACTLY like Darlene’s and everyone’s post. The hardest part of my healing is making it through the stupidity of my mother, my dad is a given. I’m just sitting here in Los Angeles by myself looking at the damage and its just sad, its sad i even have to spend my life doing this shit. I hope I can but a life together that I am proud of that I own. It’s what I want more than anything, everyday I see a little step I took in that direction. i hope i break right on through to to wonderful too and I hope everyone does.

  6. By: stitch Posted: 28th June

    This post describes the 58 year relationship I had with my mother almost word for word. So many others commenting here experienced this too. Society dictates to us that we must regard and treat our elderly parents with reverence and gratitude. Bull! An Easy Bake oven under the Christmas tree and a school trip overseas at age 15 doesn’t begin to take away the pain of daily conditioning by rejection from birth, (ostensibly because my existence didn’t magically make anything better for my mother,) severe emotional abuse, the clean house being more important than anything, giving me PTSD if I made a wrong move such as daring to get my clothes dirty if I played with other kids and never teaching me to clean properly so she could call me a lazy slob at age 10, being abandoned to and molested repeatedly by paternal grandpa, the big family secret, INCEST that goes back centuries. A weak, passive, pro sports fantasy obsessed father for whom it seemed more important to look like a good father than be one. My brother was born because he wanted a son – she hadn’t wanted me, I know she didn’t want another baby! I was nearly raped in my own home by someone I was instructed to respect and obey. The last time – ever – I confronted them about the fact that HE KNEW his father was a predator (because he warned me not to dress provocatively in front of the old drunken bastard – the implication being, of course, that if anything happened it would be MY FAULT! I was nine! another reason I never told anyone until adulthood!) she blamed me because I didn’t tell her. He told me to get over it and I should go to hell. It sounds like hatred, “telling on them”. My silence until they die was always the unspoken expectation, and I kept my mouth shut 40 years. Well the lid is off now, here it comes! I am the only witness to how truly evil these people can be. I will not protect them – they failed to do the job of parents and meet the most basic needs of their children. I have never felt stronger self love and self compassion – for that little girl nobody was looking out for. And anger that they have always chosen their dysfunction over me, always. I have spent years un-internalizing all the wrong messages they gave me about myself, yet nothing has been as clear or empowering as Emerging from Broken. It’s sent my healing and growth into “warp drive”! I’d known for a long time that my relationship with a mother who uses me as a crap bucket for her unending misery had to end. And with adult understanding of childhood memories I see that my father is nothing more than a scared little boy in the body of an 80 year old man. Now loneliness can be added to their combined misery, pain and fear. I have matched abandonment with abandonment, made karma happen for them, and feel none of what I was always manipulated into feeling whenever I exercised my right to be a person, not a thing for them to control and abuse – no shame, no remorse, no guilt. Only relief that the rest of my life belongs to me! Thank you for putting up with my rant. Love to all. <3

  7. By: L Posted: 28th June

    My grandmother has said she never wanted my father. She wanted a daughter, not a son. I believe she masterminded, or rather, mastermanipulated his relationship with and marriage to my mother. She had and has that much control over him. She did it so she could have the daughter she always wanted and she put that role on my mother. And my mother accepted it. And she thinks I have to accept that role for her, even though she complains about being in that role for her mother-in-law. It’s insidious.

  8. By: Beth Posted: 28th June

    PS Darlene, can you arrange the comments on your blog from most recent? It just seems awkward to have to go to the bottom to read the most current comments. IMHO!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th June

      Hi Beth
      I just changed it (good idea, I never even thought about it before) but it doesn’t seem to have changed anything. I wonder if it will apply itself to the next new post?
      I will see what happens. hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Beth Posted: 28th June

    Hey Darlene,
    The hardest thing for me to come to terms with in my mind is how she could be so cruel to the person who loved her to absolute most in the world!
    There is so much that I relate to in your blog. I was the cute little tiny doll that was supposed to grow up to make my mommy happy. Throughout my childhood and adulthood, she rebuked me harshly for not living up to her standards, dreams, expectations, morals, values, etc. These are the same morals, values, dreams, and etc. that she did not live up to for her mother. She put me down all of the time, but then expected me to do great things and make her proud. I was much too fragmented by the life of hell that she had drug me through to be able to make a sensible life.
    It is unfortunate that she shattered me and my life with the abuse and harshness that I barely survived. It was not just her, there were evil step-fathers who did their share of abuse. The physical stuff was so much easier to survive than the emotional abuse. Even now at the age of 57 y/o, there are days that I don’t want to go on. It would be so much easier to NOT exist! But, I am made of some pretty tough stuff and I persist in my endeavor to overcome all of my challenges.
    My mom died last year and this has been the roughest year ever. I have grieved so deeply and I am trying to heal from so much. The hardest thing for me to come to terms with in my mind is how she could be so cruel to the person who loved her to absolute most in the world. I still love my mom and feel sorry for the guilt and suffering that ate her up inside. The guilt that she felt for her mistakes and disappointing her mom.
    Each and every day, I combat the feelings of being unworthy of love and worthlessness. I will persevere in my struggle for self worth and self love. I know that God loves me, but my need for self respect and love are necessary parts of my healing process.
    Bless you for all that you do!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th June

      Hi Vanda
      Welcome to EFB!
      hugs, Darlene

      Hi Beth
      My entire life changed when I learned that I had value. It changed ten times more when I started to love and respect myself and my spiritual life became filled with the peace and beauty that I ‘think’ is the way God would like everyone’s spiritual life to be.
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Vanda Posted: 28th June

    Years ago I had a therapist tell me that I do not owe my parents anything because I did not ask to be born. That has really helped me over the years.

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