Mother Daughter Relationship ~ False Definition of Love


up in smoke ~ mother daughter love

“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “you owe me.” Look at what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Hafiz

Reading all the posts from Carla and her Mom, Debbie, got me to thinking about my own Mother and all that has come and gone in our relationship. Sometimes I wish that she and I could mend this broken fence.  Sometimes I miss my mother.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have this longing that I have labelled as “missing my mother” but it is a longing for something that has always been missing.  It is a longing for love, a longing to have value in my mother’s life and a longing to feel like I mattered to her. That longing is a longing for something that has never really been there.

Sometimes I wonder where this longing came from if I never had it in the first place.  Maybe my mother was an amazing mother when I was an infant; when I was a baby who was completely dependent on her. Maybe she was filled with love when she looked down at me, when I was so little, so fragile and perfect in my helplessness. I needed her then. Maybe she thought that my dependency on her was love. How was she loved and what did she think that love was? Did she think that this little baby would fill the void that was in her soul?  And maybe when I was a little baby, with no verbal ability, no opinion separate from her, no will of my own, that was exactly how she wanted it and that was love. Well whatever it was then, somewhere along the line everything went terribly wrong. 

My mom used to get mad at me and tell me that no matter how nasty her own mother was that they (her and her siblings) always loved her anyway.  I realized that my mother was actually telling me that I did not love her “the right way”. I was expected to love her, because she was my mother. I remember even in my own brokenness, wondering why we feel that we have to love our parents just because they are our parents. My mother says that she did the best she could and after my parents split up when I was 12, she constantly stated that she never asked to be a single parent as though that was why she wasn’t a caring or loving parent. 

And this isn’t just about my mother because I was expected to love other people who had no regard for me. Why “should” I love people who cause me pain, people who humiliate me and tell me by their actions that I am worthless? Why did I have to love people who only contributed to the pain in my life, people that never cared about me, never wanted to see me for who I was but only for what I could do for them? There was this deep down niggling doubt about the words “should” and why obligation was somehow connected to the word love, but I could not quite grasp the whole picture.

My mother taught me the wrong definition of the word love. I learned by her actions. I learned by her expectations. I learned that I was obligated ~ I was supposed to love her and that loving her meant doing what she wanted and never upsetting her. Love was about ME carrying the entire burden of the relationship. Love was keeping dirty little secrets. Love was accepting that I was not worthy of protection and not putting up a fuss about it because that would upset her. I could fight, I could express the unfairness of it all, but there was a price to pay for the fight and I was ignored. It was painfully clear to me that my feelings didn’t matter; only her feelings did. The problem was that by her definition of love, I was not loved and that is how I knew that I was not loved. My mother did not love me by HER own definition of the word.

I had a fantasy about having a certain type of mother. I worked very hard to earn her love and acceptance of me, believing that one day I would find the magic key. I finally accepted that it wasn’t going to happen because SHE can’t do it. It isn’t because I can’t be what she wants. The lack is not in me.

I feel sorry for my mother. She doesn’t know what love is. She never saw me as an individual. She doesn’t know that love is more fulfilling when it is mutual. She doesn’t know that obligation isn’t part of love. My mother is so sure that she is right about how it should be that when I finally said enough and that I was not going to accept her system anymore, she could not consider my feelings. She could not stop blaming me, she did not want to bother with trying to work it out with me because it had to be her way and I had the nerve and disrespect to ask for something more.

I miss and even sometimes mourn the idea of (one day) having a loving mother. When I told my mother that I had had enough and she closed the door, at first I felt this horrible fear. I felt like I could not function without a mother, that I HAD to have one. I think that abusive people teach us this lie ~ that without them we will die, so that we are afraid to stand up to them. It is all part of the control they have over us.  Within about 3 months, I started to realize that the oppression that I lived under was lifting. I realized that I was not getting wound up all the time about proving myself. I began to see how toxic the relationship really was and I began to realize a new freedom. In my wholeness I have realized that I do not have to have a toxic relationship EVEN if that means that I don’t have any relationship with my mother.

The bottom line with all of this is that I had to determine and own my own value. I had to stop living under my mother’s definition of love, and find the real definition. I drew my boundaries with my mother as I was learning to love and value myself. I grew in my emotional health to the exact extent that I was willing to stand up for myself and to stand up for the truth. Today I know my value and that I am equally valuable to every other human being. If people treat me as though I am not equally valuable, (even if those people are part of my family) I no longer accept that. I am in charge of my self esteem and in the past I just told myself not to feel bad when someone devalued me but today I choose not to be around people who hurt me.

Because I am worth it,

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing


193 response to "Mother Daughter Relationship ~ False Definition of Love"

  1. By: Cindy Standley Posted: 5th December

    Darlene…don’t post this if it comes off too preachy.

    Hi All,
    I will try and say something that might ease your pain and disappointment in your mother daughter relationship. I am 59 and I have accepted that my mother was never, and will never be mother of the year, for ME….ever. I accept that in the lottery of parents I was not very lucky…and that will never change. It is a fact for now and into the future. How I choose….”ME” is the only aspect of the relationship I have control over. Taking control gave me power. Changing the past will never NEVER happen for me…unless someone builds a time machine. And when my sisters tried to say…”that did not happen” I would ask them…”Were you there?” (unfortunately I have a very good memory back to being two…it is a curse sometimes) and their answer is always, “no”. Their reality was not mine even though we lived in the same house because my parents responded differently to each one of us. I would like an apology from my mother…but that requires that she remember and understand her actions and how they effected me. This would require a lot of thinking on her part and self awareness. I don’t feel enough for her, at this point in my life, to inform her..AGAIN. I tried at the time…50 years ago…and the response was…nothing, and lack of concern and care. And now, I am a daughter that does not care very much for her. So there it is. These are the facts and I can not be made to care about her now. So…as they say, “you reap what you sow”. My sisters believe mom was and is a caring person because she IS that to them. So what little I do for her is driven by my relationships with my sisters than with her. If they get too pushy with me, I hit them with the truth…”I don’t care about her. Do what you want…she gets what she deserves.” There is a silence. They try to manipulate me with….”you don’t know what it was like to raise 4 kids” and I answer, “I know that she never said a kind thing to me, or cared, or paid attention to anything in my life… it is hard to care or be concerned about her life.” Silence…that was not their reality. Funny that I can see their reality, but they can not see mine.

    I am lucky to be alive and that is due to the caring of other families, two sisters, good friends who gave me refuge, my husband, my children AND as Rush says…talent on loan from God.

  2. By: laura Posted: 4th December

    Hi Darlene,
    I also had this fantasy that my mother loved me when i was a baby in diapers.But then she herself told me the truth.Right after i was born,she was supposed to breastfeed me.Back then she had a strong craving for lemons,so she ate them raw,without thinking of the consequences.Nurses told her that her milk would go sour,but in vain.Naturally,i refused to suckle.As a result,now she accuses me of being toxic to her and rejecting her since day one.Oh,how she likes twisting the truth!

  3. By: Suzy Posted: 10th November

    My mom is gone now – she died in 2011 – she disinherited me from her will just weeks before her death but never told me that while I made visits to the hospital, told her I loved her and asked for forgiveness. So twisted – I asked for forgiveness and I was the one treated so poorly all of my life. I was called: an empty hole, a person who’s skin she would have dreaded to live inside, selfish… I was the person always trying to help, be “good”, be more lovable & ultimately – none of it worked. I was punished even from the grave. My dad has just used to me get my siblings to help him out financially (my parents divorced 35 years ago). The huge estate was divided between my siblings and I was told by each of them in different ways: you are a bad person – mom didn’t care about you & we don’t either. Wow!! Needless to say, I have broken contact with all of them – my dad, included. My family – all the secrets & lies. The last thing my dad said to me was: I wish all my children could be in a room together & pretend to love each other – even though they don’t. That kind of summed up how we were taught to behave – to pretend. Darlene – my anger & resentment is so in the forefront of my mind. How did you release that anger? I know in theory that I have to let that go – it’s only hurting me. But how? What did you do? Prayers, no contact, rational thoughts have not helped. When does the anger go?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th November

      Hi Suzy
      In a nutshell, the way to the other side of anger for me was that I validated my right to have it. I wrote (journal) about how angry that I was and why and I saw that my anger was justified. I was hurt and they did things, said things that were so one sided and so inconsiderate. I validated the damage that their words and actions/inactions caused to me. And the anger dissipated. I learned how to take care of my emotions and to love myself and all the rest is right here in this website. (My first book contains the foundational work)
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Saffy Posted: 24th September

    Wow! I found this after googling…my mum was in hospital overnight and I just felt nothing. No sympathy, empathy, just wondering how long she’d string out the issue with gall stones.
    I’ve always had an odd relationship with my mum. We argue whenever I have a different opinion (!), she says you don’t understand me, you’re just like my mother, you can be hard to love etc. then falls about crying and enlists my dads support in making me feel terrible.
    My dad is 13 years older and in his 70’s, a kind man who ‘failed at business’ so he works for her (yup I hate that too) he has had cancer for 12 years and had a stroke 6 months ago, yet she won’t let him retire. They hoard and their house(where they work from) is a disgrace. She is mean constantly to him, uses a special tone of voice for my dad and I catch her demeaning him ALL the time. My children love her, my husband does too-she adores my husband and makes him feel good about himself (he has a very narcissistic mum), we moved in 2 doors away from them so I guess you could call it love hate?
    I want to love my mum, but she can be so spiteful and manipulative, it’s like I’m always walking on eggshells not able to predict her mood. When she’s nice-I’m like a grumpy teenager (I find myself feeling so guilty about this, but it’s like that’s the most I can give) then when she’s foul (especially since I was about 25/I’m 35 now) I am very assertive and try to turn the mirror on her… always bites me as my dad will phone me/see me and be in tears asking me to be nice to her…..when I explain my feeling and actions he has empathy-he knows and understands and is grateful for me-but he says I have to live with her……it’s so frustrating.
    Just yesterday I went to find some salt, several things fell out so I looked at the sell by dates (I do this every few years (which they appreciate but hate at the same time) out of about 80 spices and condiments 6 we’re reasonably in date and most were 5-10 years out of date so I started to recycle the glass and mum threw a wobbler, wanting to keep some for a ‘project’ and when I raised an eyebrow she went mad saying she works harder than any one she knows (she doesn’t-she gets my dad to do a lot and she works no harder than any other childminder I know-her friends are mostly all in the same profession) she doesn’t have time (she goes swimming/jacuzzi 5 times a week and at weekends goes to their caravan). Her whole house is like this. Why does it bother me? I suppose I’m embarrassed and worried that eventually I’ll have to clear it all anywAy.
    There are way more examples and issues; her mum and brother were vile to me as a little girl-she wouldn’t believe me although she does now-but chose to stand by and do nothing!!’ So guess I’m angry about that firstly, but I remember as a young girl all the shouting she used to do and think she was depressed, but took it out on us. My ex husband who she adored also Was physically abusive and emotionally, so at 24, after 4 years of marriage, I left and told her everything-she liased with my ex right there and begged us to get back together…..he almost killed me, yet she thought I was best off with him!!!! So guess I’m angry about that too. I remember as a teenager she disliked allll of my female friends and was never nice to them, they knew it I’m sure, and tyres to make me believe they were out to hurt or humiliate me…..where she may have been right in a few instances, she totally overwhelmed my natural instincts and friend making ability by being so negative and hostile about my girlfriends…..she fall out with so many people also, I feel embarrassed now living in my home village (which I adore btw) but there are so many people that she’s shut out, I don’t agree with her choices but wonder shy she has fallen out with so many people from our childhood (parents of childhood friends mostly). Any ideas what’s going on here?

  5. By: kiki lemar Posted: 28th April

    hey. am 27.
    finally finished campus last year n I haven’t been able to secure a job. I’m living with mom n I identify with 80%of this vibe. I always thought I’m the problem. that I’m the one who doesn’t do enough. she values me for my ability to keep her house clean n do domestic chores, help her on the farms… for free labour in short… she does it so much that she ensures i remain reliant on her n wont provide basics, soap, toothpaste, sanitary towels, etc unless I have “earned” them by working for her. n even then there’s no guarantees of her support. she’ll buy based on her mood. to her even 50 shillings is a lot to spend on me.
    my friends bail me out a lot. especially when I have interviews. I thank God coz they understand. but I still feel the void of no momly support.
    we aren’t a poor family. she’s always flying places drives a big car but if u contrasted her lifestyle to mine u could deny that we are related. she complains coz I don’t have nice clothes, n I am embarrassing her when going somewhere. there’s no real reason for mom to incapacitate me from building my life. but I know she is afraid of me gaining some independence of her. I’m always doing for her. but it takes miracles for her to do for me.
    I’ve tried talking bout it she simply doesn’t get it. according to her she is the best mom she can be n feels attacked, resorts to tears if you push it, so I’m forced to withdraw before my point is home. I feel guilty for days after making her cry.
    I know that even if I got a job I’d still feel the void of lacking unconditional motherly support. it’s something I may never have.
    my dad’s death never gave her an ounce of guilt for the many years she neglected n abused him. he had been sick for years but she was more engaged in making her millions. he worked even when sick to raise hospital fees, and schoolfees for us. if you saw mom n dad together you’d deny they were married. even from the dressing alone.
    only reason mom wa able to invest is coz dad educated us.. education in Kenya wasn’t cheap then. but if u asked her she’d say it was his duty. im glad he did it. I’m proud of him.

    this blog has taught me a few. mom can’t love me by her own definition of the word. she can’t love anyone. n it’s a thing of pity. for her. but she won’t drag me down that bottomless pit.
    I’m learning to accept That I’ll never know a real mom. it hurts but the sooner I let go the sooner I am able to be me. to think for myself n be an adult. to say no to her when she asks of me n feel no guilt. to be selfish with love for me.
    I only pray to get a job soon. I need to move away from this toxic relationship.
    the comments let me know that I will struggle with the mom issues for life. but I’m glad I’m not the first to Have this battle. n I’m not alone.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th April

      Hi Kiki
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken
      It is great to read of your conviction that your mom won’t drag you down to the bottomless pit! I don’t think I even knew my mom was part of the problem when I was in my twenties. I knew that I didn’t want to be like her but other than that, I thought something was wrong with me. I hope you get a job soon too and I hope you will share with us often.
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Lynetta Ribordy Posted: 28th January

    Boy I get it! I have nc with my mom cause she was always and I mean always at least verbally abusive! Who needs it! I’ve heard it all before ……and don’t want to hear it again! My life is so much better without her….I can’t even tell you! I’m tired of being belittled, stupid, comments about my children and things I need to do with my life according to her! Free yourself and you will blossom and grow! Some people were not made to be mothers…..and giving birth does not make you a mother! Love yourself first!

  7. By: LeDavia Posted: 27th January

    Dear EFB:

    I have found your website by divine intervention or accidental intervention 🙂 I love your statements about Self Love and I have had to learn over the course of 50 years how to “Love” myself because in all honesty the type of love my parents were capable of is not truly unconditional love. I am the daughter of two people who probably should have NEVER married to begin with due to becoming pregnant with me. They married because it was expected of them by their parents and I can’t truly say that my mother ever really loved my father because if she did I never saw that part of their life. I know my father loved my mother deeply but he was incapable of showing his love in the correct ways. He came home from Vietnam a different man than when he left addicted to drugs, alcoholic and an abusive bully who used any reason to beat me and my mother on many occassions. My problems with my mother are that she had to leave the marriage when I was barely 2 years old and she left me with my father and his inability to take care of a child or himself. He would not allow my mother to take me and I was basically kidnapped for the next 2-3 yrs. I was shuffled from extended relatives homes cousins, great aunts, uncles and hid from my mother during that time. I know she looked for me and came to find me several times but a part of me has always wondered why it took her so long to divorce him, take him to court and get custody of me. It took until I was 7 years old and in the mean time I was raised by two sets of grandparents who all gave me the love that my parents were not capable of giving me. I am an adult woman now almost 50 yrs old and I see things now I never saw before in my mother. I see a deep resentment in her that I consider my grandmother her mother to be my “mother” role model because I was with her and my grandfather the longest. I notice now when we go home to see my grandmother every few months that she starts to get very rude, hateful, sarcastic and just really disrespectful in the way she talks to me. My family back home are not very well off and mother helps them a great deal with money to survive. I find that I am noticing more and more that my extended family expect her to help them financially but then on the ride home she will vent about how much money she had to spend and help them with bills and money like it’s my fault she did this for them.

    The truth is the older I get the less I want to be around my mother. I know this is terrible thing to say but it is the truth. I rarely hear from her as we live a couple hours apart and I see her even less. I see her usually only when we are having to go home to another state to see my grandmother or the holidays. Yet, when I am doing well with work and college within the idea of what she finds upper class acceptable she will want to see me all the time and show me off to her friends and brag like we see each other everyday and talk everyday. But, now while I am only part time employed and going to college and I am NOT pursuing the college degree program that she seems to find acceptable or worth her time to even ask about. I have seen her only 4 times last year and this year I haven’t seen her or when I call she is too busy to talk or says she will call back and I don’t hear back from her for over two weeks or more. When I do hear from her it’s to ask me if I am alive and alright. I have tried countless times to get her to come to our new home and spend the night and go shopping or just let me cook dinner for her and there is always an excuse as to why she can’t come. In any home or apartment that I have ever lived in she has never spent the night except when I had a major surgery and she left the next day.I have truly often felt like I was an orphan because neither of my parents were there for the majority of my life time.When the divorce was over and I went to live with my mother and stepfather permanently my father decided to stop being my father and left it to my stepdad to do. He married a woman that from the day they married was emotionally, mentally and often physically abusive to me and would lie to my father and tell him I was lying when she locked me in closets and only let me out when she saw him coming up the road to turn in the driveway. She was demeaning and a bully and I have no ounce of love in me for her in any way or form. I have been essentially broken my whole life until I found a PTSD and Bipolar website that honestly saved my life. I have repressed my emotions and feelings so much in regard to my mother and father that it has taken me the last 8 years to be comfortable in the skin I am in and to truly “love” myself and to accept myself the way I am and who God made me to be. I was raised by my grandparents to be kind, loving, respectful, kind to animals, intelligent and to know that to live a good life it takes hard work, dedication and keeping God in my life. I hate the feeling I have that my mother is my mother but the truth is I do not really like my mother that much as a person. I love her because she is my mother but I do not like that when we go home that she flaunts the success she has had in her businesses, marriage and life yet has to downgrade the lives of our extended family and often includes my grandmother in this who I will defend everytime til the day I die because she and my grandfather were there when I could have been put into the Foster or Adoption Care system. I can honestly say that even after all these years in my life I am angry and basically the farther I stay away from my parents the better my mind is at peace and my life is not full of excessive up and downs with dealing with how my parents interact with me. I am in therapy when I can afford it but with continuing my Bachelor degree and being able to only work part time I have been unable to go to therapy in the last few months. Yet, through ALL I have been through I keep my motto “I am NOT a victim. I am a SURVIVOR”. I know I am not the only one and know that I can only “Fix” myself and work on being a better person for myself and those in my life that love me unconditionally. I praise you and thank you for starting this website and I pray that what we all find here no matter what are reason for finding it that we find above all PEACE here.

    God Bless You and Keep You


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th January

      Hi LeDavia
      Welcome to EFB ~ I don’t think it is a terrible thing to say that the older you get the less you want to be around your mother.. what comes to my mind is ~ well why would anyone want to be around that kind of person just because they are the person who gave birth to you? I had to validate my reasons for FEELING the way that I did; I had to validate them to myself, and really hear and validate my own pain in order to overcome the damage that was caused to me.
      Glad you are here!
      hugs, Darlene

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