Toxic relationships deeply affect us at any age, but our greatest period of vulnerability exists in childhood.
A toxic mother-child relationship influences us throughout our adult lives if not dealt with in a healthy manner. The first step is recognizing the signs.
1. You Harbor Negative Emotions
If you’ve acknowledged your mother’s maltreatment, then you’ve also acknowledged how it makes you feel. When you’re confronted with thoughts of your mother, a cauldron of negative emotions boils within you.
These negative emotions are often some mixture of dread, fear, anxiety, rejection, suffocation, or generalized emotional pain. You have a tough time identifying with friends and associates who derive pleasure from their relationships with their moms.
You might even fantasize about what it would be like to have a mother who evokes positive and loving feelings.
If you excuse your mother’s behavior, then you’re suppressing your negative emotions and still shouldering some of the blame. You might say:
· I wasn’t an easy kid to raise.
· I could’ve done more to help her.
· She had a lot of her own problems to deal with.
· That’s just how mom is.
· She did the best she could.
These expressions are okay if they come from a position of healing, but they’re not okay when they’re used to avoid reality and suppress your inner trauma.
2. You React to Conflict with Submission or Aggression
Toxic parenting causes children to develop dysfunctional conflict resolution methods to cope with a hostile authority figure.
If your mother broke your spirit, then you learned to deal with conflict by submission at all costs. What’s the purpose in standing up if you’re just going to be knocked down?
As an adult, you avoid conflict, neglect to stand up for yourself when necessary, and shrink back from defending others.
If your mother failed to break your spirit (but stomped all over your heart), then you learned to remain passive in your position of weakness but developed and internalized pain-induced aggression.
You’ve determined that no one will hurt you that way again. As an adult, you meet conflict aggressively and might lash out with little to no provocation.
The toxic relationship with your mother incites you to throw the first and the last punch when you feel emotionally vulnerable.
3. You Withhold Affection
Toxic mothers withhold affection from their children as a form of punishment. They learn that their mother’s love is conditional, based upon how thoroughly they please her. Some mothers may offer little to no affection, even when the child has done well.
In response, some children will constantly seek approval, hoping to receive the slightest sign of affection.
Others decide not to bother, isolating themselves emotionally and avoiding contact. In both cases, children are emotionally manipulated and learn that loving affection is a conditional and scarce commodity.
As an adult, you don’t know how to deal with freely-given affection, and you live in anticipation that it will be snatched away suddenly. Your joy and fear produce extreme emotional mood swings that your romantic partner doesn’t understand.
It’s not uncommon for you to withhold affection as a means of self-defense or to punish your partner for the slightest indiscretion. It’s your way of protecting your vulnerable emotions and communicating your pain.
4. You Seek Codependent Relationships
Codependent relationships involve a passive and a dominant partner who both find fulfillment in the passive partner’s emotional and/or practical dependence on the dominant partner.
The passive partner feels loved when someone else is willing to do everything for her. The dominant partner feels loved when she’s needed. The greater her partner’s dependence, the more loved she feels.
In this toxic relationship between mother and child, the mother acts as the dominant partner. She resorts to extreme measures to ensure her child will always need her, hampering healthy development.
Codependent parenting produces emotionally and/or practically codependent children. A child will become the passive or dominant partner as an adult, depending on her personality and the strength of her will.
As an adult, if you’re the passive partner, you feel loved when your spouse manages your life for you. It’s also common for you to expect your spouse to meet all your emotional needs.
You feel that you need your spouse to live, and in your passive-aggressive style, demand your partner demonstrates love in this manner. You feel unloved and rejected when your spouse can’t or won’t go out of his way to meet every need.
As an adult, if you’re the dominant partner, you have an insatiable need to be needed and might even create situations that ensure you’re indispensable.
Your partner’s dependence upon you, practically and emotionally, makes you feel secure. If you’re needed, you won’t be cast aside.
You have strong controlling tendencies concerning the outside world, but you remain emotionally dependent on another person.
Your emotional wellbeing hinges on how much others need you. If your spouse asserts some independence, you experience feelings of fear and insecurity, and even feel unloved.
5. You’re a Critic of Everyone, Especially Yourself
Toxic parenting unloads mounds of criticism on children. These mothers harshly critique every behavior that doesn’t please them, and the tiniest infraction unleashes disproportionate scolding or punishment.
Psychology has long taught us that we all develop an inner voice, and for many adults, their inner voice belongs to one of their parents, whether they realize it or not.
As the child of a toxic mother, you always feel monitored, as if someone is watching and critiquing your daily performance. You harshly judge yourself for every mistake or setback.
Failure brings an emotional crisis for you, as your self-worth rests solely on your successes. You constantly battle the voice in your head that relentlessly repeats that you’re not good enough or successful enough.
You have perfectionist tendencies and lofty expectations of others, becoming not only your own worst critic, but everyone else’s as well.
6. You Need Constant Validation
Children raised by toxic mothers become adults with low self-esteem. Their childhood environment was marked by criticism, withheld affection, conditional love, dominance, and conflict.
They’re plagued by feelings of worthlessness and seek validation from those closest to them. They primarily desire frequent validation through:
1. Recognition for good behavior or achievements
2. Reassurance that they’re loved
As an adult, you believe you’re inherently unlovable and fear others will soon realize it. When you do well, you ensure those around you know about it.
You need to give your inner circle a reason to continue loving you. Your low self-esteem drives your desperate need for accolades and words of approval from your family and friends.
Their praise helps you feel more secure in your relationships with them. Often, this is mistaken for pride, but in your case, it’s a trademark of insecurity. If you don’t receive their validation, then you feel devalued or worthless.
In your vulnerable state, you subconsciously assume others love as your mother loves, and you look for the signs. You monitor your spouse, family, and friends for indications that their love is diminishing.
As a result, you often overreact to minor transgressions, interpreting them as proof that you’re not worthy. Your need for validation keeps you on an emotional rollercoaster, because you rarely feel content with yourself and look to others for emotional fulfillment.
You Have The Power to Change
Healing from toxic relationships takes time. You can’t control the world around you or those in it, but you can have power over your reactions.
Choose to seek wise counsel and discover how your past and your emotions affect your present life.You don’t have to live in yesterday’s chains. Instead, choose to take daily steps toward a new future.