The Relationship: Enmeshed
No decision gets made without the other’s approval, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
Why it’s good: “For girls, sameness is equal to closeness. In mothers and daughters, that translates into regarding each other like yardsticks by which they measure themselves, examining where they overlap and differ,” Tannen explains. When things are harmonious, it’s like the ultimate love affair―there’s one person you can always count on.
Why it’s challenging: With the pressure to be the same, it’s tough to create boundaries. When opinions differ, the stress of trying to gain the other’s approval (or feeling bad because she disapproves) can be overwhelming. “A daughter has to understand that Mom isn’t responsible for her anymore,” says Saltz. “A mother needs to realize that all her daughter’s wins aren’t her own wins; all her losses aren’t her own losses.”
Improving relations: These relationships are so intense because they’re often driven by a fear of abandonment, says Saltz. She suggests building boundaries slowly. Daughters should emphasize how deeply they value their mothers’ opinions, then make it clear that certain forthcoming decisions will be solo ones. “So many women try to make their mothers agree,” she says. “That’s not necessary―mostly they love you anyway.”