In recent blog posts we've discussed communications in relationships and the choice to be estranged. There may come a time in your life where you want to build bridges and work towards repairing broken relationships putting the past behind you once and for all.
This guide, although worded in terms of reconciliation in mother-daughter relationships can be adapted and applied to significant other relationships, friendships and other family member relationships.
Failure to heal the first relationship in our lives leaves many daughters with a gnawing ache long after their mothers have passed away. This filters through into all relationships, most of all, the relationship with the self. It takes two to make a relationship work. Commitment and consideration is needed from both parties, striving at all times to speak and act from a place of love. When we focus on what’s the best that can happen, it’s possible to transform a relationship into one which brings new meaning and one where we can eventually allow the love in our hearts to flow.
If you are going to reconcile with your mother, make sure it is wholly your decision and not based on other people’s opinions, expectations or judgements. If you are receiving pressure from other family members or your mother’s friends, simply explain you have personal reasons for your decision to remain estranged. Whatever your reasons for estrangement, you are not to blame for how your mother or other relatives respond. Choices are made based on the facts we have at the time of making a decision and the knowledge, learning and wisdom within.
Time apart can help the dynamics of your relationship and it is possible to reconcile, if your thoughts and feelings towards your mother change after having some personal space. To reconcile, effort must be made by both mother and daughter to restore the relationship by stating their respective needs clearly. Putting the past behind you and beginning again, is the healthiest way to reconcile. It may mean agreeing to disagree, though also making a condition between the two of you to let bygones be bygones. Knowing you have at least tried to build your relationship while your mother is alive, will give you a sense of peace when she is no longer in this world.
Why do we demand our mother’s love when we are guilty at times of withholding love from her?
Conditional love creates a divide. When both mother and daughter are stating the conditions and neither one will budge, it may as well be a stake-out at The O.K. Corral - though it doesn’t have to be this way. It only takes one person to change their behaviour and responses. One of you must begin to be the adult in the relationship. Making this change and operating from a new mindset, breaks the behaviour loop. You can put the guns down and let the dust settle forever.
Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures - John F. Kennedy
The intention behind doing the inner and outer work is to build bridges with your mother, close the distance between you, understand your differences and put the past to rest. Letting go of old habits in the way you respond to her, will not only help with your own stress reduction, but your life as a whole will improve and so will your relationships generally.
· Thinking about past conflicts, what are you or your mother still holding onto which causes stress in your lives?
· How does emotional stress manifest for you physically? (i.e. headaches, backaches, anxiety, tension, sleeplessness)
· Taking the above two statements into account, when you are able to forgive each other, how will this change your relationship for the better and what physical ailments would you both gladly be free from?
· What workable solutions can be created between you both in order to move forwards?
Steps to reconciliation
1. Accept the past is the past. You cannot change the past, though you can change the beliefs and meanings you have placed on previous experiences
2. Start afresh and be willing to move forward, working towards improving your relationship with your mother
3. Educate yourself about your mother’s past, the events, situations and experiences she has been through which may have shaped her behaviours, responses and ability to parent effectively. Her behaviour is only part of her, not all of who she is
4. Find a place inside yourself where there is empathy, compassion or at least the beginning of an understanding towards your mother and what has shaped her into who she is
5. Realise your mother is not fully to blame for your current problems. Situations from her past experiences led her to behave in the way she did
6. Work towards forgiving your mother’s actions and behaviours (It is not about condoning what happened, forgiveness sets you free from the past dictating your future)
7. Revise your expectations of your mother and make them realistic
8. Renegotiate your relationship with your mother using assertive communication
9. State what you want (not what you don’t want) in your interactions with her
10. Make your goals and ideals realistic and achievable
11. Convey your hopes for the future (positively framed)
12. Set clear boundaries of what is ok and not ok for you
13. Take care of yourself (self-nurturance) as the adult you are. This is about meeting your needs independent of your mother
14. Accept responsibility for making positive change and be willing to work towards this
15. Remember, forgiveness works towards setting you free from the past and aids in finding a space for reconciliation, inner peace and love
For reconciliation to take place, it is possible you and your mother can agree a time to meet and talk without the need for a mediator. If so, make a time to meet for a specific duration (about an hour to two hours). Just like a business meeting, create an agenda containing positive hopes for the future. Stick to the agenda without blaming, focussing on the desired outcome you want. If you need to, use an egg timer to give each other equal time to make a point. Or, you can use a soft toy, pebble, or small item which you can hold in your hands to pass to the other person, when you have finished speaking.
This way of communicating allows for each person to speak while the other agrees only to listen while the item is being held, or timer is being used. Holding onto the item isn’t about being overbearing and controlling the conversation, it is used as a ‘talk stone’ and helps to alternate fairly between ‘talker’ and ‘listener’.
It’s important to set clear boundaries before you consider reconciliation. This will be helpful if you are to build a positive relationship. Reconciliation isn’t about conditional love though it is about changing the relationship dynamics which may not have worked up to now. In the next chapter I will offer suggestions for therapies and processes which are effective tools for healing.
If you'd like some help and guidance in improving your relationships, contact me to discuss you needs and work out the best support programme
The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind - Kiran Desai