I Don’t Love My Mom

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Raised by my mother, so she was obviously always working trying to support us. There are only a few memories I have of her and none of them are pleasant. She was mean, verbally abusive and on occasion physically abusive. She always had a boyfriend around, some were abusive as well. I was exposed to a lot of sexual activity through them or on television, I was molested by her bfs daughter (I was 7 she was 13). I was constantly alone. I always watched them fight and yell. I never felt loved by her. We never hug, kiss or say I love you. I hated her for years, and now I’m just indifferent. It makes me squirm to think about her, or to get to know her, to hear about other really good mom and daughter relationships. The thought of hugging her gives me anxiety. I don’t like the sound of her voice and now when she says I love you, I hate it. I can barely stand to be around her for only a little while.

I love my grandma, she has always been kind and affectionate. My best friends mom does all the i love you’s, I’m proud of you, hugs and kisses to me. To me, she is my “should have been mom.” At first I was weirded out by the kisses, hugs were okay, but now I don’t mind them so much.

Will time heal my wounds? Therapy? Is it a lost cause to even try? Why can’t I love my mom?

A: Sadly, not every person gets a mother who knows how to be a mom. Yours clearly didn’t know how to protect you or love you as she should. Apparently the best she could do was to keep a roof over your head and provide for you. That’s not nothing, but it wasn’t enough. It has left you with an emotional hole you are trying to fill.

But — you have been lucky enough to have alternate mothers. Your grandmother and your friend’s mom can fill the emotional needs your mother can’t handle. In psychology, we call such people “benevolent witnesses.” They are people who provide a positive experience of a loving relationship when a parent can’t or won’t do it. They become the source of loving interest and care in the present and a beacon for how to be a good parent in the future. You have not one, but two such women in your life. This is a gift!

I’m not sure you’ll ever be able to love your mom. You may be able to figure out what made it so hard for her to be a better mother. You may be able to forgive her for not doing better. You may be able to thank her for what she was able to do in spite of her own challenges. Your compassion and appreciation are the kind of love you can give her honestly.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to look far for the kind of motherly love or mother-daughter relationship you seek. You already have them in your grandmother and your friend’s mom.

I think therapy could help you feel okay about the limits of your relationship to your biological mother and would help you embrace the mothering that is available to you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Dec 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). I Don’t Love My Mom. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/12/15/i-dont-love-my-mom/