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Mother and Daughter Have a Volatile Relationship

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From Australia: My mother and I have always had a volatile relationship. Last night she drank a bottle of red wine and when I queried her about it she became angry and went to her room and came out with her bags saying I will not stay where I am not wanted. Since she lives 7 hours drive away and was quite drunk, I blocked the door and said don’t be silly you’re drunk, just go to bed. She yelled at me that she would “beat me down” and “just you try,” things escalated very quickly and we ended up in a physical situation.

I have a history with abuse at the hands of an ex partner and quickly stepped back into a role where I encouraged the hitting even going as far as to grab my mothers hand and hit myself with it, saying come on you love it beat me down then. All this while my baby daughter slept in her room. Eventually I let her go and she returned the next morning with a bruise on her face.

We didn’t really talk in depth about it. We did talk a little and came back to the same story of her wanting me to admit to her that my father is immoral and treated her badly when they were together. He is a good dad to me and I have a hard time with this. I am sick with guilt and just want her to leave. Like I said this is not our first physical fight but I really want to stop the violence and I have no idea how to go about it. It seems a cycle, every few months the energy gets so tense until we have a huge fight hurt each other and then it’s fine for a while. Please help, I am beside myself. Am I a terrible human being? I feel like it.

Mother and Daughter Have a Volatile Relationship

Answered by on -


You and your mother are cooperating in keeping this “dance of anger” going. There is something relieving for both of you in the fights or you wouldn’t keep it up. Meanwhile, make no mistake about it, your little girl is learning that this is the way that mothers and daughters treat each other. I hope that reality will give you extra motivation to make some changes.

My guess is that neither you nor your mother has a healthy self-esteem. She only feels good about herself if she feels morally superior to her ex. You only feel good about yourself when you feel guilty for the fights. Neither position is healthy or helpful.

Clearly there is something that binds the two of you together. You keep trying to be in relationship. You both keep going back for more. But if you and your mom could stop the cycle of anger on your own you would have done so already. I strongly encourage the two of you to get into some family therapy together. Two intelligent women like yourselves can work through your individual and collective pain and can forge a more positive and loving mother-daughter relationship. Do it for yourselves. Do it for your little girl.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Mother and Daughter Have a Volatile Relationship

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Mother and Daughter Have a Volatile Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 30 Dec 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.