Do I move on from needing validation from my mother or risk upsetting her by confronting her again?
I became very close to my mother after my parents’ divorce when I was 12. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that it had been an unhealthy dependent relationship where she had relied on me to heal her wounds and to be her source of comfort. Part of it was feeling hurt that she didn’t ever show much interest in what is going on in my life career wise. I got into a prestigious art school and was working hard at setting up a good career in the art world but she didn’t seem all that interested. Not like I’ve seen other parents be.
To better illustrate: She now lives about 5 hours away so I don’t see her often. We also don’t talk more than once every two or three weeks and it seems like it’s me doing most of the calling. When we do talk she mostly talks about herself and things going on around her. I ask her questions to elaborate on the things she is telling me to show that I am listening and interested. Sometimes I stop asking follow up questions to force her to finally ask me what is going on in my life. Then when I start to tell her how I’ve made some new strides toward defining my career path, failures that have set me back or creative inspiration that I’d found. Instead of follow up questions or comments that would communicate interest, she is either distracted by something and has to go or she turns my story around and it reminds her of something in her own life. It makes sense to me why finding my career path has been so difficult when I remember that she hasn’t really ever rewarded me with her attention for working hard at something or studying something. She is only interested in the emotional stuff. The soap opera stuff in my life. I feel like I get a nice pat on the head when I make a painting that happens to be close enough to her taste. I have confronted her about it in the past but she reacted very sensitively and like she was the victim. It made me horrified to make her feel so sad and wounded. I just wanted her to understand my need for her validation, take responsibility and put some effort in but instead I only felt like I wounded her deeply. I know that if I bring up her disinterest again that she will take it as me saying she is a bad mother and I will feel like the meanie for wounding her delicate feelings. So should I try to move on from needing validation from my mother (and if so how?) or do I risk upsetting her again by confronting her?
There’s a saying: Don’t go to the hardware store to buy a loaf of bread. Your intuition is right about this being something to deal with now. Don’t work so hard to get something from your mother that isnt part of her nature. It may be that she doesn’t quite grasp your talents or the nature of your career. She might not know how to give praise. In any case, at this stage of your life, you shouldn’t invest much time in teaching, training, and hoping for her to get this. You also have the experience of seeing her turn the tables when you were direct. It isn’t there for her to give.
By limiting your expectations of your mother you may be able to have a more pleasant time, and in fact, a better relationship. Try to accept her for who she is rather then invest your time and patience in trying to rebuild her. Do for her what you wished she could have done for you. This should give you a better way to join her in those areas you can connect on.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
APA Reference Tomasulo, D. (2018). Mother’s Validation Needed?. Psych Central.
Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/02/14/mothers-validation-needed/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.