5 Key Factors which led to a successful relationship
A few years ago, a mother presented in my counseling room very concerned about her relationship with her young adolescent daughter at the time. She clearly valued a relationship with her daughter, and was concerned no matter how she tried to connect, how she communicated, it wasn't building their relationship. It appeared her daughter withdrew from her more and more as the days, weeks, and months went past.
As a mother, she had a lot of fears about the personal relationship her daughter was in, with a young man one (1) year older than her daughter, and what it could mean for her daughter’s future, if this relationship continued. There were fears about her daughter’s lack of interest in her education, and her lack of connection with her friends in her peer group. Further fears identified were her daughter’s lack of life skills, such as how to manage a household, pay her bills, and getting a part-time job.
My client felt it was her responsibility as a parent, a good mother, to prepare her daughter for the future. It became apparent, early on in our sessions together, these very real fears my client had, were driven by the experiences my client had in her own life. As a loving, and concerned mother, my client had the best of intentions; to make sure her daughter was not going to have the life my client had, and it was one of her primary goals in life, to make sure she guided her daughter in the best possible way.
My client was quick to mention she had specific expectations of her daughter, and described how her daughter withdrew from her, every time she would talk to her. Any attempt to arrange for having some lunch together, seeing a movie, or sitting together having a chat on a Saturday afternoon, was met with silence, and a closed bedroom door. My client became more and more distressed, realizing she was alienating her daughter, instead of establishing a connection.
I asked my client if she would be willing to share one or two of the expectations she did have of her daughter. She stated it was a house rule that her bed had to made, and her room tidied before she left the house for school in the morning. My client further explained she herself grew up in a home where a bed was made in a specific way. Most mornings my client said she would check the room, and when the bed was not up to standard, she would remake the bed.
I encouraged my client to ask her daughter how she felt when the bed she made before school, was remade by her mother. Just the one question, no explanations from my client; just listen, and bring the answer to the next session. In the next session, my client said: “My beautiful daughter said, she felt whatever she did, however she did it, she would never measure up, and she is just not good enough.”
This was the turning point for my client, and the relationship with her daughter. In the sessions which followed, we addressed my client’s personal fears and taking ownership of these, her communication with her daughter, to come alongside her, rather than talking to her, learning her daughter is an individual with her own hopes, dreams, and way of being in the world. My client became curious about the young woman she was raising, and learnt to appreciate her difference.
The key factors for the success of these sessions were the following:
- Client valued the relationship
- Willingness to say this is not working, and take ownership of her contribution
- Having conversations with her daughter, rather than talking at her
- Being curious about her daughter, her hopes and dreams
- Appreciating who she is, loving her without conditions
My client learnt demanding perfection from her daughter created anxiety, self-doubt in her own abilities, lack of motivation, and a fear of the future in her child. What her daughter needed was the certainty of her mother’s love, the encouragement of her effort, to learn about and grow into herself, and contribute to her family. These are the universal needs of every human being, and the place we find it, is in our relationships with our significant others.