Your Mother’s Daughter

Healing from a difficult relationship with your mother

We often hear about the beauty of the relationship between a mother and her child. It is a relationship that symbolizes nurture and love and kindness. Sometimes, however, that relationship is fraught with deprivation rather than nurture, indifference rather than love, or neglect rather than kindness.

Our relationships with our mothers can shape what we believe about ourselves. How can we learn who we are in God’s eyes when our self-perception has been tarnished by a difficult mother-child relationship?

I’m happy to have guest author Lori Byerly from The Generous Wife here to share how she moved past the lessons she learned from her mother.


Understatement: I had a difficult relationship with my mom.

I know she wanted to love well, but her personal wounds often meant anger, criticism, and disdain.

My older sister responded in rage and personal attacks. By the time I was old enough to remember, my mom and sister were the angry monsters in my life. My older sister (something of a second mom) punished me because I was an inconvenience to her life. My mom dumped on me because she was hurt and angry and I was an easy target. I also got the overflow of her anger with my sister.

In words and actions they taught me I was worthless, ugly, and weak. Being a kid, I believed them. I couldn’t do anything right, I was never going to be pretty, and I was stupid, just plain stupid.

In high school I had a couple of teachers that took an interest in me. They spoke to me kindly, even respectfully. I hardly knew how to respond, but in time I realized I would soon be an adult and I could choose how I would live. I still didn’t believe I would amount to much, but there was some hope I could build a life where anger didn’t rule.

A few years later I became more serious about my relationship with Jesus. I read my Bible and began to understand there was a battle going on.

A difficult marriage, a daughter, and a divorce later (yes, we tend to marry what we know), I continued to pray and look for truth. I studied and read good books.

Then I met and married a man who lived out his love for me. He gave me a safe place in which to fall apart. He walked with me through the painful memories and always spoke truth to me. He helped me see what my experiences had “taught” me about myself, God, and others.

I’ve had to examine everything. It’s been a huge chore, but pretty much everything foundational in my life was riddled with lies. The work of my life has been to ferret out those lies and go to God for His truth.

Today I know who I am in Him. I know I am loved by my sweetie and others. I have a life that is ruled by kindness and respect.

I am making peace with how God designed me. In the last couple of weeks I’ve crocheted a slouch hat for my husband, made several pairs of earrings, and painted my toenails. I have two blogs (one marriage themed, the other art) and I do a truckload of bookkeeping (no life is perfect). My husband and I live and travel in an RV (though at the moment we are settled down in Washington state next door to our cute grandson). We help lead a marriage group at our church and I’ve started taking better care of myself, working on a healthy diet and exercise as a lifestyle.

All these things are signs of a life being lived. I am no longer the little girl cowed by her mother’s anger and judgments. There are days I grieve the loss of what could have been (should have been?), but I’m allowing God to use my wounds and scars for his purposes. I have forgiven my mom and sister, though I have no real relationship with them, by their choice. I actually have a fair amount of compassion for them. I know their lives have not been easy and I hope they too will find greater truth and the peace that follows.

For those of you who have read my story and identify in some way, please know that you are a delightful creation. You have worth and value.

There is an enemy who would love to keep you tied to any lies you believe. I encourage you to turn to God who is Truth and allow Him to comfort your heart and teach you. Look especially at those things that define you ~ your personal makeup, your femininity, those areas where you are personally gifted. Those are all good things. God made you that way and delights in who you are.

Here are a few resources that have been helpful to me along the way.

Also: Buddy up to gals who know who they are, women who are comfortable with their gender, and people who live in a kindly, respectful way. You can learn a lot from them by just being around them.

Healing from a difficult relationship with your mother

Image credit | jill111 at

Lori Byerly

Lori Byerly blogs at The Generous Wife and Doodles from the Heart ). She also co-founded and writes for The Marriage Bed. Her home is where you find her RV, which she shares with her sweetie, Paul.
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4 Comments on “Your Mother’s Daughter”

  1. WOW! Such a powerful story! It sounded similar to my wife’s story, with a few changes. My wife was the older child (with a younger sister) and she never had her own children. But, her antagonist was her father, not her mother. Her father was “career Army” and served 3 tours in Nam. He never was complimentary toward my wife. He constantly belittled her, calling her fat, lazy, unattractive, and dumb, while he constantly doted on the “kind, sweet and beautiful” younger daughter. FYI: my wife is a very attractive woman. I’ve seen many a man oogle her while we’re out shopping or eating. Of course, she’s oblivious to it when it happens. LOL,

    After returning home from his 3rd tour, he came back a very changed man, for the worse. He retired from the military. He was an alcoholic, a gambler and did a few drugs. He was also diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He’d sit for hours in his recliner and talk to several people that he “saw” sitting with and around him. Jesus was a frequent visitor as well as many of his Army buddies who’d died in Nam.

    His drinking and drugs intensified his emotions. He became even more mean toward my wife (she was a young teen, 13-14, at this time). One night, after a few hours of drinking, he came into her bedroom and tried to rape her. She fought him off and he left. She told her mom, but her mom didn’t really believe her. Her mom confronted the father but he denied doing it, so, her mom dropped it. After that incident, my wife didn’t have much more to do with him. At 18, she “married the village idiot (not me) just to get away from her home-life” and left home.

    After high school, my wife decided she wanted to become an mechanical engineer. Her family told her, “Our kind of people don’t go to college.” They tried to discourage her at every turn. She (and her husband to a far lesser extent) worked full time and put herself through college. Her first husband, so proud of his accomplishment of “putting [his] wife through college, all by [himself],” decided to retire at the bright, young age of 35, and let her support him.

    She and I met at work. We were paired-up as a team. In fact, I trained her in many of the practical applications of mechanical engineering (applying her schooling to the real world of electric power generation). Come to find out we were, both, in very unhappy marriages. But, we didn’t have an “office romance.” Neither of us wanted that, even though there was a lot of “office gossip” about us when we were paired into a team. Some of that gossip made it back to our spouses but no one could produce any proof of anything we’d done wrong.

    I had 3 kids and an unfaithful wife (to me at least), and didn’t need my soon-to-be ex having anything she could use against me. She had a husband who refused to work and would bounce checks all over town. That, and the fact he didn’t like to have sex (she had to literally beg him to have sex) were the last straws for their marriage.

    Once our respective divorces became final, we started dating. We, both, wanted to get back into church. After about a year, we decided that in retrospect, it seemed that God had brought us together at times when we needed a friend and that our friendship had turned into genuine love for one another. We’ve been married over 22 years, now. She forgave her father for his actions. (He died shortly afterward.) Her mom, who had to work long hours and wasn’t home much, to keep food on the table while the father drank and gambled away his retirement, was finally convinced of what he tried to do. She’s now deceased, too.

    We praise God every day for bringing us together. My wife still has her moments of doubt about herself, but, she’s come to peace with her past, through God’s Grace. We couldn’t be happier!

  2. I’m glad she was able to face the past and forgive. I love success stories and I’m delighted you have created a lasting relationship together.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Lori. I know it will be encouraging to a lot of women. One small thing that really struck me is the impact that some high school teachers had on your life, simply by treating you with care and respect. That’s such a great reminder that we can all do small things to pour love into other people’s lives.

    1. I often share my story with teachers (it’s a tough job that is often thankless). It is amazing what a few kind words can have.

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