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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
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Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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My daughter was my closest friend and now she keeps me at a

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My daughter was my closest friend and now she keeps me at a distance except for an occasional shopping trip in which it is like old times. She always loved being at "hone" before, but now we rarely see her. My heart is breaking and I am lost without her.

Dear XXXXX : Thank you for your question.
Dear XXXXX : Children often go through changes in life. They begin to grow and experience life in new ways.
Dear XXXXX : But this doesn't mean that things could not go back to the way it use to be.
Dear XXXXX : Things may have changed right now but it doesn't mean it is forever. As children grown to find their way in life they often realize the things they use to do. Your daughter is not only your daughter she is your best friend and you miss how things once were.
Dear XXXXX : What you want to do is remind her of all those memories you shared.
Dear XXXXX : I am sure she enjoys going on those shopping trips because it reminds her how things once was but as life progresses for her and she discovers her life, you might see her even more.
Dear XXXXX : Children often look for that indepence to try to be on their own because they are trying to impress their parents. I am sure she wants nothing more than you to be proud of her. I can tell by what you have said that you both ate very close and have a great relationship.
Dear XXXXX : But you do not want to feel upset over her not being around as much so you want to tell her how you feel.
Dear XXXXX : Life can go by quickly and often times people do not realize the time they use to have got taken over by a busy life. She needs to understand that you need that special time with her again because you miss her.
Dear XXXXX : Remind her that you enjoyed being with her and that you feel like she is distancing herself from you.
Dear XXXXX : Tell her that you love her and that you understand things have changed, but you miss how things once were when she was home more.
Dear XXXXX : She might not realize how you feel and I am sure she will make more time for you.
Dear XXXXX : You also want to ask her what changed and why you do not see her as often. She needs to know that you want to see her more that you hope that you can see her more than an occasional shopping trip. I want you to try to make more plans with her.
Dear XXXXX : Invite her out more.
Dear XXXXX : You want her to know that things have not changed for you and you want to get back to how thing use to be. You do not want her to get settled with just going out once in awhile. You want her to know you need more time with her. I feel if you express how you feel she will tell you how she feels and why she has been distant.
Dear XXXXX : There could be a reason why and communication is important so that you can understand why she has distanced herself. Some times children get the wrong impression and think their patents no longer want to spend time with them. They go through so many stages of growing up.
Dear XXXXX : You want her to know that spending time with her is so important too you and that you want nothing more than to get back to how things once were. You can also write her a letter or give her a card to tell her how you feel.
Dear XXXXX : Some times it is hard to express everything you want to say in person. If you write a letter you can think about exactly what you want to say.
Dear XXXXX : Then she can respond and also take her time and understand what you write and how you feel.
Dear XXXXX : I feel you and your daughter will get back to how things were if you both just sit down and talk about each others feelings. Thank you again for your question.

How will telling her how I feel change her desires? If she wanted to be with me, or include me in her life as before, wouldn't she be doing that now? I am afraid of alienating her more by sharing my heartbreak with her. I really want to but feel that it could make things worse by putting pressure on her or being the one she PERCEIVES as putting pressure on her. She really runs from that. She feels I have betrayed her and she has told me that, because I shared a sensitive topic with family and I didn't know she felt private about it. She has been doing a lot of grieving about her personal loss and I have not been one she comes to for comfort or advice. How can a talk with her change all of that? I absolutely do not want to share with her something that will make her feel guilty or responsible for my own heartbreak, I figure the only thing I can do now is be strong and take it like a man so to speak, but maybe you are right.

Dear XXXXX :

Your daughter's relationship has changed and it is due to the fact that she feels like you should not have shared a sensitive topic, so she is having trouble with understanding why.

Dear XXXXX :

When people tell people personal things people often do not know how to react and they often go to others for advice or an opinion. Your daughter needs to know that you shared her personal topic because you needed someone to talk to as well so that you could help her because you love and care for her.

Dear XXXXX :

When people are going through personal problems they often push the person they love the most away, the reason is they expect that person to understand.

Dear XXXXX :

But they also might push the person away because there prelims are a constant reminder.

Dear XXXXX :

Some times people may say how they feel about something or a problem only to vent and get it off their mind but they some times never want to talk about it again. They often talk to feel better.

Dear XXXXX :

Your daughter is going through a tough time and one thing you don't want to do is remind her that she is going through a tough time. You want her to come too you if she needs to talk, but you do not want to bring up the subject first.

Dear XXXXX :

You want to invite her out and have fun take her mind off of things. If you feel not telling her how you feel will further push her away, then I would just keep making plans with her and just let her feel comfortable.

Dear XXXXX :

I think she needs you, but she does not want to talk about things, she just wants to be with you and have fun.

Dear XXXXX :

I want you to make plans with her and plan a special day or night with her and just be there and show her that things can be what they once were. Just have a special day together and she will see how much she needs you in her life.


thank you so much for your help.

I will offer a different point of view, but briefly, because you might not like it. If your daughter is in her twenties now, she may be ready to separate more from you and become her own person. If she's getting her comfort from someone else, you are doing the right thing to allow her to build her own life without keeping you as close as you were before. There's a spectrum of daughters, from one end of those who stay best friends with their mothers throughout their mothers' lives (5-10%)--and those usually don't manage to have very much intimacy with a man--through women who separate pretty effectively from their mothers in late teens through late twenties (70%)--and do find a man for intimacy and marriage then--and then may increase their closeness with mother when they become mothers themselves, though not as close as before they separated--and finally to women who separate in their twenties through college and career choices, whether they marry or not, and find out that they really are not cut out to be enough like their mothers that they would want to remain close through adulthood (20%--all rough guesses, and influenced away from staying close forever the more American society moves away from staying with traditional families and women embrace careers and individualism).


Mothering, like fathering, is SACRIFICE, and that means that you can't expect to get the same closeness-pleasure and intimate sharing with your daughter throughout your life, because she may need to go on and become different from you in significant ways, and she needs to not feel guilty about that--because you can make a life for yourself in your middle age and beyond that is Different than when you were a young mother. Even in fairy tales there are examples of a "too good mother" who unconsciously holds her daughter back from growing up different than her, because she is SO caring and comfortable that her daughter does not want to ever leave her: That kind of mother has to die (in the fairy tales) so that her daughter can face the world on her own and learn her own lessons in life. If you are very lonely because your daughter does not want your comfort any more, then it is good to take it like "a mature woman" who knows your path in life needs mature friends and mature partnership, because that will give you both room to search in the outside world and among other people for the New growth-producing relationships you need. She may get around to forgiving you for the mistake you made some day, but in the mean time you both have time to build lives with new interdependent relationships that reflect your actual ages and maturity levels.


It appears you are aware that adult daughters may want to separate from their mothers, and you might need to do something different than try to bring her back "home" to keep from feeling "lost" yourself. But what hurts you is that you're afraid it's your fault, because you betrayed her secret suffering to a (typical traditional) family rule--that everybody always knows everybody else's business. I presume you've already apologized, but you could write her and apologize again, and also add that you respect her for leading her own life her own way and you're happy for her, as well as happy for the times you still spend together. You can realize that neither of you planned to have your separation be abrupt and painful in this way; but it is a natural development in mother-daughter lives that sometimes has to come suddenly if it's lasted too long for your daughter's or your own good, and you can both benefit from building more independence to balance your abilities to be close and intimate with another woman.


It hurts most mothers terribly when their daughters distance themselves, and they cry daily for months or even a few years. That's part of the natural grief you feel for all those years of such loving intimacy. My wife did it, while out daughter (age 19-21) was still seeing me often at college where she went and I taught. Fathers can shut down their feelings more easily than mothers, but they feel it too. There's another stage of female adulthood after motherhood, and it takes some grief and some loneliness to get from motherhood to wisdom, self-mastery, artistry, and/or leadership roles in the community. If you don't have a mate anymore, then perhaps you'll need to seek a new one, or seek close friendships with people of your own age and maturity.


I won't be offended if you don't like what I've written, but I felt the need to offer an opinion that values independence and personal growth and places adult mother-daughter intimacy in that context. I don't know anything about your daughter's age or relationship status, so I'm shooting in the dark, but I've dealt with such issues with therapy clients over 40 years.

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1190
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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