Mommy Issues in Women: What It Is, 68 Signs, Causes & its Effects on Love

You might think of women as having daddy issues, but they can have mommy issues too. Here’s how to you know if you have them and how you can heal.

mommy issues in women

You have probably heard the term “daddy’s little girl,” but not all women have a positive relationship with both of their parents. In fact, there are a lot of people who had a rough childhood. And as a result, women can develop mommy issues.

Before we dive deep into the phenomenon, let’s define what it means for women to have mommy issues.

What does it mean to have mommy issues?

The term “mommy issues” is one that describes the negative issues that some women have when they get older because of the kind of relationship they had with their mother as a child.

Most people are used to hearing it used to describe men who were too close to their mothers, but women can have problems too. [Read: Mommy issues in men – what it is and the signs to look for in a guy]

The challenges of having mommy issues manifest differently for males and females, but they are still all too real. If the mother wasn’t loving or overly critical of the child, it probably created low self-worth in the person even as an adult.

While “mommy issues” isn’t an actual psychological diagnosis, the phenomenon can still be explained with psychological theories. This is because a person’s mother is considered the most important person in a child’s life.

The psychology behind mommy issues

Believe it or not, mommy issues are more prevalent in females than males. Much of this goes back to Sigmund Freud’s psychological theories of the Oedipus and Electra complexes, which he wrote about in his psychosexual stages of development. 

The Oedipus complex develops when a male child feels like they are competing with their father for their mother’s affection and attention. [Read: Oedipus Complex: Have You Been Sexually Attracted to Your Mother?]

And the Electra complex develops when a female child feels like she’s competing with her mother for her father’s affection.

While those theories are kind of creepy because he also throws sexual attraction in the mix, there is some truth behind what he writes about. More than likely, the psychology behind mommy issues lies in attachment theory.

Attachment theory was developed by John Bowlby who theorized that emotional attachment styles formed in early childhood. These attachment styles can affect their future relationships too.

There are four main types of attachments that people can have.

1. Anxious-preoccupied

If a child was continually neglected, abused, or even abandoned, they might develop the anxious-preoccupied attachment style.

This causes them to be clingy, needy, and demanding in relationships. They fear that people will leave them, and that makes them anxious. [Read: Attachment styles theory – 4 types and 19 signs and ways you attach to others]

2. Fearful-avoidant

A person who has the fearful-avoidant attachment style finds it difficult to connect with other people.

They are distant and detached, especially in romantic relationships. They do this because they are afraid of getting hurt.

3. Dismissive-avoidant

If a person finds themselves avoiding romantic relationships altogether, then they have the dismissive-avoidant style. These people avoid deep relationships because it’s too difficult for them to handle.

4. Secure

People with secure attachments have self-love and are secure with themselves and in relationships. They have a lot less fear when it comes to other people and don’t have a lot of problems. [Read: Insecure attachment – what it is, types, 23 signs, and how it affects your life]

Importance of understanding mommy issues in women

Why is it important to understand mommy issues in women? Well, just like everything else in life, the better you understand something, the more equipped you will be to deal with it in a healthy way.

Many people have personality characteristics that other people don’t understand. And the person themselves might not even understand themselves. But if you learn more about mommy issues, sometimes a person *or even yourself* will make much more sense.

However, just knowing about mommy issues won’t fix it, but it is the first step to overcoming them and healing. [Read: 47 hurtful signs and effects of being the daughter of a narcissistic mother]

Difference between mommy issues and daddy issues

As the terms suggest, having mommy issues means that you have problems with your mother. And having daddy issues means you have problems with your father.

However, they can look different in women. For example, if a woman has mommy issues, perhaps her mother criticized her looks, called her fat, or demanded that she be a perfect person. 

This would cause her to have body image problems or become a perfectionist, all to subconsciously *or consciously* please her mother because she never got that approval from her as a child. [Read: Dating a perfectionist – The things you must know before you date one]

However, if a woman has daddy issues, maybe he neglected her, didn’t protect her, or even abandoned her.

This could cause her to be clingy and needy with the men she has romantic relationships with because she’s subconsciously thinking he will do the same to her as her father did.

Causes of mommy issues in women

It might not be too difficult to recognize that someone has mommy issues, but it might not be quite as clear as to what caused them. Here are some of the common causes.

1. Childhood trauma or neglect

Trauma can come in a lot of different forms – from emotional to physical. And neglect can look different too.

From being completely abandoned to being emotionally neglected, any of these problems can leave a deep scar in someone’s psyche. [Read: Narcissistic abuse – what it is, types, 58 signs, and ways they hurt and break you]

2. Overbearing or controlling mothers

Sometimes, being overbearing or controlling looks like it’s love. That’s because it seems like the mother loves the child so much that she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her.

But when a mother is like this, it’s suffocating and does not feel like love.

3. Absent or emotionally unavailable mothers

While it’s somewhat rare, some mothers completely abandon their children. Obviously, this creates a deep sense of rejection for the child.

But even if the mother is physically present, she might not be emotionally connected to the child at all.

4. Mothers with mental health issues

There are many kinds of mental health problems. It could be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or even psychosis, just to name a few.

So, if a mother isn’t happy and emotionally stable, this can mentally impact the child. [Read: Narcissistic sociopath – how they think, 31 signs, and ways to deal with them]

5. High expectations and constant criticism

Of course, it would seem like most parents want their children to be the best they possibly can be. While that is a wonderful goal, some mothers go too far.

They might expect their children to be perfect and punish them when they’re not. This can also accompany constant criticism.

6. Lack of motherly affection or validation

Everyone wants and needs affection and love from their mothers. It’s just human nature because your mother is supposed to love you more than anyone else in the whole world.

So, when a child doesn’t get this from them, it can lead to a lot of issues. [Read: How to stop being needy – why people get clingy and 32 ways to fix it]

7. Unresolved grief from the loss of a mother

Having mommy issues doesn’t just come from having a negative experience with your mother growing up.

It could also happen from the mother passing away or even abandoning the child. If there is still unresolved grief, that will negatively affect the child throughout her life.

8. Mothers who were victims of abuse or trauma themselves

Sometimes, families have cycles of abuse or trauma. If the mother abuses her daughter or is otherwise a bad mom, it could be because she went through the exact same thing when she was a child. [Read: Pathological liar – what causes it and 55 signs and ways to help them change]

She may not know anything else. That’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation.

9. Favoritism among siblings

While mothers are supposed to love each child equally, that doesn’t always happen.

Even if she does love all her children equally, she might not always treat them the same way. If a girl perceives that one or more of her siblings were their mom’s favorite, this can create mommy issues too.

10. Mothers who were overly dependent or needy

Parents are supposed to be the strong ones in the parent-child relationship. However, not all parents are the strong ones. [Read: Dependent personality disorder – what it is and how to read the signs]

Sometimes, the roles are reversed, and the mother is overly dependent or needy toward the child. This can create resentment because it robs the child of the chance to be in the child role with their mother.

11. Body shaming or emotional manipulation by mothers

Many women have body image problems, and a lot of it stems from societal expectations and pressures.

But when their mother adds to that, or they emotionally manipulate the daughter in some other way, it’s not surprising this would create some resentment for the mother.

12. Mothers who did not respect personal boundaries

Yes, it’s the role of a mother to love and protect their children. [Read: 23 Secrets to set personal boundaries and guide others to respect them]

However, as the child grows older, the mother should relax her involvement in order for the child to mature. But if she doesn’t respect the daughter’s personal boundaries, then the daughter will be angry because of it.

13. Mothers who were not good role models

There are many different reasons a mother could be a bad role model for their children. It could be from something like substance abuse or dating too many men that she continually brought home.

For whatever reason, if she wasn’t a good role model as a mother, then the daughter would most likely develop mommy issues. [Read: 28 Self-Improvement secrets to improve yourself and transform into your best self]

14. Exposure to domestic violence or dysfunction in the home

Unfortunately, there are too many homes with dysfunction or even violence. Even if the mother isn’t the one who is the abuser, she might be a victim herself.

But she might not have protected her children from the abuser, which can create resentment in the child.

15. Mothers who put their own needs before their child’s

When you are a good parent, there is no room for selfishness. The child’s needs should come before her own.

But sometimes, mothers put their own needs before their children’s. This can not only be dangerous, but it also shows that the mother doesn’t really care too much about the children. [Read: Selfish people – 20 ways to spot and stop them from hurting you]

How mommy issues impact adult relationships in women

As you can see, there are a lot of different causes of mommy issues in women. It’s difficult to have issues with your mother, but what’s even worse is that it can impact the relationship they have as adults, and here’s how.

1. Difficulty in trusting others

Because the child can’t trust her own mother, she becomes distrustful of almost everyone.

After all, if you can’t trust the person who gave birth to you, why would you think that anyone in the world would be able to be trusted? 

2. Fear of rejection or abandonment

If a woman’s mother rejected or abandoned her, then this will become her “norm.” [Read: 36 Healthy ways to handle rejection and respond positively even if it hurts]

That’s what she saw growing up – people rejecting and abandoning her. So, it’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy because she thinks it’s normal for people to do that to her.

3. Unresolved anger or resentment

Chances are, if a mother was bad enough for a woman to develop mommy issues, then there will be a lot of anger and resentment that will build up through the years.

This can manifest in many ways, such as depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from people and even life itself.

4. Need for control or power in relationships

It’s likely that the child felt powerless when they were growing up because her mother was not a source of comfort and love. [Read: Controlling people – 32 common traits, signs, and ways to deal with them]

Because she never had any control as a child, she subconsciously needs the power in her relationships to make her feel safe.

5. Difficulty expressing emotions or feelings

Perhaps the mother never allowed her daughter to talk or express anything she was feeling. As a result, the daughter probably learned just to keep her mouth shut. So, as an adult, she might not have the skills to express her thoughts and emotions.

6. Problems with self-esteem and self-worth

If the mother was overly critical or demanded perfection that the daughter couldn’t meet, then this will naturally lead to low self-esteem and self-worth. [Read: How to build self-esteem and love life with simple life changes]

Once the child’s bad self-image is developed young, it’s very difficult to change that later in life.

7. Overly dependent or co-dependent relationships

Because the woman wasn’t able to rely on her mother for anything, she might transfer that need to other people.

So, she could become overly dependent on others or even co-dependent. She does this because she’s seeking what she never received as a child.

8. Difficulty setting personal boundaries

The mother likely didn’t teach her daughter about how to set personal boundaries because she probably didn’t have any of her own. [Read: How to set boundaries with a narcissist and weaken their hold over you]

Children learn from their parents – for better or for worse. So, later in life, the woman might turn into a people-pleaser or a doormat with other people.

9. Intimacy issues and fear of vulnerability

A woman with mommy issues wasn’t able to get emotionally close to her mother while she was a child. She probably needed it, but it wasn’t provided.

As a result, she is fearful of being vulnerable or getting too close to people because she doesn’t want to be rejected again.

10. Patterns of choosing abusive or neglectful partners

Because their mother was either neglectful or abusive to them, again, this becomes their “normal.” [Read: Emotional abuse – what it is and 39 signs this relationship is breaking you]

So, as they get older, they sort of expect their romantic partners to treat them the same way because they think that’s all they deserve from people.

11. Anxiety and depression related to relationships

Not having a good relationship with your mother growing up – or even as a grown adult – is just flat-out depressing. Everyone desires to be loved by their mom.

But when that doesn’t happen the way it should have, then it’s likely that persistent anxiety and depression will result. [Read: Signs of anxiety – how to read the signs ASAP and handle them better]

12. Difficulty accepting love or affection

The mother directly or indirectly taught the daughter that she was not worthy of love and affection. After all, if your own mother doesn’t think you’re worthy of receiving it, then you don’t even know how to accept it at all – from anyone.

13. Extreme self-reliance and difficulty asking for help

If the mother was neglectful or abandoned the daughter, the woman might have had to learn how to fend for herself.

Maybe she was the “mother” to her older siblings and had to be extremely mature and responsible. This, in turn, might make her extremely independent and unable to ask for help from other people. [Read: Dating an independent woman – 28 expectations and other must-knows]

14. Seeking validation or approval from partners

It’s basic human nature to be liked and loved by other people, especially our parents. But when you don’t get that as a child, some people go seeking it from other people. And the most likely person they seek it from is their romantic partner.

15. Fear of becoming like their mother

A woman with mommy issues most likely doesn’t even like their mother as a person.

Because of this, she probably does everything she can to be the opposite of her. This fear can run very deep and can affect other areas of her life too.

How to handle mommy issues in women in a relationship

If you find yourself in a relationship with a woman who has mommy issues, it can be very difficult to deal with. So, you need to learn to see the right signs and know how to handle these issues as best as you can. [Read: 42 Secrets to communicate better in a relationship and ways to fix a lack of it]

Understanding the Issue

1. Recognize and acknowledge the existence of mommy issues

Burying your head in the sand or looking the other way doesn’t fix anything. You can’t change what you don’t recognize.

So, the first thing you need to do is to get her to realize that she has a problem and it’s affecting you, her, and the whole relationship.

2. Understand what mommy issues are and how they impact relationships

You might not have even known what mommy issues are until you read this feature. But this is the starting point.

Now that you are learning about what they are, you can gain a better understanding of how they are negatively impacting your relationship.

3. Recognize signs and symptoms in your partner

Once you are more educated about mommy issues, you can learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of them in your partner. [Read: 36 Ways and questions to fix a broken relationship and rebuild it with love]

Study this feature and get as familiar as you can with all the signs. Write them down so you can get even clearer about them and your partner.

4. Learn about the root causes of mommy issues

There are many different causes of mommy issues, and no two women are the same.

It could be because they were abused, neglected, abandoned, or just because their mother expected them to be perfect. Whatever it is, learn as much as you can.

5. Educate yourself about the psychological aspects of mommy issues

As you know by now, the actions of the mother have negatively impacted your partner and created some pretty serious psychological issues. [Read: 45 Facts about love and psychological secrets to decode how the mind works]

Read as much as you can about these things and see how you can help your partner overcome them.


6. Encourage open and honest communication

It might not be easy for you to go to your partner and say, “Hey, I think you have mommy issues!”

In fact, she might not even consciously know herself. But it’s okay to bring it up and talk about it. Encourage her to be honest and vulnerable with you. 

7. Be patient, understanding, and respectful during discussions

It’s probably difficult for her to talk about the issues she has with her mother. It might be something she wants to avoid or forget. [Read: How to show empathy and learn to understand someone else’s feelings]

But if and when she does talk, have empathy for her. Realize she was a victim as a child and be patient and respectful of her feelings and actions.

8. Practice active listening when your partner talks about their feelings

Listening is so much more than just physically hearing what someone has to say. It involves paraphrasing, asking probing questions, and much more.

Be very attentive and let her know that you are here for her and want to learn as much as you can about her mommy issues.

9. Avoid judgment or criticism when discussing these issues

You may or may not understand where she is coming from. In fact, you might just think that it wasn’t that big of a deal and she should just “get over it.” [Read: How to be kind to yourself and others and love life instead of hating it]

But remember, perception is reality. If she perceives her mother as a problem, then it is a problem for her, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Don’t judge or criticize.

10. Be supportive and empathetic, even if you can’t fully relate

You might have grown up in the perfect family, so you might not be able to relate to how she grew up. Or maybe you did grow up in a dysfunctional family, but it didn’t affect you as deeply.

Either way, be supportive and empathetic of her feelings as much as possible. [Read: How to develop empathy and master the art of growing a real heart]

Encourage Professional Help

11. Recommend seeking professional help from a licensed therapist or counselor

Many times, people can’t work through deep emotional and psychological issues by themselves. So, encourage her to see a therapist to help her work through her feelings.

Remind her that it’s a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. Go to therapy with her if she wants you to.

12. Support your partner’s journey in therapy, if they choose to go

If she chooses to go to therapy, remain supportive and ask her questions about it if she wants to share what she has been discovering. [Read: Relationship therapy – 25 clues to know if it’ll help your romance]

And as noted above, if she wants you to be part of the therapy process with her, then be a fully supportive partner.

13. Attend couples therapy to work on relationship dynamics

Whether or not she wants to go to individual therapy, you can consider couple’s counseling too.

It’s likely that her mommy issues are affecting you and the relationship as a whole, so that way, you can work through some issues you have as well.

14. Explore group therapy or support groups

If individual or couple’s therapy doesn’t appeal to her *or you*, then maybe you might be more comfortable with group therapy or even just support groups. You can find either in-person support groups or even online.

Practice Patience

15. Understand that overcoming mommy issues takes time

Remember, she will not wake up tomorrow morning and resolve all her mommy issues. It took a long time for them to develop, and it’s going to take a lot of time for her to work through them. [Read: 55 Secrets and self-love habits to build confidence and realize your worth]

So just don’t expect too much too soon from her.

16. Be patient and supportive throughout the healing process

As we said, getting over mommy issues takes a lot of time. She is going to need your patience and support if she is going to get through this. But remember, this will also benefit you in the long run if you just stick with it.

17. Keep realistic expectations and avoid rushing your partner’s healing process

Of course, you want to wave a magic wand and make her suddenly happy, healthy, and whole. But it doesn’t work that way. [Read: 20 Healthy expectations in a relationship that define a good love life]

So, just be realistic about the healing process. There will be ups and downs and bumps in the road along the way.

Building Trust

18. Be consistent and reliable to build trust

She probably learned not to trust people from growing up that way with her mother. So, you can help her have faith in people again, but that means you have to be an ethical, upstanding person yourself. Be the consistent and reliable person that her mother wasn’t. [Read: 44 secrets to win a girl’s trust, signs and the big mistakes many guys make]

19. Show your partner that you won’t abandon them

There is a good chance that one of her major mommy issues is abandonment. If that’s the case, then you need to reassure yourself that you are in the relationship for the long haul. [Read: Abandonment issues -what it is, causes, types, 34 signs, and how it hurts you]

20. Allow vulnerability in the relationship

She is probably not used to being vulnerable, because she probably wasn’t allowed to be as a child. So, you’ll need to show her that not only is it safe to be vulnerable, it’s a necessary part of the healing process if she wants to overcome her mommy issues.

Promoting Healthy Relationship Habits

21. Establish and respect healthy boundaries

Healthy boundaries are a necessary part of any good relationship. She may not even know how to establish her personal boundaries because she probably didn’t learn how to do that as a child.

So, help her establish them, and then respect the boundaries when she enforces them. [Read: Boundaries in a relationship – 43 healthy dating rules you MUST set early on]

22. Encourage and practice self-care regularly

Not only will overcoming her mommy issues be difficult for her, it might even be difficult for you too. After all, you are probably her only supporter.

So, don’t forget to take some time for yourself and practice self-care. Encourage her to do the same too.

23. Foster a safe and non-judgmental space in the relationship

She is probably self-conscious of her mommy issues. Her insecurities are probably pretty high, so you don’t want to add to them by being judgmental or critical of her. [Read: Insecure women – 54 signs, causes, things men do and secrets to feel secure]

Lead the way and create a safe climate in the relationship so she can be vulnerable and work on her healing.

24. Help your partner develop healthy coping mechanisms

There’s a chance that she might have developed some bad habits through the years in order to cope with her mother. [Read: 45 Secrets to be more positive and fill your mind with positive emotions 24/7]

Maybe she drinks too much, shops too much, or even sleeps too much. Encourage her to overcome the bad habits and try to get her to cope in a healthier way.

25. Practice forgiveness and let go of past resentments

A woman who has mommy issues might have some bad behavior from time to time. She might have said or done something to you that you didn’t like, and it could stem from her childhood trauma.

But try to forgive her and let go of your resentment so you feel better yourself.

Strengthening Self-Esteem

26. Encourage activities that boost your partner’s self-esteem

Since your partner’s self-esteem has been broken down by her mother throughout her life, you can try to do things that will make her feel better about herself. [Read: 65 Couples activities and fun things to do that’ll make you feel closer than ever]

Schedule a photo shoot, let her get a makeover, a new haircut, or anything else that will make her happy.

27. Provide reassurance and positive reinforcement

When someone doesn’t have very good self-worth, they need to get their affirmations from outside of themselves.

So, that’s why it’s important for you to reassure her that she’s a wonderful person. Put positive thoughts into her head.

28. Help your partner recognize their worth and value

Because she probably doesn’t see her own worth, you need to see it for her. [Read: Low self-worth – 5 steps to see yourself in a better light]

Point out all of her good qualities and compliment her often. It’s not likely that she heard any of that from her mother when she was growing up.

29. Support your partner’s individual interests and hobbies

Part of what makes people special is what they are interested in doing. Some people like sports, and other people like books.

So, be that supportive partner who encourages her to pursue her interests and hobbies.

Developing Independence

30. Encourage your partner to be independent

There is a good chance that your partner could be codependent or feel like they are unable to be independent. [Read: How to be emotionally independent and stop using others for happiness]

If she feels that way, make sure she knows that you think that she is a strong, capable person who can do anything she wants in life on her own.

31. Support your partner’s decisions and validate their feelings

Even if you don’t understand her feelings *or maybe think they’re not valid*, you can’t tell her that. You have to remain the strength in the relationship. Support any decision she makes and how she feels about what happens in her life.

32. Promote a healthy balance between dependence and independence in the relationship

The best and healthiest relationships are the ones in which there is a balance. [Read: How to be independent and balance seeking help and being stubborn]

You should keep your identity to some extent and be your own person. But you should also put effort into the relationship and create a strong partnership.

Creating Future Plans

33. Involve your partner in making decisions about the future

If your partner grew up with a lot of uncertainty in her life when she was a child, then she probably doesn’t think that most people will provide her with a secure person.

Talk about where your relationship is going and make plans together for the future.

34. Reassure your partner about your commitment to them

She probably felt unloved when she was a child because her mother didn’t give her positive, loving messages. [Read: Committed relationship – 59 signs and ways to show your commitment in love]

So, she might think that you will reject her too. That’s why it’s important to make sure she is reassured that you are committed to her and you’re not going anywhere.

35. Build a future that respects and accommodates both partners’ needs

Everyone has their own individual needs, which is normal. So, it’s important to work together and talk about what kind of future you want. Be equal partners and respect each other’s wants and needs.

Encourage Personal Growth

36. Encourage your partner to identify and pursue personal goals

Everyone needs to have a reason to get up in the morning that they are excited about. [Read: 17 Signs of a supportive partner who encourages you and your goals]

So, help your partner figure out what she’s passionate about. Once she knows what she wants, encourage and help her follow her goals and dreams.

37. Support your partner’s personal growth and self-discovery

It’s important to become self-aware and grow as a person. Your partner might not have had the chance to do that because her mother didn’t encourage that.

So, that’s where you come in. Support her personal growth and the process of her finding out who she is.

38. Celebrate your partner’s achievements and milestones

Whenever she does accomplish something exciting in her life, you need to make sure that you are her biggest cheerleader. She needs someone in her corner who is supporting and encouraging her, and you are the perfect person to do it.

[Read: 38 Signs and traits of a happy, healthy relationship and what it should look like]

It might seem like the chances of a woman healing her mommy issues are near impossible. But that’s not true. It can be done, but it will take some effort and time. But once you put in the work, it will definitely be worth it and you’ll be happier.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...