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The Good Daughter Syndrome
with Katherine Fabrizio, M.A., L.P.C.

Is Mom The 3rd Person In Your Marriage? If So, The Consequences Are Worse Than You Think

Her timing is impeccable.

 Just when you are starting to get intimate with your partner your cell goes off…

“Hold on sweetie; I’ve got to get this. It’s mom calling!”

Good lord, the invasion of Iraq didn’t take this much planning.

Your oldest is having a play date, SCORE!
The baby down for a nap, SCORE!
Your libido is somehow retrieved from the south pole……SCORE! SCORE! SCORE!

A private moment stolen with your husband/partner, and just as you were starting to, you know, get that lovin’ feelin’, your cell goes off, and it’s YOUR MOTHER!

As your husband rolls over, groaning in exasperation and clicks on the remote control, your mother intones into the phone that your sister has just gotten a DWI……..AGAIN!

Or something, or someone, has upset her – a family crisis no doubt- and she needs your attention, your listening ear.

With your hand over the phone, you turn to your husband and whisper- “she really needs to talk. I’m sorry.”

And just like that your sex life, or what passes for one, has just been put on life support by dear old mom.

“SCORE” is replaced with “EPIC FAIL”!

Your libido just been put on ice. Again.

Even IF you could start up again time-wise, nothing puts the kibosh on your libido like a convo with mom.

Let’s take a look at what just happened here-

By answering mom’s call and interrupting your intimate session with your partner, you chose mom over your partner.

Did you see that? It might not have even consciously registered.

You may be so accustomed to submitting to mom’s authority, you aren’t aware you are choosing her over your adult partner. 

However, if you habitually choose mom over your partner,  you may have a much bigger problem on your hands.

If mom is Narcissistic, Borderline or tremendously insecure, it may be very difficult to enforce healthy boundaries.

Either way, the consequences are just as damaging.

All too often the mother/daughter duo steals from the relationship which needs nurturing sustaining and developing. It does so quietly, subtly, but surely.

This bedroom scenario may be just one example of mom’s intrusion into your marriage.

Does mom’s overreach end here or does she-

  1. Weigh in on pivotal parenting decisions and circumvent your partner’s power?
  2. Relate to you as if she were your primary emotional partner?
  3. Tell you things and request you not tell your partner?

 What can happen if this goes unchecked-

Mom’s intrusiveness can be deadly to your relationship with your husband or significant other. Whether or not you consciously acknowledge it, she is forcing you to choose if this scene is played over and over.

What looks at first, innocuous, can gain such destructive force, it can take down a marriage/partnership faster than you can say “Mother, may I?”

Where are you in this?

Is your ” too close”  alliance with mom costing you intimacy with your partner? Is this a corrosive toxin  slowly eroding your love life?

You may know that your mother drives you crazy and gets under your skin, but you may not know that this dysfunctional dynamic with her is stealing the very key to so much of your happiness.

When your Mother is Narcissistic or difficult, this unhealthy dynamic is put on steroids.

The Narcissistic or insecure Mother will experience any closeness her daughter has with another as a threat.

Looking back at the wedding, the dynamic was in full play.

Here is what I mean.

Mom may give lip service to the idea that she wants her daughter to have a good marriage, yet the daughter, especially the daughter in the role of the”good daughter”, will feel the tug as her alliance is tested.

The intrusive, needy mother makes everything about her. As a result, the “good daughter” will feel torn instead of supported during the planning stages of the wedding.

Underneath the myriad of decisions, Mom is always calling the question- “Who is important here? Whose side are you on?”

The ‘good daughter’ knows, always knows, the correct answer. She’d better choose mom. 

What first starts as a mother/daughter public event- otherwise known as a wedding, quickly devolves into three people in a marriage.

What does this do to your partner if you continue to choose mom?

Before you know it, you have formed an unconscious alliance with your mother that leaves your husband or partner odd man out.

You may joke with mom about how clueless men are, and agree with her that the women need to take over.

What you can’t see so clearly is that your put-downs take their toll.

Pretty soon the man in your life checks out in front of the television or buries his head in his electronics.

If you could see inside his heart, you might see that he has given up.

He is programmed not to show it, but he can’t take the put-downs anymore, so he protects himself by tuning you out, and keeping his head down.

And if you aren’t careful, this begins to be the new normal.

Here is where the odds are stacked against you-

As a “Good Daughter” you have so many hang-ups about sex, your libido is just a fragile house of cards ready to come tumbling down with the first strong wind of mother guilt.

Sexual shame, mother guilt, and bad girl feelings are anything but a girl’s best friend when it comes to a sex life.

With the business of everyday life plus or minus kids… your sex life can be in the toilet before you know it.

My final words of caution. It’s not all about sex, but when the sex goes, a whole lot goes with it.

Here’s the bottom line.

3 people in a marriage is one too many. Without a vital connection to your partner, your marriage grows dead on the vine.

By elevating mom to equal or, god forbid, superior status in your marriage you might be missing what is right in front of you.

If you don’t believe me, go ask him. I’ll wait.

This is only one of the ways being stuck in the “good daughter” role is bad for you.

To find out if you are stuck in the ” good daughter” role- go here.




Is Mom The 3rd Person In Your Marriage? If So, The Consequences Are Worse Than You Think

Katherine Fabrizio

Katherine Fabrizio, M.A., L.P.C. has treated adult daughters of narcissistic mothers, trapped in the role of the Good Daughter for over 30 years. Dedicated to empowering these women, she offers online help for clients and training (CE’s) for therapists at Her book, Daughters Rising: Rising Above the Shame, Guilt and Self-Doubt Mothers Pass Down to Daughters, is available on Amazon. Katherine lives in Raleigh N.C. where she raised two daughters and still speaks regularly with her mother. Do you suffer from the Good Daughter Syndrome? Find out here!

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APA Reference
Fabrizio, K. (2018). Is Mom The 3rd Person In Your Marriage? If So, The Consequences Are Worse Than You Think. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Jun 2018
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