22 thoughts on “The Narcissistic/Difficult Mother and Her Empathetic Daughter – 10 Signs You Suffer From the “Good” Daughter Syndrome

  • August 7, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    My husband said, “that’s you.” If there are others out there, I’d love to have coffee with you.

    • August 8, 2018 at 7:54 am

      LOL… this made me chuckle. But in all seriousness, the Good daughter Syndrome can affect husbands and relationships in profound ways. Check out my website for other blogs that pertain specifically to this https://daughtersrising.info/blog/. Thanks for writing.

    • August 9, 2018 at 5:21 pm

      Hi, Cathy. We “good daughters of narcissistic mothers” do need to support one another. I’d love to have coffee with you. I hope you do find another good daughter to coffee with!

  • August 9, 2018 at 8:23 am

    So what can these moms do to stop the behavior and be better moms?

    • August 10, 2018 at 8:46 am


      Trisha- thank you so much for this question. As a mother to two grown daughters, I have learned much of this the hard way. Good for you for being open to considering a different way to parent. Much of what you ask about and my approach I’ve developed is found in my book Daughter’s Rising. You’ll find the link on my website. Additionally, I have written a blog post-https://daughtersrising.info/2018/03/28/dear-mom-3-reasons-i-am-avoiding-your-call-what-to-do-instead/ which speaks to this very question. Here are some of the points summarized. It boils down to trusting and respecting your daughter and valuing yourself. Good luck and stay in touch. I’d love to hear how some of these ideas may work out for you.

      1) Ask me if I am free to talk. Respect my time and privacy.

      2) Be a calming presence in my life who reminds me of the times when I struggled and came through with a win.

      3) Let me come up with my own solutions even if I struggle and fail. Let me own my failures so I can own my successes.

  • August 9, 2018 at 11:44 am

    10 out of 10 fOr me. I very rarely talk to her or see her. and she still affects my daily decisions

    • August 9, 2018 at 9:54 pm

      I can’t understand why at 67, she is still in my daily thoughts. She is in a nursing home thousands of miles away…more srama

  • August 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    This explains a lot. I always thought I didn’t have a reason for not wanting to really bond with my mom recently (read: the past five years/more), but it turns out that apparently I do and that is somewhat comforting. (I’m 17 that’s why it’s only been this ‘recent’)

    • August 10, 2018 at 8:49 am

      I hear your pain Jonah- Although I can’t know your situation exactly I do think some mom’s don’t know that what they are doing is hurts their relationship with their daughter. Is there a possibility you both could seek out the services of a family therapist?

  • August 10, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Wow. I just read this the day after my mother (and father) came for a 24 hour stop by visit on their summer trip. After 25 years of my husband trying to help me deal with and move on from the “good daughter syndrome”, I continued to placate her on this visit and not tell her how I really feel. I start out speaking up for myself but then back down like the “reluctant boxer” once she responds. I think sometimes I said enough before I start to hurt her feelings but see later that I didn’t get through to her.

    • August 10, 2018 at 3:46 pm

      So well put. Anne. Thanks for writing.

  • August 22, 2018 at 4:08 am

    Oh wow, just wow. This is/was so me. My mum has never approved of me and still says horrid things about me behind my back. Now she lives alone with my Dad he is the one who sadly suffers, he’s 83 with terminal cancer and “wishes he could die to get out of her way”. I’m not allowed to confront her as she will take it out on him! I’m 54 and have as little to do with her as I can. I’m taking my Dad away for a few days for a break from her and even that leads to me being criticised by her. I have been seeing a counsellor for over 2 years and it is helping me distance myself from her.

    • August 22, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      That sound so very difficult. I hope you will take care of yourself. As I tell my clients – there isn’t a pot of gold waiting for you as a reward for taking mom’s punishment. Not that I know of, anyway.

      • August 23, 2018 at 1:19 am

        It is extremely difficult, there is so much I want tone say to her but it seems I will have to wait until my Dad has gone for his sake. He also has mild dementia and gave me power of attorney almost a year ago before this set in so I can help him. My mother’s response to that was “oh so SHE’s got all your money now” obviously to him and not me! A normal mother would be pleased I am helping out but she sees this as loss of control as everything has to be about her. She hates that Dad is centre of attention and ‘plays up’ to his carers to take some of their limited time from him. She is just horrid.

  • October 13, 2018 at 6:18 am

    Gosh. I am watching that very smothering mother now. Shes just come out of hospital. The first time she came out after a hip operation I had to fight with her. She was saying horrid things to my sister about me on the phone. I had to wrench control from her. We get on now.
    I believe my father tried to protect me from her by teaching me to have my own mind. My older siblings certainly dont and they were walked over in life.
    My sister has just left Mum and Ive taken over her care for two days. Mum was saying how she wasnt allowed to do anything other than my sister’s regime. Ive said to her, well you can do all this yourself Mum. She’s sitting in her chair now having got dressed and made breakfast by herself.
    That’s the difference isnt it.
    With my own three daughters Im mostly there breaking the family dynamic. Im looking at your list and Im doing good except I still give unsolicited advice and I must bite my tongue and become the listener and empathise unless asked.
    My daughters have helped me grow up. I feel this is what all this is about. Girls who grew up too young but still in adulthood are acting like children. I will say that the most empowering gift I ever gave to my daughters was to admit that the hell I put them all through for 5 years surrounding my divorce from their father, was my fault. That’s what adults do. No ifs and buts. It was only then they forgave me, in their own time.
    I cant leave the masculine out of this disorder. Perhaps my mother was an emotional bully but my father was an intellectual bully. One of Mum’s problems is because he undermined her and now she cannot think for herself. She gets very confused so I leave her to it and she gets there in her own time. He was also a glorious man unless…..things werent happy in the house. If there were problems he’d become nasty. She was always trying to keep things sweet. And brushed all of me under the proverbial carpet.

    • October 13, 2018 at 8:23 am

      You know what I love most about this post is the fact that you are breaking the cycle. You write- “My daughters have helped me grow up. I feel this is what all this is about. Girls who grew up too young but still in adulthood are acting like children. I will say that the most empowering gift I ever gave to my daughters was to admit that the hell I put them all through for 5 years surrounding my divorce from their father, was my fault. That’s what adults do. No ifs and buts. It was only then they forgave me, in their own time.”

      I think this is what it takes to break the cycle, “owning our part because this is what adults do.” Taking full responsibility for our actions and letting others do the same, is the only way forward. I couldn’t say it any better. Good for you and thanks for writing!

      • October 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm

        Thankyou Katherine. Your reply means the world to me.

  • April 28, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    I am in tears right now! This is me! I’m seeing a therapist because my mom has convinced me that I’m crazy, although my therapist says it’s not me! Thank you for posting this! My mom met all of the statements above. I thought I was alone in this. I don’t know if anyone else my age that goes through what I do.

    • August 5, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      My heart goes out to you. You are definitely not alone. Hopefully your therapist will be able to intervene on your behalf. Whether or not this is the case always remember there will come a day when you get to call the shots in your own life. I would encourage you to hang on to your sense of self and stay in therapy. Thanks for writing.

  • August 7, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Is there a name for this when it is your spouse? My mom did not perpetrate all of these head-games but my husband did. As the youngest of three children with a father who neither worked to support his family nor chose to be faithful to our mom, I exhibited some of these behaviors with my mom, siblings, and then my husband. However, I did not know how a husband and wife handled difficulties, differences in opinion, or even regular days/celebrations together. My parents didn’t do any family/couple things together; I would see my father take cash out of the register in my mom’s business and my mom worked long hours daily to make ends meet and pay for every necessity and luxury we enjoyed. I did anything I could to alleviate the workload for my mom: vacuuming Tuesdays, dishes, laundry, house-cleaning. I tried to keep things smooth and disliked fussing/arguments, doing anything I could think of to help fix/settle any dispute.

    Hence, when I married, the “daughter” behaviors you described exemplify my behaviors as a spouse. My husband’s disappointment and/or wrath made me miserable and afraid. With these behaviors by my first husband, I met all ten “signs” from the “…Good Daughter” article as a flaw-riddled wife.

    A book called PLEASERS or something like that showed me quite a few other behaviors I exhibit. With awareness, I have been able to modify my gut responses to some types of controlling behaviors exhibited by others in the past few years.

    • August 9, 2019 at 10:41 am

      That sounds so hard. I think the label you may be looking for is codependent. You can find a lot of good resources out there to help you understand why you do the things you do and to break free from them.


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