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The Mother Wound

How our relationships with our mothers effect our codependency.

The "mother wound" is not a typical term you may hear in a counseling or therapy session, but it may be a factor that is influencing your relationship with partners. While the mother wound is most often associated with daughters, it is possible for sons to also have mother wound factors that influence their relationships.

Understanding the Mother Wound

The best way to think of the mother wound is a loss or a lack of mothering. This is typically a deficit in the mother-daughter or mother-son relationships that is passed down through generations, and it is a reflection on how we have experienced parenting and how we parent. While not a specific diagnosis, it is a way of looking at how current codependency behaviors may be linked to missing elements in the past.

Children who are raised by alcoholics, drug-addicted mothers, or mothers who have mental health conditions, either undiagnosed or untreated, may struggle into their own adulthood.

However, there are also children who are raised by mothers who do not have these challenges. These are mothers who may provide for the physical needs of the children, and even interact with the children in a positive way, but simply do not provide the deep love and attention that all children require. They may not have been abusive or neglectful, and they may never have engaged in negativity in their relationships with the children, but they were also always distant and less tuned-into the emotional needs of their children.

Signs of the Mother Wound

Adults dealing with a mother wound often look back on their childhood and can identify issues such as:

  • Never feeling they had their mother's approval or acceptance
  • Concerns about not being loved by their mother or not being loved as much as other siblings or family members
  • Difficulties in relating to the mother on an emotional level
  • Uncertainty about the relationship with the mother and if it could be lost with a mistake or an accident
  • Always trying to do better or to be perfect, to attempt to gain your mother's attention and acceptance
  • Feelings of having to protect, care for, or shelter your mother rather than her protecting, caring for and sheltering you

These types of feelings throughout childhood reduce self-esteem, feelings of self-worth, and feelings of worthiness to have a positive relationship. Individuals with a mother wound always feel incomplete and lacking in their ability to connect with others, while also having deeply rooted feelings about the need for perfection and control.

As these are similar childhood factors to those linked to codependency, the presence of the mother wound, if not healed, can contribute to codependent patterns of relationships.

Healing the Mother Wound

While the mother wound is not a clinical or medical diagnosis, it is a factor that people struggle to address and to heal. Therapy can be instrumental in healing the mother wound by:

  • Exploring the feelings of the inner child and allowing those feelings of being ignored, unloved, unwanted, or not valued to be expressed in a safe, therapeutic environment.
  • Learning to validate and love ourselves creates a positive emotional and mental picture of our lives as they are in the present time, letting go of the past concept of self-developed by our interactions with our mother.
  • Setting boundaries—creating a relationship with the mother that is based on your needs and the ability of the mother to change and contribute to your emotional needs in a healthy, positive, and fulfilling way.

Working through forgiveness and being able to let go of past negativity in both codependency and the healing of the mother wound is essential for developing self-esteem and personal autonomy moving forward.


Grant, K.-L. (2014, April 13). Is The Mother-Wound Ruining Our Romantic Relationships?Retrieved from Elephant Journal:…

Kovanen, D. M. (n.d.). How Does The Mother Wound Impact Men?Retrieved from Dr. Mari Kovanen Counselling Psychology:

Webster, B. (n.d.). Why it's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound. Retrieved from Bethany Webster:…

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