Mother’s Day is coming around again and I’m standing in the aisle looking for a card to send my mother. The cards never express what I’d like them to say. I dread this every year.

Years ago, I sat in a therapist’s office hoping my marriage could be saved. At that appointment, I began to understand the connection between my relationships with my mother, my husband, and myself. I’d been carrying some significant wounds since long before my wedding day. The future seemed insurmountable, but I dug into the deep pain that had been sealed up and put away decades earlier. 

Seeing the Signs 

I’d learned early in life (and in my marriage) how to “read the room” and adjust my needs accordingly. My default was to become less, which also seemed to align with my faith’s admonition to “putting others above myself.” I’d stacked up boxes of hurt, loneliness, anger, resentment, and grief, and sealed them tight with the belief I’d dealt with it all. During therapy appointments, the boxes tumbled out of my memory. Thankfully, I had support as I began to sort through them. 

One thing I learned along the way was about the mother wound. Sherry Gaba, LCSW¹ writes in her article on Psychology Today’s blog:

“The best way to think of the mother wound is a loss or a lack of mothering. 

“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” ²

Experiencing a lack of love, especially on an emotional level, can contribute to growing into adulthood with a tendency to codependent relationships. An inability to express emotions inhibits intimacy. Striving for perfection in every aspect of life, including friendships, relationships with coworkers, and marriage puts unbearable pressure on oneself and others. The impact of this mother wound is invisible and far-reaching. You may not know it’s there until something in your life implodes and a professional counselor helps you see it.

Once you know, you cannot turn a blind eye. I couldn’t.

These hurts drove my need for perfection, my inability to accurately identify and express my emotions, and my attempts to control environments and other people, including my spouse and children. I’m not proud of those coping mechanisms, but I began to understand why I related that way. I committed to make some changes.

As with any type of wound, the mother wound requires time, deep cleansing, gentle treatment, and healthy self-acceptance practices to begin healing. Relaxing the body and mind, as well as knowing, deep in one’s soul God’s enormous love and unending faithfulness aid in this process. He is the perfect parent who created you, knows you intimately, will never leave you, and always loves you. 

Doing Life Differently

Understanding is the beginning of transformation. Seeing what isn’t working in our lives and creating a strategy to make healthy adjustments to achieve genuine intimacy in relationships are the rewards of time and money spent in therapy. Being honest is key in any intimate relationship and essential in therapeutic counseling. Think of therapy as taking a class in deep internal work and begin to practice what you learn. Transformation requires mindfulness in how we’ve done things and how we’d like to do them differently. Scripture encourages us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (see Romans 12).

We are all capable of changing. The question is, do we want something different, something healthier, something more fulfilling for our lives and those we love? If the answer is yes, then we need to open up the boxes of stuff we shoved to the back of our emotional closet to see what might transform our behaviors today and how we will love more openly and honestly in the future. 

Three Steps to Healing

Step One:

After recognizing the old way of coping, move toward freedom by being honest and vulnerable with a trusted friend. Choose someone who understands and loves you, one who won’t judge or condemn you. When they tell you counseling might help, don’t shun them. Being advised to pray more, work more, or get more involved in church is usually not the answer. You need to confide in a person who sees you and cares about your wellbeing, expecting nothing in return. You need an objective perspective as you begin to understand what’s made you you. 

Step Two:

Meet with a therapist. Often when marital issues arise, we are told to seek marriage counseling. This route didn’t work for me or my husband. We’d read the books, attended the conferences, and watched the videos. Did those help? Well, sorta. We knew how to fight fair and stay committed. However, we gained the most help in individual therapy to sort out our personal issues, like my wounds from childhood. Only then we were in a place to receive marriage counseling. If you are dealing with betrayal trauma, search for a therapist at:!directory/map

Step Three:

Find a small group of people who “get it.” Those who have similar struggles or pain can extend compassion, encouragement, and affirmation as you are each doing the hard work of transformation. The small group of women I spent a couple years with helped me identify and express my feelings. I learned how to create healthy boundaries in my relationships and how to take care of my soul. I couldn’t have made progress without their help. Check out our small groups online:

Be Courageous

Rather than standing in the aisle stressed about buying another card that doesn’t say what you feel, or arrogantly stepping into a therapist’s office asking them to explain what’s wrong with your partner, step up and do what’s hard, and what’s right. Take ownership of those boxes you tucked away and don’t let them rule your behavior any longer.

Be courageous. Do not fear looking deep inside yourself to gain an understanding of how past experiences, including how you were mothered or parented, influence your perception of self and others. You can solve your intimacy difficulties in community. We are here to support you.