Modern Married / Karen Anderson on Mother Daughter Relationships, Love & Marriage
September 20

Modern Married / Karen Anderson on Mother Daughter Relationships, Love & Marriage

Mother daughter relationships can be so hard to manage sometimes. How do you establish boundaries with the person you were attached to via umbilical cord at one time?


How do you honor their contribution to your life and at the same time, live your own life?


It’s a topic that must be dealt with compassion, generosity and wisdom and my dear friend Karen C. L. Anderson has written an absolutely brilliant book, doing just that, “The Peaceful Daughter’s Guide to Separating from a Difficult Mother.”


Today she is our guest for the ModernMarried interview and I couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to her!


Here we go!


MM: Tell us about yourself in 5 sentences… 


KAREN: First and foremost I am a storyteller (written and spoken).

I use stories to help myself and others create empowerment, resilience, and grown-ass-woman-ness in their relationships (especially with their mothers, whether living or dead, whether estranged or not).

I am also an award-winning blogger and the author of the international best-selling book, The Peaceful Daughter’s Guide To Separating From A Difficult Mother. 

I am married to the love of my life, Timothy Anderson, whom I met 20+ years ago via a very brand new Internet.

I posted a personal ad on AOL’s Romance Connection and he was one of ~250 responses I got.


What’s the biggest myth about mother-daughter relationships? 
The biggest myth is that mothers and daughters instinctually and automatically love each other unconditionally and it’s okay to acknowledge that. Not only is it okay, it’s healthy to acknowledge it. That said, unconditional love is possible and it probably looks very different than what you think it does!
If you could tell the world one thing about mother-daughter relationships, what would you want everyone to know? 
Examining the mother-daughter dynamic, on both micro and macro levels, is key to the work of feminism, gender-equality, and ultimately, world peace.

MM: Tell us about your latest project… 

KAREN: I am in the process of writing my third book about lessons learned while caring for my maternal grandmother (aka the difficult mother’s difficult mother).

The overarching theme and purpose for the book is to help women understand their mothers and grandmothers, who grew up at a time when shame was the norm, especially around sexuality and self-expression, and to tell my grandmother’s story through the lens of love and resilience versus the lens of shame and anxiety, which is all I knew of her for my most of my life.

In the four years before she died, I was her legal guardian and being in that role transformed me…and it transformed my experience of her.

It’s a very powerful story and I am honored to tell it.

MM: Why do you do what you do? 

KAREN: This quote, from the late Pat Conroy, author of The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, and other books, sums it up best: “The reason I write is to explain my life to myself. I’ve also discovered that when I do, I am explaining other people’s lives to them.”

I tell stories to create awareness, clarity, and connection – and to keep myself honest, grounded, and engaged.

MM: One of my favorite management principles is “Stop, Start, Keep” the idea is that there are things we should stop doing, start doing and keep doing that will make us successful. What should we “stop, start, and keep” to make our relationships stronger? 

KAREN: Stop making your partner responsible for your feelings.

Start taking the initiative to understand, honor, and meet your own needs.

Keep remembering that when you choose to feel love, you getto feel love.

MM: Complete these sentences: 

  • The secret to a happy marriage is…understanding that it’s not about building your life around each other, it’s about being part of the building of each other’s lives.


  • What I know is true about love is…that it starts inside of me. It doesn’t come from “out there.”


  • The single most important thing we can do for the person we love is…to take care of ourselves, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.


MM: What has surprised you the most about marriage?

KAREN: Given that my parents were divorced when I was three and then went on to have two more marriages (each), what has surprised me most is that having a good marriage is easy! I was told, both directly and via what was modeled, that marriage was hard even under the best of circumstances and that it required a lot of hard work. It sure doesn’t feel like hard work to me, and Tim agrees (I just asked him).

MM: We talk a lot on this blog about re-defining marriage – can you share something you and your spouse do that makes sense for you (but may not make sense to someone else).

KAREN: We have our own interests and have even taken separate vacations. We miss each other A LOT while apart…but it feels great to miss each other! I think a lot of young couples go into marriage thinking that if they don’t have similar interests and don’t do everything together, it will drive them apart. We have found the opposite to be true.

MM: Anything else you would like to add?

KAREN: I adore what you’ve done here with Modern Married! It’s such a breath of fresh air to see such positivity associated with marriage versus the tired old “us vs. them” battle of the sexes that used to dominate our culture.

Thanks for a great interview! And yes, positivity and marriage go together like a horse and carriage…sorry! Couldn’t resist. 

XO Maggie

 Karen Anderson is a writer and master-certified life coach who helps women make peace with difficult family members and embrace their pasts without shame or fear so they can rock on with their amazing lives. Read more about The Peaceful Daughter’s Guide as well as her other projects at