Hi Pete,

I have a bit of a complicated issue.  I have a friend/ neighbor (we'll call her Kate) whom I'm trying to become best friends with, and don't know how to achieve this.  To give you an idea of how this got started, I'll give you some facts:
1.  I am 33 years old, and am living with my widowed mother, as I have no money, and am hoping to get into online courses to pursue a degree in writing.  Even with a college degree, I've been to interview after interview, and can honestly say I've failed every time.  Living here has its ups and downs, but lately more its downs.  Kate is 59 years old, and is a neighbor of my mother.  I kind of feel like it's fate's work that Kate is part of my life.  I had to cut ties precisely a year and a half ago with a hairdresser, whom I used for 20 years.  Kate is a real estate agent who was once a hairdresser, and took the reins for me.  Since I always worried about the previous hairdresser retiring, before she gave me a reason to cut ties, that I why I believe that it happened for a reason.  I knew Kate before that, just not on a real personal level, until this past year.  
2.  When my father passed away nearly 12 years ago, I created an "aunt/ niece" bond with one of my mother's best friends since the 60s (we'll call her Rachelle).  The main reason for this was because I don't get along with my dad's sister.  That woman has ruined my life in more ways than anybody would want to count, but she went as far as to get my fifth grade teacher to pick on me, along with the students, and give me 4 years of hell on earth.  My aunt also took away my last job, by slandering me to my boss.  My mother wanted me to make amends with my aunt, being the traditionalist she is, but I was and am not willing to do that, the heartache she created is just too much.  As a result, I spent a lot of time with Rachelle, and had some of the best times.  That all came to a screeching halt thought, as I'm sure Mom and Rachelle talked on the side, and Mom probably told Rachelle to encourage me to make amends with my aunt.  I chose not to do that, but regardless, since she was worried about how it would effect her friendship with Mom, Rachelle still pulled away.  Today, Rachelle and I basically can call each other friends, and Mom and I often go to dinner with Rachelle and her son, but it just isn't like the old days.  When Mom caught my aunt in action, that relationship finally ended, and Mom and I no longer speak to my aunt.  Kate kind of reminds me of Rachelle, though I can't explain why~ Kate is also a decade younger than Rachelle.  Since I miss those days so much, that is another reason why this feels like a work of fate.
3.  I have a boyfriend, and I know he loves me.  He is also my 3rd cousin.  He has a daughter who despises me, and he has not told her we are going out.  How that is going to effect our relationship when he conveys this to his daughter terrifies me.  This is another reason why I need a best girlfriend, whom I can tell everything too, which is why I want to be able to call Kate my best friend.  My boyfriend's mother was my best friend when she was alive, but she passed away almost two years ago.  That loss is something that still has me very unhappy.  Although 86, and a retired nurse, she was just simply always available.  It isn't likely I'll ever find another friend like her.
4.  Kate is married with grandchildren, but is not raising any children.  I don't have fun with people my age really, ever, but most of my high school friends are mothers now, so that isn't a good fit for me.  I'm never going to be a mom, so I don't like listening to stories about kids.  I also have hideous rheumatoid arthritis, which is another reason working has been a challenge.  Resulting from health problems I can't distance myself from, I don't want to open any doors with people my age.  What I want is for my life to be the way it was when Rachelle was a big part of it, but I don't think Rachelle would be open to trying that again.
5.  Mom and I have been fighting more and more these past two years, and I don't know how much more either of us can take.  If it gets to the point where we just can't go on anymore, I need Kate in that respect too.  What I really need from Kate is a friend who can help me turn my life around.  Christmas time is always the worst for me too.  I kind of feel like I can't grow if I continue to stay at my mother's house, unless I can establish a best friend out of Kate.
I am meeting with Kate next week over coffee.  I want to convey this to her.  What would you suggest?  Kate tries to see one of our neighbors once a month.  Would it be reasonable to ask her if we could try that with much flexibility?  Hopefully, I can get into these online courses, and have far less free time, which would be good, but I still need Kate's support.  When I'm around Kate, she is very kind, but I want to somehow just know I can ask her to get together, and call on her if I need to~ of course, I won't turn my back on Kate if she needs anything, as I've already proven this year, by offering to help with what I could.  I also gave her a best friend charm, to let her know that is what I think of her, simply since she is one of the few people I can have a good time with; most people I meet, that isn't the case.  Hope you can help; sorry for the length of this.

Hello Marissa - several suggestions:

1] the best relationships are those where each person [a] has similar values and interests as the other; and [b] each person feels some key needs are steadily filled well enough:

It might be good to ask Kate and others [like your BF] what THEY need in a friendship.

2] like trust and respect, friendship grows naturally over time - it can't be requested or forced. I recommend you let go of seeking a "best friend" and patiently cultivate relationships [plural] with people whom you trust, respect, and who are often willing to listen to and encourage you [and vice versa]. Kate may be such a person.

3] I encourage you not to compare new and old friendships, but just accept and enjoy what IS.

4] Study and use the communication skills described in "Lesson 2" of my Web site:. Use them in All your relationships, including with your Mom.

5] work at reducing any psychological wounds you inherited, and at making friends with yourself . As you do, your anxiety and dependence on others will drop. See online "lesson 1":

Overall, Marissa, I encourage you to trust your own judgment, and challenge your belief that you MUST have a "best friend." Let your relationship with ate evolve naturally, rather than trying to force it to fit your ideal. - Have a peaceful year-end Season and a confident new year! - Pete  


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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