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Counseling/Difficult friendship


Hello, I apologize if this is not in the right section. But here goes. I am 33 years old and am friends with this particular person (we will call her Jane) who is 30 years old. We worked together for about one year and remained friends since. Her family is from India and therefore have different cultural backgrounds than I. She was born in the U.S. I try to get her to do outdoor activities like hiking. So heres the issue:

I asked her if she likes hiking and she said yes, she does. Jane told me she was exercising allot lately and wanted to get back into shape. I then asked her to go hiking tomorrow and she said she would love to do that. Then she calls me and explains that her aunt (whom she lives with) said she cannot go because she does not know me. I then told Jane that her aunt does know me because I helped her move last year and we have known each other for almost 2 years. But still, she said no. This is a continues issue in our friendship. The inability to hang out as friends. Her aunt has a curfew for Jane. She, at one point, got in trouble because she was talking to me after 8 PM. Her aunt has strick guidelines. She tells Jane whom she will date, what time to come home after work, and even told her she is not allowed to own a new vehicle. At one point 9 months ago, Jane was looking into purchasing a new vehicle, but her aunt said no, that she will be buying a used vehicle. I spoke up to Jane and said that you are an adult and therefore you can start making your own decisions.

One day she shows up at the library where I work. She had to pick up a book. I wanted her to hang out with me for a few minutes so I can show her my new car I had just purchased. She told me her aunt gave her 1 hour to get to the library, pick up the book and to return home. It just floors me as to how badly her aunt controls her every movement. Her childhood was a very sheltered one that has carried over to adult hood. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain friends with her because of her controlling aunt. I know it is not my place to tell her that she is an adult, and in America, one can make their own path and that this is not India. So, basically, should I just leave this alone? I don't want to fix her, but I do want a friend that is more than just a phone friend. Sincerely, Jared C.

Hi Jared - I can understand your frustration. As you know, you can't "make" Jane decide to live independently and stop letting her aunt control her life. You CAN...

1] tell Jane honestly of your wish to be friends, and your frustration with her submissiveness (if you haven't already);

2] ask Jane why she allows her aunt to dominate her, and what she thinks would happen if she (Jane) began to confront her aunt and respectfully assert her independence as a grown woman;

3] show Jane this sample "Bill of Personal Rights," and ask her reaction;

4] assess whether you think Jane is a "Grown Wounded Child" [GWC]:

If you think she is, then see these relationship options:

5] accept what you can and can't change about your 3-way relationship(e.g. the aunt's need to control);

6] be open to other healthy reciprocal friendships.

If you have questions about these options, Jared, please ask.

Respectfully, 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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