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Counseling/Friendship: opening the door


Hello Pete, I have a question about trying to open a new door in my life.  To start, I am a single 32 year old woman, and living with my widowed mother.  We have a good relationship, for the most part, as long as boundaries are complied with, however, we have our share of things we fight about.  My issue is this:  I have a neighbor (she is 58, and I will refer to her as Lizette), who I think would be a good friend and mentor for me, but I do not know how to open the door naturally.  Most of my closest high school friends are long married, and are mothers, so I don't make it a point to stay in touch, since I just can't relate to them, and with the recent loss of my "Surrogate Grandma," I'm just not up for hanging out with a lot of people anyway.  Lizette, however, is a different story.  Although she is a mother and grandmother, she is not raising anybody right now.  She and I have always been able to talk, on a high level of vulnerability.  It truly almost feels like fate crossed our paths; last summer, I cut ties with a hairdresser, whom I used for 20 years, and Lizette is a hairdresser, but works primarily in real estate.  We will at least alway have that bond, as she promised to do for me.  However, I need to spend time with Lizette, as well, and have a good time.  I know that the thing to do is not to ask an individual to be my friend, however, I don't know how to spell it out indirectly.  I do little acts of kindness (i.e. bring fun gifts), however, it does not seem to be budging the process of opening this door.  As long as I'm single, and my living situation is not perfect, I need a means of coping.  I feel close to Lizette, for the most part, however, I want to make sure we are on the same page, and if/ when I know the door is open, I want to keep it open.  What do you think I should do at this point?

Hi Julianne - I need clarification on what you mean by "opening the door" and "on the same page." If you express interest, appreciation, and respect to Lizette and if you have common  interests and values - I'd bet a mutual friendship will develop naturally. You don't have do do anything intentional, except to honor your mutual integrities and boundaries and be genuine. Review these ideas on friendship for perspective:

- 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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