Counseling/Friends

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Question
Hi Pete,  
I have a problem with a friend, and just can't take it anymore.  I am 32 years old, and am stuck living at my mother's house, which is far from ideal.  Since I have arthritis, and I can't get away, I need a means of coping.  My mom has a neighbor, whom I'll refer to as Summer (she is 59 years old).  I started spending a lot of time with Summer at the start of this year.  Although she does kind of seem like having my best friend from high school around again (we'll call her Stephanie), I really don't have any desire to contact Stephanie again, as she is a mother of 3, and I probably never cross her mind anyway.  Really, I don't have fun with people my age, so it makes no sense to me to try to open doors in that respect.  At first, Summer and I would simply talk as friends, and to show that I value our friendship, I gave her a birthday card, with a Starbuck's gift card, and I wrote a note, inviting her to come to my cousin's restaurant.  Resulting from a tragedy that Summer had to go through, we never made our plans.  I have been really respectful of boundaries.  On the third Thursday of each month, us "housewives" in our neighborhood (Summer is self employed) get together for lunch.  I am always the youngest one there, which is good, at least in my eyes.  Here is what happened there:  I sat down next to Summer (I think it seemed a little bit like she had a shadow), and the lady on her other side asked her to make plans, and she just agreed right in front of me.  I am very hurt by this, but can't tell her, even though I want to, because nobody forgives for anything these days.  What is a good approach to convey this to her?  She may dismiss it, but I can't spend everyday of my life having crying spells, and wishing my life were something different.  No relationship ever works out for me, which is why I'm single, and Summer is my only friend.  It would be different if I could live in the state I want to be in, but since I can't, I tend to expect perfection around here.  We do have a neighbor, who has been saying horrible things about me for a long time, and she is basically the devil in disguise... she comes across as the sweetest lady to the Average Jane.  She may have said something about me to somebody who knows Summer well, whom Summer just would not doubt.  I know I'll never be a really, really important part of Summer's life, however, she means a lot to me right now, and I wish she would try spending a half an hour with me, even if it just means going to the local yogurt bar.  I know I can't force her, however, I think I need to at least find out what the problem is, because I cry all day long everyday, and struggle to cover up my misery.  It makes it hard to go on, knowing that I'm going to wake up everyday to an unwanted living situation.

Answer
Hello Alyssa - I suspect your "friend" issue is a symptom of a deeper problem. Your description suggests you carry significant inner and physical pain, and feel trapped in an unsatisfying lifestyle. I don't know enough about your specific circumstances to offer detailed advice, but can suggest several general resources:

1) study these articles, which may describe you and your family:

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/gwc.htm

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/means.htm

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/1_traits.htm

http://sfhelp.org/cycle.htm

If these seem to fit, then invest time in reducing your wounds and regaining control of your life and relationships:

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/guide1.htm

2) consider these ideas about analyzing and resolving relationship problems:

http://sfhelp.org/relate/keys/analyze.htm

http://sfhelp.org/relate/keys/guidelines.htm

If these bring up new questions, Alyssa, please ask!

Compassionately, Pete

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Peter Gerlach, MSW

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

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

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

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

Education/Credentials
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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