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Counseling/My Friend Issue


Hi Pete,

I have a complicated problem... I have a friend (we'll call her Alisa), whom I want to call my best friend, but have roadblocks that I need to get beyond.  I am 33 years old, and back at school online, so I have my hands full, and just can't have additional stress, or take on too many extra friendships, which is why Alisa is so important, particularly since she is one of the few friends I enjoy.  I have health problems too, which don't help stress.  To give you an idea of how things started, I have had a tough time these last 12 years.  My father died unexpectedly on an airplane, coming home from business.  To say the least, it was very devastating and emotionally draining.  Dad has a sister, whom I never liked, but she pushed me way over the edge after my father died.  She even took away my job.  As a result of my sheer dislike of my aunt, I developed an "aunt/ niece" bond with a friend of my mother that goes back to 1965 (we'll call her Rachelle), since Mom let me join them when going on antique outings, which I always enjoy.  Rachelle lifted my spirits, and we frequently made plans, sometimes simply during Mom's work hours, when Rachelle worked from home.  I was having a blast, however, things came to a screeching halt when Mom went on a kick of wanting me to make amends with my dad's sister.  I tried countless times to explain that I did not want that~ that I liked Rachelle, and don't want my dad's sister to be part of my life.  Regardless, since Mom and Rachelle likely talked on the side, Rachelle still pulled away, and it was like a closed door... I still hear the lock today.  Rachelle was worried about how it would effect her friendship with Mom, so she did what she thought was best for maintenance.   Mom had to learn the hard way that my dad's sister was toxic to me, and they have since cut ties, as well... we don't see my dad's sister.  Rachelle and I basically get along today, and Mom and I often go to dinner with Rachelle and her son.  Although I hope that continues, and at this point, hopefully prayers are powerful enough to make that happen, I still long for the old days.  This is where Alisa comes in...  Alisa kind of reminds me of Rachelle, though I can't explain why.... she is a decade younger than Rachelle (so still older than me, but I'm not looking for people my age, as I feel a lot of resentment towards anybody who got to enjoy their 20s from my generation, since most of my 20s were put to dealing with health problems), and Alisa is married, and a mom of grown children and has grandchildren, but not living with her and her husband.  I kind of feel like fate put Alisa in my life.  Alisa is a neighbor of my mother, so we have known each other for a while, just not on a personal level until now.  We started bonding more after I went through 2 difficult events.  Back in 2012, my "Surrogate Grandma" (Peggy, a niece of my actual grandma) passed away, and Peggy was basically my only friend.  I also cut ties with a hairdresser whom I used for 20 years, as I can't have people creating me highly expensive damage.  I should explain that Alisa is a hairdresser, but works primarily in real estate.  She has since taken the reins for me.  I also get together with Alisa, and we have coffee, and talk.  I want to keep that going, but build a closer friendship.  Here is one of the biggest glitches.  We have another neighbor (we'll call her Sarah), who has close ties with Alisa as well.  Sarah spends her winters away, since her husband can't do business where we are located, since he runs a cement business.  I like Sarah fine, but I feel she does interfere with my relationship with Alisa.  I wish Sarah didn't know that I'm the same age as her daughter, as unlike me, her daughter does like spending time with people our age (it isn't that I dislike Sarah's daugther, it's just with my health problems, I feel old, and don't want to get involved with somebody raising 3 small children), and I'm so afraid she might use that as a way to make it so I can't spend time with Alisa.  Unfortunately, Sarah is coming home, and I'm so afraid that I won't get to spend time with Alisa anymore.  I've tried to prove I'm Alisa's better half... I recently gave her an expensive friendship bracelet (which I can't really afford).  I need to establish an understanding with Alisa that we are good friends, and explain to her that she is my best friend, at least in my eyes.  I want to eventually find a romantic relationship too, however, since I won't get involved with anybody my age, I'm thinking that Alisa might know some men her age, in that respect.  How can I explain my concerns to Alisa?  I don't expect her to cut ties with Sarah, and know that they're going to still be friends, but I don't want Sarah to have a closer friendship than me, or get more of Alisa's time than I get.  Please help!!!  I'm so stressed, as I worry every free minute.

Hi Suzette = fundamentally, my impression is [1] you don't trust your own judgment; [2] y7ou have an active "Wor5rier" personality part; and [3] parts of you are trying to control the uncontrollable. I further suspect these 3 issues are symptoms of your inheriting unintended psychological wounds from your ancestors. If so, the good news is - with education and awareness, you can improve all of them. To see how, read these:

If you resonate with these ideas, then the answers you seek to your relationship problems lie here:

This is a LOT to integrate, so take your time. If you have questions, please ask!

- 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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