Dear Amy:

Since moving to a new city a little more than six years ago, I have made a very nice life for myself. For the past three years, I've had a wonderful boyfriend and a job that I really enjoy.

My problem is that I seem unable to make and keep close friendships with women. I have lots of acquaintances and I am friendly with women at work, but I really miss having close friends with whom to gossip and shop. Several promising friendships have started, but they seem to either sputter and die or -- as in the case of the woman who was stealing my jewelry -- blow up.

It's easy to blame others, but I have to acknowledge that in each of these situations I am the common denominator. I think I must be doing something wrong, but I have no idea what.

There's so much advice in women's magazines on how to meet and keep a man; meeting and keeping friends seems more important and more difficult.

Please help; my boyfriend never has an opinion on which shoes go with which blouses.

Lost in Los Angeles

You seem to have a fairly narrow view of what women's friendships are all about. Gossip and shopping aren't much to build on.

You should be as discerning with your friendships as you are in your love life. Good friends are as rare as a good romantic partner is. It's not clear what you are doing wrong, but you might examine your boyfriend's role in your friendships. Do you talk about him too often? Do you make and then break plans with women because of your priorities with him?

True friendship involves an exchange, and you need to be willing to listen to the other person and understand her quirks and concerns. You need to master the art of "the check-in" -- where you contact your pal for no particular reason and with no specific agenda, but simply in order to see how she's doing. You need to celebrate your friend's strengths and understand her weaknesses. She will do the same for you.

One of my favorite books on the joys and challenges of female friendship is "The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You're Not a Kid Anymore" by Marla Paul (2005, Rodale). Paul and other women share their stories (some very similar to yours) and friendship tips.

Dear Amy:

My husband and I divorced when my son was 20 months old. He is 4 now.

My ex hasn't seen his son in 18 months, and he lives just across town!

My question is about my former mother-in-law. She sends a $100 check to me twice a year at Christmas and on my son's birthday. There is no card or letter with this check. I always send a thank-you.

The last time she sent a check, I wrote her a letter telling her that it would be nice for her to have a relationship with her grandson. She didn't answer.

What should I do? I really want to send her check back to her torn up in little pieces.

Mad Mommy

You are advocating for your son, and that's a good thing. But as painful as it is, you can't make these very important relationships happen.

Rather than rip up these checks, I hope you'll deposit them in an interest-bearing account. With the magic of compound interest, your son's annual $200 gifts could be turned into a very nice nest egg for him.

Continue to graciously thank your former mother-in-law. It is clear that on some level she is mindful of her grandson and is trying to reach out. She may fear that her relationship with her son will be compromised because of some twisted priorities of his. You may make valuable inroads with her by responding positively and with a light touch.

Dear Amy:

After reading the letter from "Kathy," whose boyfriend was asking her to take out a loan for him, the first thing that popped into my head was "The People's Court." I don't think you can get through one show without a similar situation. Don't do it, Kathy!


If we've learned nothing else from "The People's Court," it's that love and loans don't mix. Don't do it, Kathy!

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

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