Q: We have a friend, "Allen," who has recently lost touch with us and who we believe is being manipulated and emotionally abused by his significant other. Over the course of their relationship, his now-wife has joined herself to Allen's hip in that he can't make plans with others that don't include her; occupies about 90 percent of his social interactions when they do attend events and parties together; has rushed him into their life events, including moving in together, proposing, getting married and buying a house.
Since they got married in September, he has stopped speaking to me and a few of our other mutual friends where he was previously very close to us. I feel this is her doing.
The thing is, Allen avoids confrontation like the plague, so he just lets this all happen, and refuses to respond if anyone tries to reach out to him. Some of us have asked him if he's OK, if he needs help, etc., as he's visibly miserable, but he just ignores us.
Is there anything else we can do for Allen? Or are we forced to watch this horror from afar?
A: That's the short answer, yes. When someone chooses to stay away from you, even if that choice is coerced, it's hard even to make an argument for parachuting into his life, much less to pull it off.
But. You know red flags when you see them and there are a lot here for sure: her possessiveness, isolation, pressure to commit, plus his natural reluctance to stand up for himself.
Remain as present in Allen's life as his circumstances allow. Do not stop calling, do not stop engaging. You can enlist other mutual friends to be part of a circle of readily available support, where each of you commits to checking in at regular intervals.
Four of you, say, sending Allen a warmly neutral check-in or invitation twice a month will add up to a reminder every few days that he has people standing by. What doesn't seem like much now can become the propped-open door to the rest of his life.