Dear Annie: I have a friend, “Raphie,” with a wife, “Diana,” who has abused him physically and verbally over the years and is very controlling. Many times, I’ve witnessed dismissive and demeaning ways that Diana treats him.
I know he is not happy and never will be as long as he is married to her. Even if she were to consent to attend marriage counseling with him, I would guarantee that she would never be truthful to the therapist. I know he stays with her because her public image is stellar and he fears the stigma of divorce.
He and I have never discussed his situation between the two of us, but we have a mutual friend whom he confides in, and this friend has shared some things with me. I’m wondering how I can help Raphie. Any advice? — Frustrated Friend
Dear Frustrated Friend: Your feelings are understandable. Few things are more frustrating than watching a loved one mistreated by his or her partner. Unfortunately, we can’t “save” our friends, but we can support them. Reach out to have more one-on-one conversations with Raphie to see how he’s doing. This will create a space for him to tell you about his marriage, if he so chooses. You can even try gently steering the conversation toward that topic — but don’t force it. Let him open up or not. Even if you and he aren’t talking about the abuse, your presence in his life is important. It reminds him that he’s not alone. For more guidance, you can visit thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233 to speak with a specialist trained in navigating dynamics around emotional and verbal abuse as well as physical abuse.
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