DEAR NATALIE: One of my best girlfriends recently got married and ever since, it seems nobody sees her. I'm not really sure if it is my place to ask if everything is OK in her marriage, but I really miss my friend. How can I get her to understand that abandoning her other relationships isn't a healthy thing to do? There have been rumors that he is abusive, but I don't know how to approach this. -- FRUSTRATED FRIEND
DEAR FRUSTRATED FRIEND: This is a tough one when you don't know what is going on. If he is being abusive (verbally, emotionally, physically or a combination), you want to tread very carefully. She needs her friends right now. She needs to spend time with people outside of the marriage who love her and want the best for her. Call her every day until she answers and offer to just come over to have tea and catch up. If she seems relieved or happy to hear from you, take it as a good sign and bring flowers and show her that you love her and miss her. She may start to open up about what is going on in their lives, and perhaps she will tell you why she hasn't been around much.
It could just be the mundane parts of life, settling into marriage, adjusting emotionally now that the wedding is over and no one is paying attention to her anymore. Go in with an open mind and heart and hear her out. However, if she seems wary of having you over, take that as a red flag that something might be going on that she wants to keep private. Offer to pick her up and go to a coffee shop or to breakfast. Pick a time when you think he would be out of the house, or if she has a job, offer to meet her during her work day for lunch.
Do what you can to get in front of her, but once you are, don't try to be her therapist or grill her on what she has been doing. Listen twice as much as you talk. Wait for her to give you a kernel of truth that can open the door to a real conversation and hopefully a positive outcome. Just stay the course.
Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)