My friend is in girlfriend-prison


My friend’s girlfriend currently will not let him see me or my family at all. He could tell her that he’s seeing us anyway, but he won’t because he’s terrified of upsetting her. She gets very upset and gives him a hard time if he sees anyone on his own, without her – but she also won’t agree to socialise with any of his friends. This is is because he had a fling with someone else a few months ago, and his friends knew about it and didn’t tell her – so she now won’t socialise with any of us, and gets semi-hysterical if he sees us on his own. He is terrified of being single so is placating her by doing as she asks. Here are two unintentional models I have had about this:

1) C – He says he cannot see us for the time being.
T – He’s in a kind of prison caused by his own thoughts
F – Determined
A – Communicate by Zoom, text, voice message – do all I can to keep the friendship going with him, just as I would if he were in actual prison. Not take any action aimed at liberating him because, just as I couldn’t break him out of a real physical prison, I equally cannot break him out of his thought-prison of ‘I must obey her or the world will end.’
R – I maintain the friendship as best I can and we’re still friends – though friends who can’t see each other. Also: I wonder if I ought to do more. Should I try at least to explain to him that he could make a different choice? By going along with the ‘It’s up to him, it’s not my choice’ idea, am I failing him as a friend by not even talking him through another way he could look at it? Or am I wisely dropping my manual of thinking he ‘should’ want to say to his girlfriend ‘Listen I have to be allowed to see my friends.’?

2) C – He says he can’t see us for the time being.
T – If that is his choice, then – however scared he is, and however understandable that is – I don’t want to see him either. If it doesn’t matter enough to him to be free and able to see his friends freely, then that’s on him, not his girlfriend. And I want to choose to spend my time with friends who would never say to their good friends, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t see you ever because I’m scared of displeasing someone who is completely unreasonable.’? He’s scared, yes…but he’s also proving that he’s a fair-weather friend only.
F – sad
A – do nothing. Don’t try to persuade him to see us, don’t criticise him. Just wait – and see if later he changes his mind and wants to see us. Hope that he will, and be open to that, but accept that he might not.

I’m not sure either of the above is an ideal, intentional model. So then I came up with this:

C – same
T – the most loving thing to do now is tell him that I *totally* accept whatever he wants to do, and also…I want to tell him my thoughts about his current choice.
F – unsure (am I interfering and trying to control the outcome?)
A – don’t do this because I’m afraid I’m a) trying to control him and b) I fear I’ll be so sad if I lay it all out for him – all the benefits he could get from not being in girlfriend-prison – and he still decides to stay in prison.
R – I do nothing because I fear that doing something would only cause me more pain.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!