Talking to a woman’s father is another one of the great mysteries of dating. There are some who believe that parents should be involved from the very beginning of a relationship. Others say that involving the parents is unnecessary since it’s the daughter’s choice anyway. Whatever the case, the confusion isn’t helping men win over the women they want to marry.

It is my opinion that it is better for the man to err on the side of too conservative rather than too liberal in this particular area. It is infinitely better for the man to ask for the father’s approval and have them say it is unnecessary rather than for the father to expect to be involved and the man do nothing.

That being said, it will be impossible to be specific about how any one particular woman or her father should be approached. Nevertheless, there are some practical points and philosophies that can help guide the man when he feels it is time to speak with the parents of the woman he is dating.

[Note: I realize that many of the readers of this blog have fathers who are no longer living, passive, abusive, or who have abandoned them completely. For that I am truly sorry. Please understand that when I speak about fathers here it is not to make you feel as if you cannot have what I am describing. It is entirely appropriate for mothers and brothers (and even other “adopted” fathers) to fill the role if the father is absent.]

Why should her parents be involved?

Robert Wogamouth’s book, She Calls Me Daddy, has a wonderful illustration of why parents (fathers in particular) must be involved in the dating relationships of their children. He tells the story of ‘interviewing’ one of his daughter’s potential boyfriends one afternoon…

After just a moment of silence, I broke in. “I couldn’t help but notice the car out front when I drove in,” I said. “Is it yours?

“Yes, sir,” Steven replied, displaying his best manners.

After a few more minutes of detail about what he had done to [fix up] the car, I leaned back in my chair.

“It sounds like this is a pretty special car,” I said, leading him deeper. He nodded as I continued: “Now, can I ask you a question?”

“Okay, go ahead,” he replied.

“What if I came to your house last night, knocked on the door, and asked if I could borrow your car for the evening? What would you have said?”

Steven took no time to respond: “I’d have said ‘No way.'”

Poor kid, I thought. You’ve had it now.

“Why?” I replied, acting as thought his answer fascinated me.

“Well, because I don’t know you. I don’t know how you drive. I don’t know how you’d treat my car. I’m not sure I can trust you. That car’s important to me.” Steven’s narrowed eyes let me know he was very serious.

When he finished, I leaned forward on my elbows, taking just a moment to make sure he was listening carefully. “That’s interesting, Steven,” I finally said. “I know exactly what you’re saying. If I were you I’d do the same thing.”

“You would?”

“Absolutely, ” I reassured him. “And do you want to know why? Because tonight you have come to my house and asked if you can borrow our daughter for the evening. And before I let you do that, I want to find out who you are.”

Regardless of the circumstances or relationship that a woman has with her father, he should be involved at some point because the woman belongs to the father until he gives her away. It is not the prerogative of the daughter to give herself away. Thus, he is the one who should be approached about that possibility – not the daughter.

Bluntly put another way, any man who assumes ownership of a woman (in any way), before properly receiving her from her father, is both a thief and a coward. He has broken into the house and is helping himself to precious valuables that don’t belong to him – without asking (when he very easily could have asked).

When I officiate weddings I take an extra 5 minutes during each ceremony to emphasize the importance of this very point. I want to make sure that the father, bride, and groom all understand what is about to happen before the wedding can proceed. I ask the father, “As [the bride’s] father, do you find [the groom] worthy to assume your role as her head- protecting, cherishing, serving and loving her as Christ loved the church?”

He has to answer that question before God and the entire congregation.

Then, I turn to the groom and ask him if he’s  ready to assume the role that the father has had in her life thus far.

He has to answer that question before God and the entire congregation.

Finally, I turn to the bride and ask her if she is willing to honor her husband in the same way she has honored her father as her head.

She has to answer that question before God and the entire congregation.

Then, and only then, can the wedding begin. There must be an agreed upon transfer of ownership from the father (or mother/brothers if the father is absent) to the groom. If that consent is not there between all three people, then a wedding cannot happen.

Thus, approaching a woman’s father is not an option; it is an essential step in the pursuit of a woman. It should not happen just before the man wants to propose. The man should make a regular custom of checking in with the father of the woman he is dating because the man is interested in pursuing something that doesn’t belong to him. The likelihood of a father being willing to part with one of his most prized possessions becomes much greater the more he knows the man.

When Should the Father Be Involved?

The man must approach the father of the woman as soon as is reasonable. If he already knows the father, that time can and should be much sooner. If he does not, then that time can be a little bit later. Whatever the case, the general principle is that the man should check in with the father at each major stage of the relationship:

  1. Dating:  The best case scenario is for a man to have a conversation with a father prior to even taking a woman out on the first date. For a variety of different reasons, though, that is not always feasible. So, it’s okay for a man to take a woman out on dates before talking with her father, but it would be wise for him not to have the first DTR with the woman until he has sought the permission of the father. By that point, the man knows that he wants to continue the relationship to the next level, so it’s time for the father to be aware of him and his intentions.
  2. Courtship:  The second time a man should approach a father is just before the DTR about courtship. Since the point of a courtship relationship is to work towards engagement and marriage, it would be most unwise for the man not to receive permission from the father before talking to the daughter. It is in that conversation that the father can also address any concerns he has about the man so that he can address them before returning one last time to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
  3. Engagement:  While the previous two conversations may be more or less optional in a dating relationship, a man must not proceed in proposing to a woman without her father’s consent. If the father is unwilling to give his daughter to the man, then the man should not make matters worse by putting the woman in the difficult position of choosing between her father and the man she has been dating. If the father is willing to give his permission, then the man can go propose to the woman with confidence.

How Should the Father be Approached?

A man should approach another woman’s father with confident submission. Just as a man would approach anyone in authority, so a man should approach a father. The man must not confuse humility with sheepishness, however. He must have confidence to approach the father – not because he considers himself worthy of the father’s daughter, but because the father’s daughter is worth asking for.

With such confident submission, the man must ask for permission – not a blessing. Asking for permission recognizes authority. Asking for a blessing assumes the father would be willing to give the daughter away without being asked. So, I encourage men to use the word “permission” whether they are asking for a date or for her hand in marriage (just as they were sure to use the word “date” when they asked the woman out).

The father should be approached at a time and place that is most convenient for him. The conversation should also be in private. It also needs to not feel rushed; make sure there is time for questions afterwards. The man should not argue with the father, but regard him as an authority in all matters concerning his daughter (even if she has told the man differently). Depending on what the man is asking for, this could be a simple phone call (if he’s wanting to ask her on a date), a round of golf (if he’s wanting to talk courtship/engagement), or even taking the father out to dinner – just the two men (courtship/engagement).

The bottom line is that the man should approach the father as he would approach his own father because if the man is successful, then her father will indeed become his father one day. Instead of bypassing the father, the relationship will be much more healthy if the father (and the rest of the family) is a part of it from the beginning.

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