The following letter is not an actual letter. And, it may sound like the rant of an angry father (as my son pointed out when he read through it :). Well, to some degree it is. I’m not angry, per se. I’m disappointed in the young men (Christian young men) who have expressed “interest” in my daughters at some level. It’s not that I’m mad AT them. I know there are a lot of great young Christian men (even the ones implicated below who understand how to enter into a relationship with a young woman and nurture the relationship. I also realize that there are just as many young women who fail to properly move forward (either too fast or too slow) in relationships. Recently, my daughter has experienced some of the challenges that are covered at some level in my letter. I’m not really an angry old ranting father….really. But, I do expect that young men conduct themselves in a way that is addressed below. So, with this as an intro, read at your own peril ;).
Dear young man who wants to pursue my daughter,
I want you to know that I am very excited that you want to be a part of my daughter’s life. I’m sure you are already sensing what a special woman she is, which is why you are considering entering into a relationship with her. I want you to know that we’ve been praying for you for a LONG time. In fact, her mother and I have been praying for you before our daughter was even born. Well, maybe it wasn’t you. Much of that depends on how much of this letter you understand and the expectations of a young man who would like to be a significant part of my daughter’s life. If you aren’t ready to pursue a deeper relationship with her, than this letter probably doesn’t apply. If you are, please read on.
I hope this doesn’t feel like a semester final. It’s not. It’s much more important than that. You see, you can’t cram for this test. What you are about to enter into needs to have been built into you and you need to have been honing and working on it for years. Let’s face it, the requirements for dating my daughter are character qualities that you cannot learn from simply reading a book or playing video games. It is a personal, one-on-one relationship that requires someone of godly character and integrity.
Since I don’t know you yet (though I am really looking forward to getting to meet you…honestly) I thought I might offer you some advice on some things to say and do while avoiding other things that wouldn’t endear you to me, to her nor to her Lord. Yes, her Lord. See, my daughter is a follower of Christ. Therefore, she has been bought with a price and anyone that she eventually meets, dates and weds must have that in mind above all else because it is her identity. Alright, enough chit-chat let’s get to that all important list of things to say and do and those things to avoid when wanting to date my daughter.
DON’T DO THIS: Lead her on with words that miscommunicate your intentions.
That is a big mistake. Don’t tell her something to lead her on and then pull that rug out from under her. Yes, it reveals that you are the kind of man she shouldn’t be spending much time with anyway, so thank you for making that obvious. But, a man is not a man if he doesn’t live up to his word. Your word is part of your DNA. If she can’t trust what you say BEFORE you are “dating” how could she ever trust you as you enter into a relationship. She will be much better without you, if that is what you are considering doing. I’m not a harsh man. I understand that feelings change and that maybe you don’t feel you’re in the same place in your relationship with my daughter that she might feel with you. That’s OK. Relationships are like that. Like the ocean’s tide they unevenly rise and fall in the lives of those involved. It’s cool to tell her, “I don’t know what I feel or where I’m at in this relationship”. I support you in that confusion. Listen, I realize you may not have spent one minute thinking about marriage. That’s OK. This relationship may not end there. But, whenever a relationship starts, it has the potential to end in the ultimate relationship and before it goes there, it needs to have been built on a solid foundation.
Having been married for nearly 29 years, I’ve been there…confused about women I mean. But, when I said “I DO”, I DID. Forever. I meant it when I said, “in good times and bad, rich or poor, sick or well, till DEATH do us part”. That’s quite a commitment to make to another person. Too many of young (and old) men and women don’t take that commitment seriously. They are just bridge words to get from the wedding ceremony to the honeymoon suite. Nope. They are words of significance. They are your identity. So you can see why empty words spoken to lead my daughter on in the beginning of a relationship will not work for me (or her).
One young man recently told my daughter that he was “interested” in her. My daughter understood that to mean he was interested in her enough to pursue the relationship at a little deeper level. Then, the young man turned to her a few days later and said, “remember that ‘interested’ comment? Well, forget I ever told you that.” I’m sure you wouldn’t do that but just in case, don’t tell her you’re “interested” unless YOU ARE INTERESTED. And by the way, you might want to choose a different word. There’s no commitment in the word “interested”. I’m interested in football, steak, the outcome of the elections and a host of other things in life. But, it’s not a word to be used in a relationship. It might be true. You might be interested. But please don’t use that as an expression of any kind of personal commitment.
DO THIS: Spend time expressing important things to her in person.
While we’re on the subject of words, let’s make it very clear that my daughter doesn’t consider “talking” a stage of a relationship. Talking and texting might be a way of communication but you need to be man enough to approach my daughter in a personal way (read FACE TO FACE) when it comes time to expressing how you feel about her. It shouldn’t be a Facebook relationship change first.
I’m sure you probably know this but only about 10-20% of our communication with one another is verbal (depending on the study you read). Nonverbal cues like making eye contact, the wrinkling of your forehead, the looking away when you say something, a smile and turning your body sideways when discussing important issues all convey things that your words (verbal and digital) might not, and in fact, be in complete contrast to what you are saying. Don’t be a weenie and hide behind a cell phone to communicate important aspects of your feelings and intentions. Texting to break up or request a first date shouldn’t happen.
DON’T DO THIS: Flirt with her friends or roommates when she’s around, especially if you’ve already told her you’re interested in her (of course you wouldn’t do that since you read the first DON’T above but just in case…).
Women are very perceptive creatures. They pick up things like a glance away at an attractive woman who walks by your table in a restaurant, an ogle of a model as you turn your head to watch TV over her shoulder. Once you’ve made it evident that you are indeed MORE than interested in my daughter, she deserves your attention. I completely understand about the fact that you aren’t dead, you enjoy looking at beautiful things. But every time you take your eyes off of her to look at another you are basically telling her she’s second-rate. My daughter is NOT second-rate. She is beautiful and worthy of your attention, all of it.
Of course, if you are in complete agreement that you are not interested in her, look around all you want. But, keep looking because that kind of guy is not the kind of guy my daughter needs. There are too many men distracted by BSO’s already (bright shiny/sexy objects). She needs a man who will keep his attention on her and who’s not distracted by those things around her. If you want to have my daughter, you need to have made it clear that she is your pursuit (other than your pursuit of Christ, of course).
DO THIS: Make her feel special.
I’ve already covered this in the “Don’t” section above but as you’ve heard me say, my daughter is priceless and she deserves a man who makes her feel special. One who thinks of the things that make her happy, content and important. That’s going to require you to ask questions, get to know her likes and dislikes, and most importantly to listen to her. I am not sure if you noticed or not but men and women are different. First, we’ve already discussed the visual thing. You and I are woefully attracted to visually stimulating things.
Women are relational. Sure they are attracted to attractive people but what is more lasting for them than for us is that they are much more fulfilled when you will take the time to sit down with them and make them the object of your attention. And, to be honest it’s really hard for me to write this one. This might be my biggest achilles heel. Yet, just because I’m not as good at it as I should be after 29 years of marriage doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about. I know you have other interests and that’s a good thing. You don’t have to smother her (she is a strong woman and doesn’t need your smothering) but you do have to do things that tell her in nonverbal ways that she is the most important person in the world to you. I know you may not be there yet. I’m just helping you see what it will look like when you are at the point of contemplating moving to a more firm commitment with her.
I completely understand if you are just trying to figure out where you are at in your feelings for her. That’s cool. I just want you to think about what it will look like as you move forward because there is nothing worse than you committing yourself as a man to a woman who you can’t do this with, i.e., give your attention to. But, if you can’t listen to her in the early part of your relationship, your probably not the guy for her either.
Rant done…for now
Finally, there are many more things like this (the Do’s and Don’ts of dating my daughter) that we will have much time to discuss. Because if you understand these first two pairs of how to conduct yourself in a relationship, you are well on your way to being the man her mother and I prayed about before she (and likely you) were even born.
I’m excited to be able to meet you one day because you are interested in the young woman who God entrusted to me for the first 20 or so years of her life. She is now a woman who loves God, her family and who is looking for that man who will treat her the way she deserves to be treated (and that man will be getting something very special when he responds in this way, let me tell you). If you read this and think that this is way too tough for you to do, you aren’t the right guy. Plain and simple.
My daughter will make all of her decisions so this isn’t a letter of threats or ordination into the family. It’s a letter that might help you see the preciousness of a daughter from the eyes of her father. One day, you’ll truly know what I’m talking about when you consider giving the hand of your daughter and passing the torch of being the man in her life to another man. One day…
Until then, enjoy your time getting to know her, “talking” to her (not a stage of relationship, remember) and determining through prayer and wise counsel if she is the one you are supposed to pursue as she does the same. I’ll be waiting to meet you.
Your potential future father in-law.
Jeff (or Mr. Abramovitz if you prefer ;).