Last year I was dating this girl, and after a few weeks, things were going really well. I remember going to her house to meet her parents for the first time. Her dad was barbecuing for us, and welcomed me into his house with a friendly grin. It wasn’t long, however, before I was invited outside for some “one-on-one” time.
“Oh no,” I thought. “Here it comes.” I knew that this was the first time his daughter had brought somebody home. And I’d been dreading this moment, because I expected to be sat down and asked some tough questions: if I struggled with porn… if I were a real man, or just a faker… if I was going to respect and protect his little girl, or break her heart.
“Do I need to read you the riot act?” he asked. I laughed nervously. And unfortunately, that was all that was said.
I remember feeling like I’d dodged a bullet. In hindsight, though, I wished he’d given me his best shot. I wish I’d heard the riot act loud and clear — because this is what a girl deserves. She deserves to have someone threaten a grim and torturous fate on her behalf. She deserves a man who will fight for her, and until a boyfriend proves his worth, that job belongs to her father.
Even though most daughters plead with their fathers to let it go, I think talks like these, while painful and awkward, are necessary. Maybe not after the first date, but certainly after a few, even and especially when the relationship seems to be going strong. Because relationships are hard, and hazardous, and potentially destructive. Old hurts, immaturity, and, well, you know can and often do rear their ugly heads before you know it and mess everything up, hurting all parties involved. While trying to keep the relationship going smooth, a girl often will not stand up for herself and set clear boundaries. And if there’s one thing about us guys that’s pretty consistent, it’s that we like to break boundaries, not make boundaries.
But it shouldn’t be up to just her. A girl’s sense of morality is often the last, and usually pretty weak, line of defense. It should be her father who helps set the boundaries loud and clear, who offers wisdom and guidance to keep a relationship from quickly veering off course. And it should be the father’s threatening stare that pops into my mind every time things go a little farther than they should physically.
Furthermore, it’s hard to be “the man” in a relationship. It’s hard to be completely faithful in your thoughts and actions. It’s hard to be a spiritual leader. It’s hard to always put her needs before your own. At first, it seems easy, like we can do it naturally. But after time, it takes work: lots of work. Guys need to be told to “be a man.” A good man. We need guidance on what that looks like in a relationship. A potential father-in-law doesn’t necessarily have to be that person, but he should at least be in contact with the man/mentor who is.
Now I’m not saying every father needs to be an overbearing, Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents type. But that is what every girl deserves. And every girl deserves a good man.
Unfortunately, being good doesn’t come naturally to us. We need discipleship, guidance, someone to answer to. Someone who’s willing to come alongside us and be firm in communicating what it means to follow Christ while in a relationship. And sometimes we need someone to scare us straight, in a sense.
Unfortunately, many of us men don’t have that person in our lives. So we need all the help we can get, from wherever we can get it. Often times, the last person we’d like to fill this role is the one person who’s got the most invested: namely, the girlfriend’s father. But whether he likes it or not, he’s the last line of defense.
I remember around the same time I started dating this girl, my friend (we’ll call him “J”) started dating someone too. I heard that he met with her father regularly, and when the relationship ended (his decision), he was summoned for a meeting.
“Oh man, you’re going to get it!” a few of us told him. We just assumed he was in for a tongue lashing like no other.
Instead, he told us it went really well, that this girl’s father wanted to make sure he was doing okay, and see what he had learned from the relationship. He had taken a mentorship role in J’s life, and even though J had hurt his daughter, he was mature enough not to blame him, but to offer him support and guidance.
I think we all need that. I know there probably aren’t many fathers of dating-age girls reading this, so girls, I challenge you to talk to your father about when it is appropriate to give “the talk” and not to shy away from it, but to take a guiding, mentorship approach rather than mimic Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction: “And I will strike down upon thee with GREAT VENGEANCE and FURIOUS ANGER!”
And to the men, I challenge you to pursue “the talk,” and to be ready for it, because accountability in this relationship will go a long way towards your growth and the health of your dating relationship. Sometimes the awkward moments are the ones we need to experience the most.
Flickr photo (cc) tombotheterminator