The reason why I’ve been silent on over the past week is that I’ve been on a trip to meet my girlfriend’s family. I thought about what to call this, but might as well call it what it is. This is more of a field report style post which hopefully is good for learning experiences.
A bit of background. I’ve been ‘dating’ or ‘courting’ my current girlfriend for about 7 months having known her about 9 months. Due to circumstances I hadn’t been able to meet her parents the entire time which in my opinion is very unfortunate. In my opinion, this does color some of the situations negatively against me later on.
edit: we are interracial. So that may make some difference if you want to keep that in mind. It doesn’t to me, but it may to her parents.
General meeting with both parents
This series of events happened at the restaurant that we went out to with both her parents, one of her sisters, my girlfriend, and I. This is going to be brief as it fills in a bit more of the background before my chat with her father.
There was a bunch of small talk that occurred, but eventually they chose this time to talk to me about my intentions about their daughter. Also, they asked me about who I was in terms of what I did, what I thought a relationship and manhood should look like, and then they brought up some things that they didn’t like that I did. I was obviously nervous during this meeting, so I stumbled through some words. I didn’t know the direct meaning of some questions so I had to keep asking for clarification.
Her mom brought up a couple things she wanted to say and that was that. Her father said he had a lot more things. Obviously, I want to grow as a man and who best to learn from the father of the woman you want to marry. I told him we should talk about it later, which we will get to the next part.
Overall, I though the process went OK. I didn’t necessarily acquit myself well in being eloquent in how I spoke about how I view relationships, and I only talked about myself and not how I would facilitate leadership as I assumed it was mostly about me. I have the hindsight of having written this entire thing after the chat though so it may color this view. I probably thought it went a bit better than it did until he commented on some things later.
I’ll colloquially name it the chat, but in reality her dad prefaced it by saying that it was pretty much going to be him just telling me about his expectations for his daughter. Fair enough. I take the Scripture very seriously in what it says about relationships, and the logical conclusions that you derive from understanding that the father gives away the bride to her husband. This is important which I will discuss later.
In general, there were 3 main things that he wanted to cover namely manhood, roles and responsibilities, and negativity. I’ll discuss these with my analysis of each of them in the context of Scripture and my thoughts.
edit: since there seems to be some confusion: everything that occurred in the chat is NOT about things that occurred in the parent-children-me meeting. Much of it occurred before this. This is true of most of these points unless otherwise specified.
- Behavioral blunders
There was a situation where my girl and her sister were laughing about grabbing breasts. I rather impulsively jokingly grabbed my girl’s clothed breast for a brief second. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: not the most wise thing to do when you’re meeting her family for the first time. That was obviously a mega blunder for which I apologized and promised not to do again. We all make mistakes… some dumber than others.
edit: since some are getting hung up on this let me provide more information. This did NOT happen at the dinner. Other details:
My girl and her sister were talking about things. My girl was on a lower level surface (down one stair). She accidentally grabbed both of her boobs at the same time while trying to give her a hug. They started laughing and joking about it. I was passing by and briefly did the same thing to my girl. It wasn’t a double handed grab. It was one and for half a second. We were the only ones there which also means that her sister told her father.
- Body language
He discussed the importance of body language. Specifically, in the both parents chat the previous day he brought up some things that he thought I should work on in communication namely,
- Nervous laughter
- If I want to gather my thoughts to just say “I’d like to gather my thoughts before answering the question”
- And if I don’t know an answer just admitting “I don’t know” as that builds credibility versus showing you’re BSing.
- Couple others that I don’t recall.
As I stated before, I was nervous so apparently some things crept out. I asked for examples so I would know what exactly he was talking about.
Specifically, the nervous laughter he thought was that because I was an outsider to their conversation I was trying to fit in by laughing when they were laughing about things and other humor. Even after having thought about this I don’t really see where I did this at all. I know I have an “amused chuckle” when I think something is marginally funny that could be interpreted as “nervous laughter.” However, I am also willing to admit that I may be unconsciously doing something when I am nervous.
As I did stumble over my words in some cases and was confused at some questions I didn’t use the “gather my thoughts” method which is retrospect I should have. This is good advice. Take a deep breath and relax.
In regard to the part of saying I don’t know to some questions I’m not exactly sure where he thought I may have been making stuff up. I didn’t lie about anything I said. However, as I noted I was confused with some of the questions so maybe that came off as me trying to find the “right answer” rather than just “stating what I thought” about certain topics. I could see it from that perspective. In retrospect, I probably should have asked for more clarification on the questions even though I did some. It’s better to understand and have it spelled out for you than for someone to think you’re just making stuff up trying to find the right answer.
I think the main lesson from this category is that when you go into a nervous situation make sure to have a handle on your body language and how you communicate. It’s better to be seen as unreactive rather than having your actions be potentially interpreted as nervousness and failure to communicate well.
Now, I think some of this was colored by the next topic on pride.
The background behind this discussion topic is that I had previously sent a letter to her parents a couple months ago to tell them about myself and what I was doing in life as a Christian, career, in the Church. It contained many events about my life in terms of education, jobs, mission trips, and things of that nature to fill in the details about my life. At least that was my intention.
What I got instead was a monologue about pride and (paraphrased) ‘about how accomplishment don’t mean anything.’ I think my letter ended up being interpreted as a bragging point about “look about all of the things I have done and accomplished” rather than me describing details about my life. Fair enough. I see how it can come off that way when you discuss a lot about yourself it may come off as arrogant or pretentious.
Anyone who knows me in real life knows I am not like this. I never use my degrees or status as a crutch for bragging. In fact, most people I meet and become friends with don’t know I have a doctorate or do a few other things that make girl’s eyes pop out on a first date when I discuss. That’s simply not who I am. I don’t need to rest my laurels on my accomplishments. Indeed, even if I am debating I hate ‘appeals to authority.’ Arguments and evidence should be able to stand on their own without credentials.
I didn’t debate this. In post-chat hindsight I thought I should have said something about this. However, after having thought about it for another 5-10 minutes I realized that not defending myself here was the correct response. When someone is criticizing you about pride any explanation or defending yourself will be seen as pride.
Thus, if the criticism doesn’t apply and the other person thinks they saw it in you then it’s best to just let it go. I took this criticism with a grain of salt. It’s not something that I have to change because I am already willing to admit when I’m wrong and change my actions. I freely apologize for my mistakes. I don’t hang my hat on what I’ve done. No big deal.
- Manhood and roles and responsibilities
This was an interesting discussion.
In retrospect, I think this was where he thought I might have been making stuff up from the day before. They asked me about manhood and I talked about masculinity in general. Specifically, the traits of masculinity such as boldness, strength, confidence, and the like. However, the fact that this topic was brought up in regard to manhood and specific roles and responsibilities such as spiritual leadership, provision, and protection I think I see where he thought I was just talking out my butt.
There is a bit of background behind and when I was first talking to my girl earlier this year she told me that her parents didn’t like me very much. I had no clue why to be honest. Now I understand why. In regard to provision, they teach their children to be ‘chivalrous’ (for lack of a better term) because that’s who they are. It has nothing to do with men serving women or whatnot. Completely understood.
What this manifests into are some points which he drilled into me. Some common, and some more uncommon or never heard of from my experience.
- Hold the doors. Common which I do but since everyone else holding them I was not going push someone out of the way to do… which in retrospect maybe I should have to be more proactive.
- When you’re with your girl you pay for everything on the date or food. While this is common, the part that surprised me is that there was the expectation that if I’m out with my girl and some other girls I should pick up the whole tab for everyone.
- You drive. Period. Most people think driving sucks, and driving is provision so you drive. My parents taught me not to drive others cars because they didn’t want me to have responsibility in case of a crash. Maybe I could have figured this out by myself, but it would have been only a small chance of that.
- When you get gas you pay for gas and you pump the gas. I personally have never heard of this one before, but maybe it’s more common in other places. My parents modeled that whoever is driving does the gas regardless. So I had no clue about this one, and I don’t think I would have figured it out ever.
- You go with her everywhere and keep an eye on her to protect her. Pretty straight forward. I usually do this, but I didn’t in a few cases so those stood out to him. I’ve admitted before that I would kill to protect my family
These were only a couple of examples. Now these were not all spelled out specifically like this, so I asked some clarification questions. Unfortunately, my questions got interpreted as “it’s not about the girls” and “it’s about becoming who you are as a man.” That part frustrated me a bit because I understand what being a man entails, but I wanted some details about specifics of what being a man in those situations entails. I wasn’t trying to make it a works based thing where I try to please women.
I was able to indicate that in some cases my upbringing was a bit contrary to that which was why the conservation was probably on the more patient and lenient side. However, it could have been better in retrospect if he acknowledged or at least stated more understanding that some things I just had no clue on.
I talked with my girl later and her mom was saying it was questionable that even if I hadn’t been taught some of these things that I should have been able to pick up on them from TV or wider culture. However, given that I don’t really watch TV and that I wasn’t really taught much about relationships I’m not sure how I could have. Indeed, I mentioned to her that most of my male friends had very little relationship advice given to them, and then I asked her about if her friends talked about relationship advice given to them from their parents. Obviously, the answer is no.
So my conclusion is generally that her parents are an exception — in a very good way — but I think they may underestimate how much parents aren’t really involved with their children’s lives especially in the context of relationships.
I like hypothetical questions because they show thought processes and attitudes. Attitudes are a good proxy for the heart. Anyway, he really laid into me (read: ‘fucking stupid’ and ‘unbelievably dumb’) on this hypothetical question namely:
Do you think a father should ask for a paternity test after his wife has a child? Framed as a question of “trust” versus “truth” or “both.”
I attempted to explain that it was a hypothetical question after we started discussing it, but he was having none of that.
The main gist that I glean from his analysis is that it’s an affront to the character of your wife, and it is also an affront to the character of the man who raised your wife. Basically, if you don’t trust your wife you shouldn’t marry her. Even saying the question is bad because it drives a potential wedge that’s there and can fester into something worse.
Fair enough. That is true. I didn’t think it was a big deal since it was a hypothetical question, and I said that I wouldn’t ask for one. However, I can see how even bringing up a question like that could destroy a relationship by undermining trust just as a lie would.
- Serious topics versus getting to know someone
This was not discussed much with her dad, but I could see where he was hinting at it. I discussed this mainly with my girl later.
Essentially, I recommend vetting strongly (one) (two) (three), but from discussing it with my girlfriend the getting to know each other part of the relationship was a bit lacking compared to serious questions. Part of this is that we were unable to get significant amounts of face to facet time earlier on in the relationship. This led to what I would call a long term to short term imbalance in regard to getting to know if someone is right for marriage versus growing the relationship.
When this occurs what you will experience is likely that the girl you are ‘dating’ or ‘courting’ will feel like she is more of a list of traits that you’re looking for rather than someone you love and want to marry. This analogy is similar to comfort and rapport or similarities versus differences as I outlined in A detailed timeline and how-to guide on the process of finding a wife. In simpler terms she feels more like an object rather than in a relationship.
In extremely long term retrospect I think this is one of initial things that colored her parents opinions of me negatively. Personally, I continued to facilitate good communication with her through March to May and we cleared that up. However, I think her parents were and may be still under the impression that I’m looking to get married rather than have a relationship.
This is what may have colored their view of my letter to them negatively. Instead of being more informing about who I am, the fact that they may think I think of their daughter as a list means that me listing stuff off in the letter was prideful. In other words, they may have thought I am a list of accomplishments looking for another list in a woman to get married.
That’s a false impression, but I can see how based on this whole thing it may come off that way.
In regard to my specific situation, there were 3 main things that I came away from this discussion with family and father.
- There are some places I blunder and messed up. The only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes, apologize, and never do it again. Obviously, this is pretty straight forward, and it is what Jesus expects of us as Christians.
- There were some points of criticism where I felt I was completely mischaracterized. The pride example is one of them. In these cases, what I ended up learning from it is that it’s best not to defend yourself. If it’s untrue then it’s no big deal. I know my character and who I am in Christ so when someone has the wrong perception of me I don’t need to defend with words. I simply need to exhibit who I am through my actions. I think this is one of the most frustrating things because you know it’s false but defending yourself only proves the point to the other person.
- The expectations of manhood and interpretation of spiritual leadership, provision, and protection. I was also frustrated about this but not to the degree of being mischaracterized. The main thing I was frustrated about is that I was being held to a standard of expectations that I wasn’t aware of. Once I know of them and the fact that some of my prior upbringing was in direct contradiction to what he viewed as say Biblical provisioning then I have the opportunity to change how I act.
Now, think it needs to be made clear, just in case, that her father is not a mean or came off as abrasive. Her father and parents in general came off as wanting to protect and have godly relationships through strong boundaries.
This is very important to understand for men who are searching for attractive, virgin women because in almost all cases their parents and especially father have a very strong role to play in her upbringing and expectations within a relationship. He is very principled and very direct about what he believes. As a man in a relationship with his daughter I am fully willing to abide by their expectations to become the man I want to be. Not for her father, not for her, not for her family, but for myself. I didn’t think provisioning could be seen that way, but indeed it can and I want to do that.
At the end of the day, it would have been nice to be understood, but it really matters more what I do about the expectations I was made aware of. Some things I may not have a problem with that I can just chalk up to getting to know me better like pride. Some things need to be learned through trial and error such as boundaries. And then once expectations are known you can choose what to do about them.
Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I suppose this is where the rubber meets the road for most men. I know it’s been said multiple times in various blogs, but if you want patriarchy you have to be willing to submit to and thrive under it’s principles.
I think the overall conclusions that you can draw from this post are:
- Make sure you are engaging your woman in a relationship. Generally, vetting questions are good during the relationship and as a build up, but don’t forget about nurturing the relationship itself. This will help you give better first impressions too. It’s easier if you get more face to face time than I did though.
- Carry yourself well. Make sure you can communicate clearly and effectively when nervous. Control your body language. This doesn’t just apply to women but also her family and everyone.
- If you’re being misunderstood don’t argue. Prove it with your actions not words.
- Understand that and submit to the fact that daughters are under the authority of their fathers. This means that you have to engage them man to man to show yourself trustworthy.
- Eliminate negativity or even perceived negativity. Not just from lies but from hypothetical questions that can undermine trust.
- Understand that each day you choose the man that you want to become. This includes doing what you doing because of who you are and not because you want what you want. Part of this is understanding your identity in Christ and part of it is knowing the difference between performance and desire.
And last of all, learn from my mistakes.