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How, when and whether to ask girlfriend's father for permission to marry her

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I plan to ask my girlfriend's father for permission to marry his daughter. How early is this commonly done before proposing and, if possible, should it be in person? I'm not planning on proposing for another three months. However, the parents live a considerable distance away and we are visiting her family next month. Do I wait until it's closer and ask by phone, or, take the opportunity to do it in person?

I guess my only concern is keeping the secret for that long. I'm fairly sure the father will, but while her mother is great, she may have more difficulty keeping it quiet (I'm assuming he'll tell her) -- maybe I should just trust her father to keep it a secret from her mother if he thinks she'll let the cat out of the bag. Thoughts?

-- Asking Her Father

Do you think your girlfriend wants you to ask her father for permission to marry her? Something that many women, this one included, see as a profoundly offensive paternalistic holdover from a time when women didn't make their own decisions like any other fully realized adult human being?

If your girlfriend is "traditional" this way, then I'm happy you found each other. Ask both parents when you see them -- elder deference > male deference -- and ask them to keep a lid on it, though I recommend proposing immediately afterward and not waiting, because keeping secrets from people you're supposed to be in an intimate relationship with is incredibly counterproductive. Especially when the secrets are about them.

Re: "Secrets ... about them":

You think this way about a surprise birthday party? So no planning ahead because it's keeping a secret?

-- Please ...

You got me. Because cake and the course of one's life are genuinely equivalent.

This topic blew up the queue when it ran live. A sampling:

-- Before I proposed, I spoke with her father -- "I wanted to let you know that I love your daughter, and I'll be asking her to be my wife." I knew she really wouldn't appreciate the "property" overtones, but she'd appreciate me and her dad having a pleasant conversation and being on the same page.

-- How about asking for his (and her mom's) blessing. Or support. But the idea of permission is antiquated and offensive.

-- Our now-son-in-law didn't ask permission but instead came over to say he loved her and hoped we would be happy they wanted to get married. And we are delighted!

-- The comments make it even more with the nope. I am not chattel. I am a person. And if you want to ask anyone, ask my mother, she's the one in charge anyway :).

-- Don't do it. Even my super-conservative father rolled his eyes and replied, "You'll have to ask her."

-- I have to wonder how those having a chat with the future father-in-law would feel about their girlfriends having the same chat with their (the guy's) father. Or mother. You know, having a pleasant conversation and being on the same page.

-- Our now-son-in-law asked. My husband said, "I have no permission to give."

-- Holy crap -- way to rain on the (sweet, traditional) guy's parade!

Eight persuasive arguments for choosing a partner who shares your beliefs. Thanks all.

========

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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