Finding a Mate: What Questions Should I Ask the Guy Interested in My Girl?
“All right, ladies, give me all your hard questions! A young man is interested in our daughter and my husband is going to meet with him. I want your list of questions you plan to ask someone in this situation! My husband’s going to really let him have it!” – a mom in one of Melanie’s Facebook groups posted.
“Sorry,” Melanie answered, “I have no questions for you.”
“What? I was depending on you. I figured you’d have the best list of questions ever.”
No, no questions, but we do have a bit of advice.
You’d do well to remember that the young man you are talking about may one day decide how often you get to see your grandchildren. Honestly, hostility is not your best tactic here.
We hear what you’re saying, though. You love your (not so) little girl! You want to protect her. You want him to know that you have your eyes on him. We get that. There are better ways to do it than to start off on the wrong foot.
Build a relationship with him. Interrogating a stranger on his personal life is unlikely to prompt honest, thoughtful answers. In fact, it’s downright insulting. How do you feel when a stranger asks, “Are they all yours? Do you know what causes that? Are you on welfare?” Right. You feel very differently when a member of your church asks politely, “So, why did you decide to have a large family? Were you worried at all you’d have trouble supporting them?” What’s the difference? Relationship.
Don’t make him date you first, though. We know young men who’ve met with a dad over months, only to be told once he got the dad’s blessing on the relationship, that the girl wasn’t interested. Arrggghhh! Of course she wasn’t! She hadn’t been allowed to get to know him. Unless he was a dreamboat at first glance, she’s unlikely to want to jump into a relationship as serious as the one he’s spent months cultivating by dating dear old dad. It’s better for the two of them to become friends and grow in their relationship while you build a relationship with him at the same time.
Treat them both like adults. We do NOT see our role in our adult kids’ relationships as gatekeepers or referees. Once they’re adults, we consider that they need to make their own decisions. After all, they’re the ones who’ll have to live with them. What’s really interesting is that our kids tell us way more about their relationships than our more controlling friends’ kids tell them. It’s a common thing around here for an adult child to call and say, “Can we talk? I want to make sure I’m thinking right about this relationship…” and to continue talking for an hour or two. You’ll find out more and have more influence if you recognize their adulthood.
Accept that your control is limited. If your adult child is over 18, they can walk away from you at any time. All that allows you to have influence in their lives is relationship. If you are too controlling or hostile, you may drive your daughter into a young man’s arms to get away from you. It may be the wrong young man. Don’t be that parent.
“Wait a minute, then! What is my role in protecting my girl?” you might say.
Be her trusted advisor.
Be the person she can depend on to have her interests at heart. That means you put your feelings aside if you’ve always hoped she might marry a pastor and she’s interested in an engineer or you want her to live nearby and he’s studying to be a missionary or you wanted athletic grandchildren so you could go to their games and he’s short, slight, and bookish.
Be the person she can trust to raise concerns objectively. That means you don’t freak out or make more of something than is reasonable. Let’s face it, if our child waits for a perfect person, they won’t marry at all. On the other hand, if there are serious concerns, you really need to bring them to her attention. Is he in ongoing sin? Is he really a Christian? Is he preparing to support a family? Is he kind and thoughtful or abusive and manipulative? Those are valid issues and you need to have enough of her trust that she’ll listen when you share your concerns.
Be the person she can rely on to be there no matter what. We hear of folks who cut their kids off, refusing to go to the wedding or have contact with their children because they married someone the parents didn’t want them to. This is short-sighted in the extreme! If you cut off the relationship, how do you have any influence in your grandchildren’s lives? Hopefully, you’ll all feel great about who your child marries, but even if you don’t, they are still your child.
“But how then can I influence this? How can I help her make a good choice? How can I protect her?”
Trust us (and this goes for parents of sons as well as parents of daughters), if you have a good relationship with your adult child and treat them (and their love interest) as an adult with respect, you will have much more influence than if you try to be the boss here. Work on your relationship, show your love in a way she can understand and you will have tremendous influence in her life.
Hal & Melanie