Why Guys Should Stop Talking to a Girl’s Dad Before They Ask the Girl Out

selective focus photo of excited elderly man in blue sweater sitting by the table talking on the phone while using a laptop

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Somewhere in our Mennonite history, perhaps overly-influenced by Bill Gothard (who was neither Mennonite nor Godly), we adopted a system in which men, when they wish to pursue a relationship with a woman, are expected to speak to her father before they even let her know that they like her.

I think 2020 is a good year to end this practice.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a guy and you’d feel more comfortable getting some advice from her dad before you broach the subject with her, cool. Go ahead.

Or if you’re a girl and you want your dad to have somewhat of a gate-keeping role in your life, cool. If a guy asks you out, just use your words, and tell him you’d like him to talk to your dad first.

But I think the blanket expectation that guys will talk to the dad first is harmful for everyone. Here’s why:

1. It keeps women from learning how to articulate what they want

Look. I love my Mennonite culture, but sometimes I fear that we don’t teach our women how to articulate what they want, or say “no.” Which not only makes communication complicated and unclear, but also makes women resort to manipulation. And makes it easier for men to take advantage of women. It’s just not cool.

An adult woman should be able to say to a man, “no, I am not interested in dating you.”

An adult woman should also be able to say, “I’d like you to talk to my dad before we discuss this dating business further.” If that’s what she truly wants, she should be able to say that out loud using Clear English Words.

2. It often makes men have to jump through completely unnecessary hoops

I can see value in a guy talking to a girl’s dad at some point near the beginning of their relationship.

I see absolutely no value in a guy having a long awkward talk with a girl’s dad, only to end up never dating her at all, because she wasn’t interested.

If someone has no chance, they should’t have to talk to your dad about it. It’s pointless.

3. It makes things harder for women in the long run

When a girl is 20, having a guy talk to her dad first seems to have some advantages. She can ask her dad to turn him down for her, and avoid that awkwardness. It weeds out the guys who aren’t serious and just want to have a good time. And it feels romantic to think that this guy likes you so much he’s willing to jump through these hoops to get you.

But it gets worse for women as they get older. Once a guy has talked to five dads with zero results, he’s gonna be exhausted from fruitless dad-talking. He’s going to be much less likely to ask out a Mennonite woman. That’s just the sad reality.

4. Do dads even like having these talks?

Obviously a dad will be interested in knowing more about who his daughter dates, especially if she’s pretty young yet. He’s going to feel protective.

But like, if the guy isn’t going to date her…if she’s just gonna turn him down…surely that can’t be a fun situation for the dad either, right?

Is there something I’m missing here? Do dads just like chuckling to themselves about the poor blokes they got to reject for their daughter’s sake? Because to me that just sounds cruel.

5. The older a girl gets, the sillier the whole thing is

If a woman is in her 50s and single, is a man supposed to drive to the nursing home and yell into her father’s ear for a while? What if she’s a widow? At what point does the practice become ridiculous?

Maybe if the girl is 18, talking to her dad isn’t such a bad idea. But can’t we just nix the practice for girls over the age of 25? Or at least once she’s been independent for a decade or so?

6. We can switch up the order of operations and still keep every single one of the system advantages

I get it. There’s value in making a guy prove that he’s serious. There’s value in a father probing into a guy’s life, protectively looking for red flags that his daughter may not see. Especially if she’s still quite young.

But the guy can still talk to the girl first, and talk to the dad later if she says “please talk to my dad.” It’s not that hard, and it accomplishes all the same goals.

Final Thoughts:

I don’t think a girl should ever make a guy talk to her dad if she has no intention of dating him. And I don’t think a girl should ever make her dad turn a guy down for her, unless he’s legitimately a creep. I think a lot girls, even if they are kindhearted, do these things because it’s just how the system works, and because it’s easier. But I think it’s cruel to the men. (Although men, I’m willing to be corrected if you’d rather be turned down by the dad than the girl.)

Also, I know that someone’s going to read this post and think, “but why does it always have to be the guy asking the girl out? Can’t girls ask guys out?” Honestly I don’t have enough data to tackle that one, but if you have a girl-asking-a-guy-out experience (positive or negative) I’d love to hear about it.

But it did make me think. What if we had a system where Mennonite girls started talking to the moms of Mennonite boys they had crushes on? Sort-of “hey I like your son, what do you think?” Maybe that would be less scary than talking to him yourself or waiting on him indefinitely, hahaha. I’m just joking around of course, but if you’ve ever done that, I REALLY want to hear that story.

…     …     …

I don’t usually post about this sort of thing on this blog. Normally I’d put it on my Patreon, which is an extra, subscription-only blog where I sometimes post controversial/opinionated pieces like this one, and other times I post more emotional, vulnerable pieces.

My latest Patreon post is both. I wrote about why I hated Greta Gerwig’s 2019 Little Women movie, which is a controversial opinion, since most people loved it. But it’s also a vulnerable piece, because my reasons for hating it were very personal.

All my Patreon posts are accessible for $1 a month (or if you want to support me more than that, you can edit the amount to give more). I try to post twice a month, but am committed to posting at least once a month.

If you want to sign up, go to patreon.com/emilysmucker and click the red “join” button.




22 responses to “Why Guys Should Stop Talking to a Girl’s Dad Before They Ask the Girl Out

  1. runrunrunandhide

    Your last paragraph about girls bringing up the subject with a guy’s mom made me laugh a little. I think it’s an idea that needs to catch on. I also love that you capitalized “Clear English Words.”

    I’ve never been into the whole “guy talks to dad first thing” and being in my thirties now just makes it seem even more ridiculous. If I had been into that in my teens and twenties though I still would not have wanted a guy to talk to my father. Some fathers are just not nice people and my father is one of them. He sexually abused myself as well as some of my siblings. I realize someone may read this and think that this is a unique situation that would never happen with a father in Mennonite culture. Please think again. My family attended a conservative Mennonite church and my father and mother were both members there. Sexual abuse and other nasty things happen behind closed doors in more Mennonite homes than I care to think about. So for some Mennonite girls a guy asking their dad isn’t an option and shouldn’t be something that’s even considered.

    I don’t mean to bring too much doom and gloom to the comment section here. On the bright side I just had the thought that on the off chance I ever do meet a guy I can introduce him to my dad and see how they get along. If he gets along great with my dad I’ll know immediately he isn’t someone with whom I want a relationship. Maybe my father could have a useful role to play in a relationship of mine after all.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Emily Sara Smucker

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. Thank you so much for your perspective. You make such a good point…you don’t even know what sort of relationship a girl has with her dad, or if he’s a good man, unless you talk to her first.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. Very sensible. I must say as a French man this appears to me a very a very strange way of dating. No critic here. It did happen here but a very long time ago.
    I love the idea to talk to the mother.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree with you. I was older when a guy finally asked me, and he didn’t actually ASK to date me until he took me out to eat for the first time. 🙂 He asked my dad later, out of respect. My husband had already gone through 2 dating relationships, going through all the proper procedures. Recently, we watched a nice young man jump through hoops to try and get a dad’s approval to date his daughter. The girl turned him down. A number of people knew this young man was wanting to ask the girl before she herself even knew. How embarrassing.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I was 29 and my now husband asked my father first. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have considered the young man if he would’ve come to me first, as I wasn’t particularly impressed by him as well as a host of other things. It was my dad’s gentle encouragement that opened my heart to saying, “yes, I’ll give this relationship a shot!” Best decision I ever made. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I totally agree with you. Mennonite women need to learn to speak for themselves!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My perspective is from non Mennonite roots. I did not grow up Mennonite, but have been with them several years now. I wonder if this isn’t a bit of a reaction to your culture and practices. Honestly, I believe there is no “best way” for dating to begin. To suggest that no “dad asking” should be the new norm is simply starting another trend that puts everyone in another box. I believe beginning a relationship is a personal thing that each person needs to know what’s best for them. And with God’s help work out what His will is for there lives…… whatever that looks like! We are all on a different journey in life and God is the only one that understands each journey completely. In that, I feel that as His children we need to have respect for each other and the direction He is taking us. Turning our judgmental views into a kind, uncritical heart of love for those around us, with acceptance.
    Thank you for writing and making us think!
    All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was 25 when my husband asked me out. I lived on my own and was very independent, so if he had asked my dad first, I would not have been impressed. I had asked him as a plus one to my sister’s wedding a month before…I suppose that counts as me asking him out first?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My father had passed away in 1984 by the time I met my husband when I was 31. My husband did out of respect ask my mom for permission to marry because we are a mixed couple. He was worried she wouldn’t approve but my mom loved Tim from the moment she met him.😊
    Which makes me wonder if the girl’s father has passed, away would the guy ask the mother for permission to date her daughter?
    It would be interesting if a girl asked the guy’s mother for permission to date her son if his mom is a widow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily Sara Smucker

      I know of at least one case where the guy talked to the girl’s mom because her father had passed away. I think it’s special to get the mother involved in the process.


  9. I know of a man who did not let a guy date his daughter. By all appearances they would have made a well matched couple. His reasons to my knowledge were questionable as well as his methods.

    I know another couple where the girl noticed the guy and asked a friend for his number. They have a nice family now and have been happily married for several years.

    I think if the woman is an adult there should be no “permission” involved. If she’s old enough to date and old enough to get married… Hello.

    I think that whenever we start making rules about things that God doesn’t make rules for, it becomes a noose. Each circumstance should be taken into consideration for itself and responded to accordingly.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I think the short answer for why it happens is: TRADITION. Wasn’t it historically the norm, not just in anabaptist circles, to ask the father for the girl’s hand in marriage? He gives her away and all that. For whatever reason, and it might be a good one, it seems like the intention to date/court is the intention to marry, therefore, he asks her provider. Do guys that asked the girl’s dad before they dated also ask him again before they propose? I doubt if many do because they already got that out of the way.
    I totally agree that it doesn’t make sense if she’s not living at home anymore or is “older”😏, or if there are any other sticky situations as mentioned already.


  11. MargaretQueenofScots

    I tend to agree with the other lady that suggested you might be having a bit of a reaction to our cultural norms. I know that some Menno are super rigid and probably would barely allow for any deviation, but I know many would, too. I was living in my own, 21 years old, and had an independent streak a mile wide when my husband and I started dating. He didn’t even know my parents’ names at the time so obviously we by passed the “traditional” route there. He did speak with my dad as a formality when we got engaged, and I really wanted my dad’s approval because I was close to him.
    I grew up Old Order Amish, and interestingly enough, there boys generally go to the girl when they’re interested in dating her. I believe when they’re engaged he will officially speak to her parents, but it’s not really set in stone. (My cousin’s girlfriend actually proposed to him 😜 The Amish aren’t as backwards as they sometimes appear) The New Order Amish church I joined later normally went the dad’s permission first route but it wasn’t like it caused any problems when we deviated.
    I’m curious why you think the girl speaking to the mom would be better, or something. It would become just another tradition. I think the key we’re looking for is flexibility. Because every circumstance is a little different, you know? But I don’t think it’s bad or wrong to have a “normal” way of doing it.
    Also, at the risk of sounding like a preacher 🙈 I must point out that there’s a reason the father traditionally acts as a gatekeeper. It’s his job to, according to scripture. May I gently point out that it seems like you’ve absorbed a lot of feminist thinking? I say this, because I used to be very much that way, and still have the personality that can easily get caught up it it. Feminism brought some needed corrections, absolutely, but it’s long gone into destructive over-correction.
    All the best, I enjoy your blogs very much!


    • You seem dismayed at the thought of a girl asking the mom of her fiancé. But if you think it’s okay for the boy to ask the dad…then why wouldn’t it be okay, to let the girl ask too? Parents love the groom to be also.
      Now, another thing that concerns me. I think sometimes people put too much stock in traditions. In the case of wedding traditions, people, mostly men, want to keep them. Wedding traditions elevate and praise dad, almost over the bride.
      But marriage traditions are alway at the expense of the female..The mother gets left out and the dad tries to run the show, strutting and preening with the bride down the aisle, while mother sits there alone. Then the dad does all this talking and toasting and boasting about what all he did, never mentioning what her valuable mother did. Then we see how the traditions, let there be a father and daughter dance. Where is the mother and daughter dance? Where is the groom and his mother’s dance?
      We allow dad to run the show, talking all night with toasts, while the woman who gave birth to her does nothing. How do you know mom is not hurting? She is, but she was groomed, brainwashed and taught to say nothing even if it hurts her. She was taught to let her husband always control, even when he shouldn’t.
      Think about the many sleepless nights that mom sat up waiting for her daughter or caring for a fever. Think about the 18 or 20 years mom raised her to be a confident woman. Think about that. Where is mom’s expressions of appreciation. Dads don’t do any more than mom’s. In fact most times the mom does more, but we don’t reward mom ever. We reward dad. That’s why these old patriarchal traditions need to change or be stopper. They only elevate dad. And after all it is the brides wedding, not dad’s.
      In addition, you wrote about feminsm. Feminism is not the bad thing that men have pushed it to be. It’s no more negative than chauvism.
      Further, am concerned how we twist thescriptures. There is not a verse to tell the young man to go and ask permission to marry a woman. We just allowed men to twist the word. Be reminded that in the olden days, yes only men worked and paid for everything. It did seem like it was only his home.
      Now women work too and some make as much or more than husbands. paying part of the bills too. So we don’t need to suggest that the girl lives only in dad’s house. So while you are concerned about feminism, we need to watch out for male chauvinism and the patriarchy. This has abused many women and girls. But Feminism helped give women the right to vote and own property.
      That’s why it is a huge injustice when we require a boy to ask permission to marry an adult woman . This perpetuates the notion that the woman is still property and has no value or worth. Neither is she a child.
      Nov 11, 2021.


  12. Zonya Gingrich

    Your observations are well stated and conclusions reasonable, in my opinion. Here is our funny dating story. My (now) husband and I had been emailing quite a lot, and were mutually interested in each other, but had not spoken openly of that interest. One night, I got home from work about midnight, opened my email to check if was a new messages from Dwight. There was! (Remember, this was in the days when email was the latest and greatest technology!) In that email he said something like, “Hey it seems like we have a lot to talk about. Maybe we should go out to eat or go for a walk in a park sometime.” I jumped to conclusions and thought he was asking to date me, rather than to just go do something together, and happily said, “Sure! How about both!” He never corrected me, and we this week we celebrate our 15th anniversary. 🙂 (He did talk to my dad, at my request, in person when I took him to meet my family. My dad had a voice problem that made it hard to talk over the phone with him, and since Dwight and I were both living in NYC, and my dad was in Iowa, it just worked better that way.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The picture on the top of this article made me smile! The Dad is elderly, white-haired and I’m assuming his daughter is an old maid of 50 and he’s like “yes! someone finally wants to date my daughter!” 🙂 This article was very interesting (in a good way), like usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Didn’t a telemarketer ask you out once when you answered the phone? I think you told him he’d have to talk to your dad, unless I’m remembering incorrectly. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  15. MargaretQueenofScots

    Okay, I see what you mean. 😆 I misstated what I meant, which would be more correctly an over correction or over reaction. I think that probably is the reason, or a large part of, blogging. To react to events, process things, etc. I think why I said that was because of the suggestion that basically switching gender roles and talking to the moms would be better…? For some reason? Just because it would be something different? <This is just my thought process. And in hindsight, I may have overreacted to what I perceived as “feminist”. 😉
    Anyway, I love your writings, both of you, and it’s refreshing to find some women who are both Conservative and good writers. But the lack of good representation in the arts by Christians is a subject for another day……(just a pet peeve of mine, the lame movies and music the Christian producers put out these days)


  16. I know I’m late to the party, but I wanted to reply to this. Honestly, this whole thing in my mind is completely intertwined with the marriagification of dating. While I do think that a dating relationship shouldn’t be frivolous in intention, it seems like dating has almost become tantamount to engagement in some of our circles. Asking of the father for permission is taking something that was traditionally used for engagement/marriage and putting it at the front end of the relationship, rendering the whole thing more Dramatic and Serious. It is not uncommon in my area for a dating relationship to last around the same amount of time as engagements used to last back in the day. 3 months dating, 3 months engaged, then they’re married.

    Liked by 1 person

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