Not Telling Dad

Not Telling Dad

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The dilemma in today's featured Boundless article, "Not Telling Dad," is an awkward one. Essentially, the question is, "Does my 31-year-old boyfriend have to answer all my father's questions?" Specifically questions about whether the boyfriend, who has "lived a pretty wild life," has any sexually transmitted infections.

I can see different sides to the situation. On one hand, why is the father being so intrusive, not trusting his 27-year-old daughter to make wise decisions about her boyfriend? On the other hand, why is the boyfriend afraid to be transparent? Is he hiding something that he's ashamed of, something secretive that a father would sense and an in-love girlfriend might not?

She could just dismiss her father's questions, saying it's none of his business anymore. But doing so would damage her relationship with her father, and simply put off a conversation that must eventually take place.

So what advice does Boundless Answers columnist John Thomas give? Hm.

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  • Comment by  obewan:

    Dad should just be thankful that she intends to marry a Christian.  He could also learn to show a little more grace.  It sounds like he still resents the boyfriend's prior sins and that is the overbearing problem.

    I have always heard that the marriage laws mandate testing for STD's, so I don't see where that is any concern of the Fathers if they are currently living pure lives.

  • Comment by  Tami:

    I think sometimes we forget the distinction between "privacy" and "having something to hide."

    One person might simply view this as a private matter (as I would); being protective, the father probably views this as "if he's not answering me, he *must* be hiding something."

    Also -- didn't the letter say the guy was willing to show the results to his girlfriend, but not the father? In that case, it sound like he *isn't* hiding anything from *her*, but just feels weird about the dad being in his super-personal business. And frankly, if I was a 30+ year old man, I would feel the same way.

  • Comment by  AndreaElena:

    Um... at 27, she should be able to discern some things for herself. Dad's input is great, but a person's sexual past is not necessarily something he/she wants to go into great detail with his/her potential father-in-law. (And if we counsel people to not unload all the details of their sexual history upon the person they are dating, then certainly the filter upon what to share with one's future in-laws should be "tighter.")

    What is the young man's motive: to cover up? or to protect/defend his own boundaries as a human? Is that what the father is concerned about?

    I agree wholeheartedly with John Thomas's assessment and counsel. I hope this young lady heeds it. Sounds as if she has a good relationship with her parents. It just needs some maturing in a slightly different direction. And... she does need to be cautious about the young man she's considering as her future husband. The father is wise to be concerned and to lend his perspective. What he should not be doing is deciding for his daughter.

    One thing the young lady can be thankful for is a father who cares enough about his daughter to take more than a mere cursory interest in her life. Especially as he is trying to be a dedicated Christ follower. Not all young adults have that blessing to be grateful for.

    The father is right to urge the tests be taken, but he should leave the results for his daughter to see. All he needs to know is that the tests were taken. He needs to trust his daughter to make the right decision once she has all the information needed.

  • Comment by  Tami:

    I also have a feeling that Dad, being protective, is throwing up barrier after barrier, hurdle after hurdle because this young man is not like the type of man he envisioned his daughter being with. Which is not to cast aspersions on the guy at *all* -- but I surmise Dad pictured her marrying someone with a more similar upbringing.

  • Comment by  Kate:

    I don't see how the boyfried is afraid to be transparent. According to the letter, he's honestly shared his sexual past with the young woman and has offered to be tested and give the test results to her. The woman is at an age and maturity level where she should be able to process that information and use it to make a decision with prayer and drawing on her parents' previously-imparted wisdom, without her father's micromanagement.

    "Some of the questions were very personal and specific sexual questions." This wording in the letter implies that the boyfriend has also disclosed to the woman's father that his past includes sexual sin, but the father is demanding to know details such as exactly what he did, at what age, how many times and with how many partners. This to me seems completely inappropriate and bizarre. The fact that the father at this time completely shut down all communication with the young man is another big red flag that the father may not be acting reasonably.

  • Comment by  JacobM:

    I was pleasantly surprised by the advice John Thomas gave.  I think that wanting to know whether the guy has repented of any past sexual sin can be a legitimate matter of determining his character, but wanting to know his medical test results is not appropriate.  If he does have an STD, he should disclose that to the girl, and she can decide what she wants to do.  If at that point she wants her father's advice on the matter, she can ask for it.

  • Comment by  PP:


    I can see the father's point. Up to a point.

    I'm assuming that the letter was edited for clarity, however it does sound as though the young woman does not have a great deal of life experience.  She was home schooled, didn't attend college and has focused on helping her immediate family.  

    It sounds as though the guy however, did a whole lotta living back in the day.  I would be concerned that the young woman might be getting in over her head regardless of how "G-dly" the man might be now.  

    Back when I worked at a religious publication, I worked with a number of women who were raised, and continued to live, in sheltered enviornments.  I saw several of these women get in over their heads in relationships because they were simply too innocent to understand the situation.  

    My boss, a devout believer with a past herself, and I spoke with these women to help them understand the situation as a whole. We understood that these young women were easy prey and at least tried to open their eyes a bit before getting in too deep with these men.  If they had been out in the world a bit more, I

    If the woman is as sheltered as she appears to be, I'd want to investigate the man further as well.  The intimate details are not appropriate, however I do understand the father's perspective.

    Sheesh, I never thought I'd say such a thing.  Go figure.

    Before y'all think that I've registered as a Republican, please be aware that I think this is a special circumstance because the woman has been so sheltered.  If she had gone to college (religious or secular), served in the military or even worked at a large company with a diverse group, I would have said go forward with or without your father's blessing.  

    I also think that this story is an argument for encouraging young women to strike out on their own in the world.  Knowledge provides both power and safety.

  • Comment by  Liz:

    I also completely agree with John Thomas's answer to the letter-writer. To me, a few things really stood out to me about this letter. First, I agree with Tami in that there is a big difference between keeping some information private and "hiding something." These are not 16-year-olds, and I believe that a 31-year-old adult is perfectly within his rights to keep some personal information between himself and his future wife.

    I also noticed that the letter-writer offered to share the test results with her father, but that wasn't "good enough" for him--he needed to see them himself. This is a 27-year-old woman who has lived at home for her entire life, serving her family with (according to her letter) cheerful goodwill. Nothing in her letter suggests any reason her father would have not to trust her, yet he still apparently does not. I obviously don't know these people, but on the surface, it looks like her father isn't really "protecting" her so much as he is infantilizing her.

  • Comment by  Brooke:

    as someone all for courtship and transparency, there is a line. if they had progressed to the engagement period, these would be questions that this gentleman should by all means answer to HER, and she could choose to divulge those to her dad (this is not hiding - this is privacy and also sexual history should be between a husband and wife, not father and potential son in law. that is over the line). but it sounds like a controlling, fundamentalist father with an iron fist on his firstborn daughter. she needs to be careful because if she doesn't approach this right, she could ruin a wonderful thing with a wonderful man and continue an unhealthily controlling relationship with her father that has the potential to scare away all future potential suitors. she is 27 and if she feels called to marriage, then she needs to be cautious in not allowing a fearful father to rob her of that. there is a difference between approaching relationships with caution and making relationship decisions based on fear. RISK is always involved. we cannot insulate ourselves 100% from mistakes or pain, unless we want to be alone forever.

    i do believe there is a boundary issue there that she will have to deal it sooner or later and I sincerely hope she chooses to deal with it now.

  • Comment by  LouisefromChicago:

    My opinion is that the father is overly controlling.

  • Comment by  Jade:

    My first thought was, "27 and always having lived at home?!?!" Last I checked, staying at home and "serving" ones younger brothers and sisters (who one must assume at lease some of those siblings are also in their 20s and perfectly capable of caring for themselves) is not a biblical calling. Women are called to be wives and mothers, not caretakers/enablers of younger siblings. This woman should consult with respected, neutral Christians in her life, then continue to pursue this gentleman if God so prompts her to do so. Honestly, I think her father delving into her boyfriend's sexual history is a bit creepy. My father adores me and has prayed for me and my husband since the day I was born, but he would never dream of asking such questions. Did he ask difficult questions as to my husband's walk with God and preparedness to be a husband and father? Yes. Sexual history, no.

  • Comment by  Alison:

    After everything this young lady has down for her family, I would think that her parents would be happy that she has met a Godly Man who wants to pursue marriage.   These constraints make me think that the Father is really not interested in his daughter getting married, but would rather have her live at home forever.  It maybe the best thing for this young lady to marry and move away from home.  Some separation from her controlling father could be a very healthy thing!!

  • Comment by  Keith:

    I remember watching a documentary about Michelle Obama, and about how her family checked out Barrack to make sure he was the right match.  Their test:  Michelle's Obama took Barrack out on to the basketball court to see how he would react in a challenging situation.  Seeing how he played basketball allowed her brother to see into his character and decide he was the right person for his sister.

    Asking questions, especially about one's past, isn't a good way to find out what type of person one is.  

    Let me tell you the best way to find out what kind of person your potential son in law is:  Take him out on a three or four day camping trip.  Sleep together, eat together, spend three or four days together in a challenging and unusual environment (ie. out in the woods) and see how he reacts.  How does he handle problems?  How does he communicate? Is he calm, even under unusual circumstances?

    I remember my high school camping trips.  I learned more about the character of my classmates in a three days of camping with them than I learned in the previous three years of being at school with them.

    That is the best way to learn about how a potential son in law really is...

  • Comment by  Merly:

    Reading such Godly advice is a constant reminder of why I'm so thankful for Boundless. From the letter, I sense this young woman is torn between honoring her parents and making what she believes to be a godly choice for a future husband.

    I really like John's advice about PRAYERFULLY standing up to her parents about this choice, and not in a defiant way. The solution might be in the way she approaches her parents, as with the story of King David and Abigail. I also agree wholeheartedly that she should "step up the prayers" if this is truly what she believes is God's will for her future.

    I know we've all heard the "let not man separate what God has joined together..." verse mentioned at weddings, but might this also encourage us to pray boldly for those things that war against holy, God-honoring unions even before we get to the altar?

    Just a thought...

  • Comment by  JT:

    I have a bit of advice for the 31 year old suitor.  Her father will not relinquish control of his daughter the day you say I do.  Most likely, he will insist on "helping" (see controlling or manipulating) your marriage every step of the way.  (In fact, if you were to list the top 10 drawbacks and sinful snares of courtship, this would be in the top 2.  Idolatry is the other one.)  My advice is that if her father doesn't lighten up, get out.  You don't want that for in-laws.

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