'Not Telling Dad' Daughter Responds

'Not Telling Dad' Daughter Responds

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Before you go on to read this blog, let me encourage you to read the blog post and article referenced below if you haven't already done so.

Essentially, a young woman was torn between allegiance to her dad and allegiance to her boyfriend. And she was asking us for advice.

I thought there was a lot of helpful discussion following my blog post, exploring issues of trust and privacy and maturity and such. But some of the comments on my blog post quickly assumed the worst about the young woman's father:

  • "He could also learn to show a little more grace. It sounds like he still resents the boyfriend's prior sins"
  • "her father's micromanagement"
  • "This to me seems completely inappropriate and bizarre"
  • "it looks like her father isn't really 'protecting' her so much as he is infantilizing her"
  • "she could ruin a wonderful thing with a wonderful man and continue an unhealthily controlling relationship with her father"
  • "the father is overly controlling"
  • "I think her father delving into her boyfriend's sexual history is a bit creepy"
  • "the father is really not interested in his daughter getting married, but would rather have her live at home forever"
  • "it sounds like that they have a codependent, enmeshed family"
  • "her parents' conditional and infantilizing love"
  • it sounds like a controlling, fundamentalist father with an iron fist on his firstborn daughter"
  • "This article shows exactly how this keeping daughters at home movement is hurting females. It sounds like these movements are not about helping daughters but more for making for power hungry patriarchs."


Being a father now, one who dearly loves his three pre-K daughters, it hurt to see such harsh words for a godly man who was doing the best he could to bless his daughter. I also felt that maybe we didn't have the whole story, so I asked the young woman who sent in the original question if she would send me her thoughts on the blog discussion. Here's what she had to say:

* * *

"Wow! Settle down, people!" That was my thought upon reading the flurry of comments on Ted's blog post.

The first thing I want to do is defend my dad. He is a wonderful, godly man, a devoted and loving father, and he truly wants what is best for me. He's not some creepy control freak who doesn't want me to ever get married ā€” he has spent hours and hours in prayer for me and my future spouse. Iron fist? No way. I love, respect, and trust my dad.

John Thomas and Ted Slater are reading the situation rightly ā€” I have an outstanding father who is worried about his daughter.

There is only so much one can say in a letter to an advice column, and it's hard to determine what is pertinent. Some readers have been making wild assumptions based on what I wrote. I certainly didn't mean to imply that I've lived a life of perfection and never disobeyed my parents in 27 years! My intent was to show how seriously I take my dad's advice and that I want to honor him.

And I do understand, at least a little, why he would be concerned. My position is that while his concerns may be valid, I don't think it's time to shut this down completely. Maybe we can talk this over and try to come to an agreement with a little give and take, and a little sympathy for the young man's side.

I have no intentions of destroying my relationship with my father over this. After all, I've known and trusted him for 27 years and I know he has my best interest at heart. I want God to be glorified in the outcome.

* * *

You're free to leave any kind of comment you'd like, but I'm especially interested in exploring the following here:

  1. Why are we so quick to assume the worst about a father who seems to have a close, loving relationship with his daughter? Maybe we just don't see this enough, and when we do see it, it strikes us as oddly foreign, unrealistic, a fairy tale? And we recoil?
  2. If a situation is ambiguous, why must we fill in the blanks, and then form strong opinions based on the assumptions we've made? Why can't we reserve opinion, or hold our opinions lightly, especially when we lack sufficient information to make an informed opinion?

I've invited the young woman who sent in the question to participate in this discussion. She's really busy, and will be without an internet connection for a few days, but she'll do her best to answer your questions and inject her own thoughts when she does get a chance.

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  • Comment by  Tami:

    'Not Telling Dad' Daughter -- all the best to you. May God grant you wisdom and courage!

    I also pray that this doesn't remain an "either-or" situation, but that God, in His mercy and wisdom, reveals the right path to all of you. And! That you all listen and obey :)

  • Comment by  Ronnica:

    I think that part of the reason why we often assume the worst in someone such as the Dad in this case is that we've grown accustomed to the religious, controlling, possessive role that many modern shows and movies give to "Christians."  That, coupled with the uncommonness of it all, helps us jump to unwarranted and unkind conclusions.

  • Comment by  CraigM:

    I think the core issue for most folks is that the father presumes to demand sexual information from the boyfriend, when his daughter is twenty-seven years old.  Most Americans--including Christians--feel that by the age of twenty-seven, an adult ought to have established a  significant degree of independence from her parents.  Certainly the wise counsel of a concerned father should be welcomed, but the direct interposition of the father between his adult daughter and her boyfriend is regarded by many as inappropriate.  

    For my part, I think Christianity is pretty silent on this issue.  The strong patriarchal model on display here isn't "wrong"; neither is the more egalitarian American perspective that an adult woman ought ultimately to be responsible for her own relational choices.  But one can't avoid the reality that the patriarchal perspective--the idea that a father ought to directly impose his will on his adult daughter's prospective relationships--strongly implies a very significant subordination of women.  That's not historically abnormal--for MOST of history in most cultures, adult women were presumed to need (somewhat like children though not exactly) a degree of meaningful authority and oversight by men.

    The animus against this family is likely because most of us--including Christians--have pretty much rejected that presumption, for better or worse (I can see both great benefits and significant detriments).  Let's face it, this father would be utterly average 150 years ago.  

  • Comment by  LouisefromChicago:

    I am one of the commentors who stated that the father appeared to be "overly controlling."

    With all due respect, Mr. Slater, my chosen wording is not overly harsh given the details outlined in the original letter, nor is it a "wild assumption".

    Now, I have never met the man in question, so my impression of him may be entirely incorrect, but I stand by my opinion it is valid conclusion based on the young woman's letter.

    Now, I did NOT recommend that the young woman completely disregard her father.

    I recall I agreed with another commentor who suggested meeting with a neutral counselor to arrive at a solution.

  • Comment by  brx:

    Ted, you're so awesome!

    1. Why are we so quick to assume the worst about...

    I think it's because we are aware of our own depravity yet prideful and therefore aim to make others seem lower than ourselves - by showing they are in need of correction.

    2. If a situation is ambiguous, why must we fill in the blanks, and then form strong opinions...

    Oh, I don't know... why do you pick on Rob Bell and others who don't instantly appear to be exactly like you?  I think in our weakness, our passions can easily be twisted toward sin.

    Why did I jump to reply to your post so quickly?  Hmmmmm...

    I've come to believe that if a situation between two or more rational adults seems obviously wack, then there is likely some significant missing information or understanding.

    Unassuming grace & peace   :)

  • Comment by  jayme:

    I'm glad we got some updates.  I've been mulling this over in my mind the last couple of days.  I really thought people were harsh on the father.

    In my mind, this woman and her parents decided to do this courtship thing.  This man is willing to answer any questions to the father except for sexual questions?  That's a red flag to me.  It's saying: "I'm willing to answer any questions on the areas of my life that I have figured out, but for those areas that I don't have figured out, I won't answer to you."  At least that's what he could be saying.

    A comment in general: why do we deal with sexual sins so privately?  Why is it that MUCH bigger deal to admit that you have slept with someone before than it is to admit that you have $50,000 in debt?  Shouldn't you be repentent about both?  Shouldn't both grieve you?  Shouldn't you be hesitant to admit both?  (Not that you wouldn't admit both if both were true, but shouldn't you feel sorry about having both to admit?)  Both are sins.  Yes, a sexual sin can have worse consequences, I guess.  But we just treat it (sometimes) as the area of our lives that we don't want to confront.  That we don't want to show grace to others on.

    In this situation, this woman put her father in a position to judge any man who would court her.  And now when he shows some hesitation (and it seems rightfully so), she wants to "undermine" him.  Yes, in the end, it is her decision.  But it's also her decision to let her father give her wisdom and direction in this situation - that decision she made when emotions weren't involved.

  • Comment by  IreneM:

    To the letter writer, thanks for the update!  It's really difficult to read a situation when you don't know the person, so please take mine (and everyone else's thoughts) with a grain of salt.  My apologies if it has caused you any pain.  At any rate, I'm glad to hear that you have a good relationship with your father and wish the best of luck resolving this issue.

    Mr. Slater, I haven't forgotten you.  No worries. :-P  I've got some theories and will be answering you later when I have some extra time.

  • Comment by  brx:

    Ted, I was sincere when I said you're awesome.

    It also appears the young lady has a good head on her shoulders.  And with such a trusting and honest relationship with her father, she should be able calmly discuss the matter with him.  Why should it not be as simple (if not awkward) as sitting down with him, asking thoughtful questions to understand his concerns and then responding thoughtfully (maybe at a later time) with her decision(s) and reasoning about how she will deal with or satisfy or not satisfy those concerns.  That would be the escence of honoring her father.  

    One reason a potential mate may not wish to share STD test results with any but their significant other is because deep prejudices often do exist, even if subtley.

    Grace & peace

  • Comment by  Sylvia:

    The first thing that occurred to me when I read the comments along the lines of "at 27 years old she can think for herself" is that there are crazy divorce rates in this country even among people who do not marry young.  

     In my opinion, a girl can use all the help she can get from those who have her best interests at heart.  We are talking about a lifelong covenant here.  I don't think that it is insulting to women to say that it doesn't hurt to have people looking out for us when it comes to matters of the heart(not to mention lifelong commitments).

      Frankly, we don't know this girl's fiancee to be a great guy any more than we know her father to be a tyrant.  We just don't have the info.  Maybe the father perceives some cause for concern (I'm not saying there is any...just wondering why we assume there isn't)  It's not like past relationships NEVER cause trouble in future marriages...they can! It is a valid concern that needs to be addressed. In real life, there are a LOT of people who carry very harmful baggage into their marriages.  I think that the people who deny this are the ones who are sheltered and naive.

    The father does seem to have stumbled into inappropriate territory, but I think, for the most part, he is just acting like a father who believes that marriage is for life and would like to see his daughter have a happy life.  No matter how old she is, he has seen more of life than she has! Just because he is capable of making a mistake, does not mean his input is invalid, or his help unnecessary.

      I pray that the Lord will use this situation to strengthen their entire family.

  • Comment by  Maggie:


    While I do think some people were unduly harsh to the father, I think part of the issue (at least in this case) comes in the way the original letter is abriged.  I don't mean to criticize anyone, as I'm sure it was necessary to cut the letter down to the basics for posting, both in the interests of brevity and personal privacy.  That alone may account for John and Ted having a more thought-out response -- they had read the entire letter while the rest of us did not.

    It may also be a semantic issue. The letter mentions that the father was asking "specific sexual questions".  That was what led me and probably others to question the degree of the father's probing.  When I hear that phrase, it puts me in mind of the type of questions that I'm asked each time I give blood, questions which, quite frankly, I only think are necessary for a doctor to ask.  Even between future spouses, I think it's more beneficial in most cases (unless there is some kind of abuse, for example) to not to disclose specifics, so as not to call up any unnecessary mental imagery. For example:  "I have sexual sin in my past.  I am not a virgin.  I have repented and have been walking with God for X years and I am willing to be tested for diseases."  There is no need for more detail.  Maybe I and others read that phrase wrongly, but to me it sounds like going through a checklist:  "Have you done X? And what about Y?" I don't think that type of disclosure is appropriate or helpful.  Remember, all sin is sin.  Whether the guy has one or 1000 sexual sins in his past, if he's repented, it is all under the blood of Christ!

  • Comment by  BDB:

    Not Telling Dad Daughter (NTDD) wrote:

    >>My position is that while his concerns may be valid, I don't think it's time to shut this down completely. <<

    I think I'm in essential agreement with this in my comments.

    Question (#1): I tried not to assume the worst.  In fact, since I know a few young people who ended up divorced with children after ignoring their parents warnings about their (short) marriage, I'm more inclined to advocate a pause and careful consideration of the objections.

    Question (#2): We fill in the blanks based on our experience.  It's often been the case when someone asked for my advice and they were too embarassed or fearful to come right out and say what was bothering them, they just alluded to it.  Filling in the blanks allows us to be more specific about where we'd draw the boundaries.

    The best example I can think of off hand is a book written by a major, popular Evangelical pastor.  I was appalled in the first chapter, where he basically made it sound like it was OK for people to ditch their marriage if they weren't completely happy.  That is absolutely contrary to scripture.  It would have been far better to define what constitutes "abuse" for example, rather than suggesting that anytime someone in unhappy, they should simply walk out because any disagreement must be abuse.

    My pastor has repeatedly talked about how men come to him for counseling, saying they want to leave their familiy to be happy - and their rationale sounds exactly like what's in this book.  I honestly believe that this preacher will be called to account in the next life for teaching bad things that cause people to go astray.

  • Comment by  Sylvia:

    #5 brx

    In re, to #1,. I would tend to agree, but why do you think that we tend to assume the worst about the father but NOT so much about the fiance?

  • Comment by  Stephanie:

    I wish I had the answers to the questions that Ted posed.

    I do think that because we live in a society where all the negative and creepy things in society are highlighted in our media, we tend to think that a story (with ambiguities and possibly foreign concepts)probably has hidden meanings or hidden causes that might not be good...

    Don't know if that made sense.

    As for me, at first I questioned the dad, then I agreed that the girl needed to be careful, and finally I realized how blessed this girl is. My parent care for me deeply, but they never involve themselves deeply in my relationships (they probably would more so, except that I live away from home). Having just gone through a very painful breakup, I see how much could have been solved had my father or a mature mentor asked the right questions of the guy at the right times. As it is, my family has never been of the "courtship" mindset. I am now beginning to see what a blessing that could be (and the possible pain it could help prevent).

    Anyway - these are just a couple of thoughts to toss out there!

  • Comment by  Jag:

    1. Our culture has no sense of authority, except for a sense of its being a negative thing, especially for adults!  The fact that the father is exercising his and that the daughter disagrees automatically (in the mind of our generation) makes him the wrong one.

    2. Our lifestyle encourages us to spout whatever comes into our heads as quickly as we think it--twitter, facebook, this little comment box at the bottom of this blogpost.  I doubt there is a single person reading this who has ever written a response to an article like this, set it aside, and reread it the following day before sending it.  Perhaps we would do well to consider James' words to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."  But we generally don't have time to consider much of anything these days.

  • Comment by  SarahP:

    Ted, I really do think you are handling this wisely. I want to say that, because in the past I have disagreed with you on other issues, and so I want to be sure I mention positive impressions as well. :)

    I didn't want to comment on the other thread, because I know my own knee-jerk reaction against parents who are overly controlling. I also have dear, gracious friends who are content with family situations very like this and who walk out their lives in a godly, humble way. When it comes down to it, after all, God doesn't promise us "self-actualization." North Korean Christians, for example, may never be "self-actualized." They may be executed instead. Yet God is still loving them.

    What matters is living one day at a time and learning how to love the people wherever we find ourselves.

    As for the people who say the father's behavior is "infantilizing," it seems to me that a bad marriage could be much, much worse. Now, however, I do think that after a certain point it is not my father's job to "protect" me from the risks -- both positive and negative -- of making my own decisions. We are always to "honor" our father and mother, no matter our age, if we are wise. However, only children need to "obey" their parents, and even then, only "in the Lord." A child doesn't have to obey an ungodly command, for example.

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