You would think asking a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage would be all about the dad. And for the most part, it is. But my process was much more about making sure my future wife had no idea I ever asked. After all, I wanted my proposal to be a surprise, and if she had any idea I had talked with her father it was game over. This meant taking a risk: Asking her dad while she knew I had one-on-one time with him.
Maybe I should back up in the story so you can understand why I knew the gamble would work.
Unlike many guys, I had a competitive advantage: I knew her father wanted me to ask him about marrying his daughter. I knew it the moment I asked him if it was OK for his daughter to move in with me while we were still just dating. That moment was not met with so much approval, and for reasons that are completely understood.
My father-in-law is old school, so moving in was a big deal. People will say all the time, “They don’t make people like Melvin anymore.” (I would argue they also don’t name people Melvin any more. Coincidence? Maybe so.)
And it’s true; they don’t. Melvin is good down to the soul. He treats people the right way. A happy guy living in a small town; I’m pretty sure he still believes that a good handshake and a big smile can cure all ills.
Asking if his baby girl could move in with me before marriage? I think that only made him feel ill.
So I knew he had been waiting. And hoping. And probably praying that I would ask him one day soon. This is the same guy who once said, “No one will buy the cow if you give away the milk for free.” And when you’ve written a New York Times best seller that includes the words “Have More Sex” on the cover, let’s just say it’s easy to think that I’m a man who’s a big fan of dairy.
My plan was different than most: I was going to surprise my father-in-law and do it in a way that my wife would never know. I asked when we were both at my in-laws. I had known for months that I was going to marry Rach. In fact, I planned out my proposal about 6 months before. All part of making sure she had no idea it was going to happen. But asking her dad? That had to wait until I was closer to the act.
I knew we had a trip to her parents coming up. And it was there, in his home–on his turf (an important factor)–that I wanted to ask the second most important question of my life. To me, it was all about his comfort…and Rachel having no idea what was happening.
The setup was simple: I was going to take the family out for a big meal on me. That meant Rach had to shower. She takes long showers. I figure I had about 30 minutes, which was more than enough time to do what needed to be done. It also meant there was no way she would ever think I’d ask her dad while we were both in her home. (Who does that?)
I sat Melvin down in his favorite big comfy chair. He loves that chair. In fact, I can picture him printing off this story and reading this very article sitting that same chair. Shaking his fist and asking his wife in the other room, ‘Faye do you think I’m ‘old school?’
Once he was in the position, I told him a story that I had never mentioned to him before: It was about the first time I knew I was in love with his daughter.
For me, marriage wasn’t about asking him for his daughter’s hand. This was man-to-man; me showing him who I was and why there was no need to ask. I was going to marry his daughter, but I wanted him to feel great about it and be a part of it.
So I did the hardest thing for any man: I let myself become vulnerable. I put down my guard, let him walk inside my heart, see the way I felt about Rach, and then I looked him in the eyes and said 2 things:
1. I will take care of your daughter forever.
2. I’d be honored to be a part of your family.
With that, I told him that I’d like to make both of these things possible by marrying his daughter. Then came the question. What do you think?
There was no gamesmanship. Melvin had a huge smile. He stood up and gave me a bear hug. He couldn’t have been more thrilled.
And me, I was in the clear. Rach didn’t pop out of the shower for another 15 minutes and by then the emotion had been locked up and then all that was left was one thing: Making sure no one ruined the surprise.
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times best selling author and the founder of Born Fitness. Named “one of the most influential people in health and fitness, you can read more from him at www.bornfitness.com or interact with him (and receive virtual high-fives) on Twitter (@BornFitness).