Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Afternoon Quickies: “My Sister Got Engaged To a Man Who Did Not Ask Our Father’s Permission to Propose”

My sister recently got engaged to this man who does not seem interested in becoming part of our family. At family gatherings he doesn’t speak to anyone or interact; he sits on his phone or falls asleep. Yes, falls asleep.

I try to be friendly and converse with him, and he never responds. He didn’t ask for my father’s blessing for my sister’s hand in marriage. To my knowledge, we have not done anything to upset him. He has always been this way. And I know he is not shy because he is very social at parties and things like that.

His behavior is rude. It’s like he doesn’t even try. I’ve heard he’s known to propose to women, tell them he wants a family, and then just one day change his mind. I’m just afraid his intentions are not pure. Am I just being dramatic or am I on to something? — Concerned for Sis

At worst, he sounds rude. And at worst, you sound alarmist and sexist. Maybe he didn’t ask for your father’s permission to propose to your sister because it’s 2018 and a woman isn’t a piece of property to be passed from one man to another with the blessing of the first. Maybe the reason he doesn’t say much to you and your family is because he senses your distrust of him and he’s turned off. Maybe he falls asleep because he’s tired from all the socializing he does with people who aren’t so weird. Maybe he was once engaged to someone and he changed his mind because that happens sometimes, and it doesn’t mean someone’s intentions aren’t “pure” — it simply means they changed their mind. Women change their minds sometimes too! Crazy, right? Crazy how a woman can have independent thoughts that even sometimes result in leaving a man who has agreed to give her marriage and babies. Here’s something else that might blow your mind: Some women don’t even want to get married or have babies!

Listen, it’s your sister’s life. Unless you have reason to believe your sister is being harmed somehow by her fiancé, you need to butt out and let her make her own choices. If you’re so concerned about why your sister’s fiancé doesn’t respond to you or seem to like you, ask your sister. You say to your knowledge you’ve done nothing to upset him, but have you bothered to see if that’s true? I’d start there.

My sister met “Alex” at her gym a few months ago, and they soon became best friends. I would see him now and again when he would come over for movie nights or when we joined him at the gym, and I thought he was a great guy and fun to spend time with. After a while, he became my friend too. About a month ago, however, he and my sister started dating and she ended up breaking it off, liking it better when they were just friends. After that, he and my sister put any kind of relationship on hold. This is where my problem comes in.

When they broke up, Alex (who’s is 21 to my 17) immediately became very close with me, texting me all the time. At first, I was happy to receive his texts and was glad we could still be friends after his breakup with my sister, but then I grew a bit uncomfortable. He would text me saying how happy he was to have me in his life and that he thought of me as a sister. He’s such a nice guy, but we are definitely not on the same page. I was fine being the “third wheel” when it came to my sister, Alex, and me hanging out. But now he pressures me to hang out with him all the time. He tells me I’m his only friend, so how I am supposed to pull away and leave him alone? I don’t want to end our friendship because I know he really needs a friend, but I am not sure what to do that would be best for both of us, and I could really use some advice. — Preferred Being a Third Wheel

 
Women are socialized to prioritize the comfort and happiness of others over our own, so it’s not surprising that you are ignoring your discomfort and the many red flags Alex is waving. Why does he have no friends? Why is he relying on a girl four years younger than he is to provide 100% of his social and emotional support? Why is he texting you hourly and pressuring you to hang out constantly? This is not normal. Alex is being predatory and creepy as fuck and you need to stay away from him. You have literally zero obligation to him and you need to prioritize your own feelings in this situation and in every situation going forward where a male – especially one whose age, career role, or even physical size creates a power imbalance between the two of you — puts you in a position of feeling uncomfortable. I guarantee Alex is not at all concerned about YOUR comfort level, so don’t concern yourself with his. Stop responding to him, block his number/block him on social media, and move on. He is NOT your friend.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

35 comments… add one
  • CurlyQue

    CurlyQue June 19, 2018, 2:51 pm

    WWS!

    I also wanted to add to LW2, Good job on realizing Alex is being inappropriate and realizing he’s crossing your boundaries! Sometimes it’s hard to articulate those feelings let alone act on them. Def do what Wendy said and block him on all accounts.

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    Rebecca June 19, 2018, 2:53 pm

    LW1: …siiiiiiiigh…

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    SpaceySteph June 19, 2018, 3:43 pm

    Well, LW1, my SIL’s husband didn’t ask her father for her hand in marriage and now they’re getting divorced so you’re probably right. They’re doomed.

    But joking aside, maybe he’s awful or maybe you’re overbearing or who knows but the end is the same. If you try to get between them or talk sense into her or in any way suggest that they should choose between him and your family, she will almost certainly choose him. Instead, be kind and supportive and there for her, so in case they are doomed she remembers you as the loving supportive sister and not the jerk whos gonna say “i told you so” and rub salt in her wounds.

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    Northern Star June 19, 2018, 3:56 pm

    LW 1: Let’s assume you’re NOT some weirdo jerk. I see nothing in your letter that suggests it. Let’s assume you love your sister and she loves you. Then: Your sister’s fiance sounds like an a-hole. But there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve tried being friendly. And he doesn’t give two shits about your family. Your sister has to make her own mistake by marrying some d-bag who makes zero effort with people she loves. I wouldn’t bother trying with him anymore (there’s no point), but keep in friendly contact with your sister so when she’s ready to leave, she has a place to go.

    LW 2: Alex’s behavior is creepy, and his lack of friends is not your problem. Pull a slow fade, don’t respond, and be “busy” when he wants to hang out.

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    • avatar

      Northern Star June 19, 2018, 4:08 pm

      Also, LW 1 talks about “blessing,” not “permission.” I guess my husband and brothers in law are all sexist a-holes because ALL of them asked for my dad’s blessing to marry his girls.

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        Ange June 19, 2018, 5:44 pm

        Well yeah, whichever way you slice it you’re still giving a father input into decisions that should be 100% yours.

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        Leah June 19, 2018, 6:49 pm

        Did your husband and brothers-in- law ask your mom for her blessing too?

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        anonymousse June 19, 2018, 8:23 pm

        That’s still asking permission, IMO.

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        Autumnrose June 19, 2018, 10:20 pm

        Wow, just wow. Feminism to the extreme to say its sexist for men to ask for blessing to marry a mans daughter. Oh the horror!! Nah duh men dont have to ask “permission” as women obviously are not properties (since approx 1920) but people have kept this tradition to turn it into a blessing out of being respectful. People intially uses flowers were bc ppl smelt bad as they did not have tue bathing abilities we have nowadays and groomsmen and bridesmaid were to warn off evil doers. Hell, wearing a white dress was for purity as most brides then were virgins but 99% of women today getting married- lets say maybe 98% of women, are no longer virgins but still wear white.

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        Northern Star June 19, 2018, 10:24 pm

        *shrug* I guess if you think permission = blessing, I can’t change your mind. Words all mean the same thing, apparently.

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        MissD June 20, 2018, 5:57 am

        Whatever your perspective on the word – blessing? permission? sexist? traditional? It doesn’t matter, because the only person who should have any say in this is the bride. The answer to the LW is still the same… it’s not your relationship and it’s your sister’s right to choose whether or not a blessing is important to her, so butt out.

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        anonymousse June 20, 2018, 7:45 am

        Asking for permission or for his blessing is the same thing.

        I didn’t say your husband was a sexist asshole. But pretending that asking for permission and asking for someone’s blessing isn’t the same thing is ridiculous. It’s great you enjoy the traditional aspects of the way your husband asked you father for his blessing. You can keep trying to argue the provenance of that gesture, but that seems a pretty futile exercise.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy June 20, 2018, 7:58 am

        Honestly, it would be one thing if a father AND mother were asked for one’s blessing to propose to their daughter. I personally think that’s weird myself and would be super turned off (actually, kind of horrified) if my now husband had done that, but to each their own. Asking just the father though and not the mother? Straight-up sexism. I don’t know how you can argue it’s anything else. Are your husband and BILs and dad sexist assholes? Well, I have no idea. But if they subscribe to the idea that a man’s blessing has more value or merit than a woman’s when it comes to their daughter’s hand in marriage, then yeah, they’re sexist. They might be super nice sexist guys though. You would know better than we would whether they’re assholes or not.

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      • Pheebers

        Phoebe June 20, 2018, 8:40 am

        My husband had a conversation with my father before he proposed, but it was more of a “I’m letting you know” kind of thing and absolutely not a permission thing. Ew. I think most of what my father said to him boiled down to “whatever makes her happy makes us happy.” And I think they mostly had the conversation because my husband was so excited once he had the ring he had to tell someone, and his family was far away.

        Unrelated: about to have our 25th wedding anniversary. 🙂

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      • avatar

        ron June 20, 2018, 9:24 am

        We live in a time in which many customs are evolving. This is one of them. It apparently has been evolving for about 5 decades and different sub-cultures within our nation view the issue differently. When I proposed over 4 decades ago, I most certainly did not ask my future FIL for his permission/blessing and my wife would have been angered if I had asked him. It is an antiquated sexist custom, which originated in handing over ownership of a young girl (as in 12-15) by her father to her often much older husband-to-be. Often money or property changed hands. The other reason the father was ‘asked’ was that he, not his daughter, was the only one who could say yes. If the husband-to-be was the daughters approximate age, the two fathers would typically agree the marriage between themselves.

        So if being traditional floats your boat or you think this practice will keep your family happy and that is important to you, then fine go for it. For many of us, this is an old sexist, patriarchal practice which demeans women and needs to die.

        I’d suggest that if you want father to have a say, it should be the daughter who has the discussion with him. This preserves her agency and makes it clear that she will decide whom she marries.

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      • othy

        othy June 20, 2018, 11:31 am

        I found out over a decade after I got married that my husband asked my dad for his ‘blessing’ to marry me. He did say he asked after we were already engaged, but I’m actually quite angry at him for it. I know he meant well, and it happened forever ago, but I’m a grown ass woman who can make my own choices about my life partner.

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        samidee June 20, 2018, 12:46 pm

        Just a point of clarity on wedding traitions:

        Historically, a white wedding dress had nothing to do with a bride’s “purity” – it was more a show of a family’s wealth (ie that they could afford a dress that could easily be ruined. Prior to Queen Victoria’s wedding, (where she wore white), brides wore a variety of colours.

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        carolann June 23, 2018, 8:08 pm

        I think it’s sweet.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy June 20, 2018, 7:16 am

      Yeah, I’m curious if your mother was asked for her blessing or just your dad?

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      Autumnrose June 20, 2018, 10:59 am

      Ugh… It is not sexist to ask for the parents blessing to marry. Its considered respectful- whether you ask the father or the mother. In our mordern society it has nothing to do with belittle women. At 12-15, you were your parents responsibiltiy (and still are today) So yea, asking would have been necessary. Just becasue something doesnt fit in with your idea of cultural/culture approriateness does not mean its sexist. Most families view men as the hierarchies (patriarch)of the family, thus why asking only the father over the mother. Is that sexist too? (No!) If you are agaisnt this and scream sexisim than you should be entirely against traditional wedding – or you are an oxymoron.

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        MissD June 20, 2018, 11:03 am

        From Wikipedia: “Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.”

        So yeah…. I’m gonna go ahead and agree that anybody who sees the man as the leader (patriarch) of the family is kinda sexist.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy June 20, 2018, 11:26 am

        Yeah, ditto. Arguing that a person has a higher standing in a family because he’s a man is pretty fucking sexist.

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        Autumnrose June 20, 2018, 11:19 am

        @MISSD would you say the same about a matriarch as well hahahaha oh it’s so sexist to be the held of your household.

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        ron June 20, 2018, 11:28 am

        No Autumnrose, most Americans do not view men as the patriarchal head of the family — they view the married couple as equals who jointly make family decisions. You are speaking for your subculture.

        I’m not sure what you mean by ‘traditional wedding’. We did not follow standard service. I guess we were ‘traditional’ in that I’m a man and my wife is a woman. We changed the vows — terms like ‘man and wife’ and that the woman will obey her husband in the standard vows are objectionably sexist. The father giving away the bride is sexist. Bridesmaids and groomsmen were just more formal than we wished to be, as was tux and traditional wedding gown. We wanted to be married, because marriage is the legally accepted life partnership between two adult lovers and confers joint social and financial advantages and increases the permanence of a relationship — changing the default from separating when little problems arise to staying together and working out problems jointly. My wife feels no obligation to obey me, nor should she. She does not recognize me as the patriarchal head of our family. I realize that white evangelicals and conservative Catholics believe exactly that. I do not. I don’t think you really understand what an oxymoron is.

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        SpaceySteph June 20, 2018, 11:28 am

        Um, “most families view men as the hierarchies [sic] of the family” is there any actual data to back that up? It wasn’t like that in my house growing up and it certainly isn’t like that now with my husband and kid.
        And the truth about traditions is that many of them are rooted in sexism. Some people like the traditions and so use them or adapt them, some people chuck them. For myself personally, my husband called my parents (both) to tell them he was going to propose but not to ask permission. I also had both parents walk me down the aisle (in the jewish tradition) vs. having my father “give me away.” But we probably had wedding elements that I’m sure some would consider patriarchal and I did take my husband’s name so yeah, I’m not going to say that people need to make 100% feminist choices all the time or else they might as well not make any. Weddings are complicated. People are complicated.
        What people aren’t, though, are oxymorons. But if you think they are, then you might be a regular moron.

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        MissD June 20, 2018, 11:30 am

        Yes, I would say the same thing about a matriarch. Because a husband and wife should be partners. You know…. equal. Not one above the other. Perhaps they have difference roles, sure. Maybe the man does work and the woman does stay home with the kids. If that works for them, great! But that doesn’t mean one gets more say than the other. That doesn’t mean one gets to “bless” their child’s engagement/marriage and the other doesn’t.

        You do realize that feminism is asking for equality, right? Not for women to overpower men.

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        anonymousse June 20, 2018, 11:38 am

        We’re discussing sexist marriage traditions. That’s what traditional marriages are. Patriarchal.

        The word you were trying to remember is hypocrit.

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        anonymousse June 20, 2018, 11:40 am

        In your limited worldview and experience, patriarchy is popular.

        And apparently grammar isn’t.

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        carolann June 23, 2018, 8:18 pm

        @autumnrose
        I agree many DO view men as the patriarchal head of the family… just because Ron and the rest of the people on here do not agree with it, doesn’t make it not so. Lots of families are still like that.

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    Ange June 19, 2018, 5:46 pm

    LW1 that guy does sound weird and rude but if that’s all he is then there isn’t much you can do. Stop gossiping about the guy and prying into his past. Fight indifference with kindness, then if he continues to be a standoffish douchebag at least you’ll know that’s who he is and not who you’ve made him. Hopefully your sister will notice as well but in the meantime again be kind and supportive, that’s the best you can do.

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    dinoceros June 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

    LW1: I mean, sure, he sounds rude, but he’s not your fiancé, so I think it’s a waste of time to worry about it. It’s not really your place to decide if your sister’s finance has to ask permission to marry her. The only person who gets to decide that is your sister. We all have family members or in-laws we don’t like, and we all just deal with it. That’s life. Nothing for you to do and probably not worth the amount of time you seem to be spending on it.

    LW2: Something to learn in life is that you’re not responsible for other people’s happiness. If he doesn’t have other friends, that’s his problem, not yours. Your job is to decide if you want to be friends with someone. That’s it. If you don’t, then don’t hang out. If you go through life deciding that you have to hang out with someone because no one else will, then you’re going to have a lot of unpleasantness.

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    Sapphire June 19, 2018, 9:31 pm

    Alex is a creepy weirdo. You do NOT owe him anything. You are NOT responsible for his happiness or to cure him of his loneliness. Don’t feel guilty for anyone who crosses boundaries and makes you uncomfortable.

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    Stillrunning June 19, 2018, 10:17 pm

    LW2, “so how I am supposed to pull away and leave him alone?” First, you realize you’re not responsible for his social life & happiness and then you cut him loose.

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    Hazel June 20, 2018, 7:59 am

    LW1- your sister’s fiance sounds charmless, hopefully he is harmless. Don’t let his lack of interest in your sister’s family lead him to driving a separation between you, just continue to be nice to him and maybe you will be on better terms in the future. It might be worth asking your sister if there is something you are doing which is making him act like a surly teen, but don’t say anything which will end up with her having to “take his side” as that way isolation lies.

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  • avatar

    Irhie June 26, 2018, 2:39 pm

    LW1
    My husband proposed spontaneously. He asked later if he should say sonething to my dad and I said “you can if you want but this is how it will go down: he’ll look at you like you’re nuts and then ask ‘what are you asking me for? She’s the one who’d have to live with you.'”

    So that was that. Dad did walk me down the aisle but that was because we got married outside on cobblestones and it had rained and I didn’t want to fall on my ass in my finery.

    Weddings bring out the best and worst in people. Leave your judgy-ness at the door and try to see what your sister sees. You might be surprised.

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