Carolyn Hax: Don't let Dad control partner's proposal

April 7, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: My boyfriend and I have talked about marriage. I expressed that my big dream for an engagement is something big and public. I don't mean expensive, maybe just like one of those cute, on-camera things at a sporting event.

My predicament: My dad told me my boyfriend has asked permission to propose to me. And, that he is going to propose at an upcoming sports event. My dad expressed concern that my boyfriend's co-workers will make fun of him and cause problems. My dad wants me to tell my boyfriend not to do this.

I think my dad is projecting his own concerns onto my boyfriend. Should I tell my boyfriend not to propose this way, or let him make his own decision? This is supposed to be a surprise to me. We are both 30, no previous marriages, responsible professionals.

ENGAGEMENT SURPRISE?

I hope your boyfriend is comfortable being told what to do, marrying into this family.

Tell your dad you've already tugged your boyfriend's strings to extract the public proposal in the first place, and so you'd appreciate his not tugging his strings in a different direction. Or tell Dad that, even if he's right, Boyfriend might respond better to workplace ribbing than to having his confidence betrayed - especially when all your dad had to do to avoid that was to express his misgivings to your boyfriend directly.

Re: Surprise: I'd like to point out that given the level of detail, direction and other specifics given by the letter-writer, there's absolutely no way this would ever be a surprise to all parties involved. There's nothing wrong with a big proposal, but it looks like this poor guy is getting pushed around by the letter-writer and her father. Everyone is telling everyone else what to do over something that's supposed to be simple and sweet. I feel like there's no way anyone is going to be happy in all of this.

ANONYMOUS

I've beaten this point senseless, but when has that stopped me: Dear letter-writer, PLEASE let life happen, versus trying to direct it into the scene you've always envisioned.

Email tellme@washpost.com.

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