Photo: PR Times

What every fiance should know before meeting his father-in-law

By George Lloyd, grape Japan

Are you planning to pop the big question to your girlfriend? Do you dread the prospect of meeting your father-in-law for the first time? If so, worry not. Help is at hand!

In May, marriage guidance service provider Next Level published the results of an online survey of 108 18-34-year-old men who are thinking of getting married to find out how they feel about their prospective fathers-in-law.

They also asked 122 fathers with single daughters between the ages of 18 and 35 how they feel about their prospective sons-in-law.

First of all, the questionnaire asked the younger men how they felt when they thought about the prospect of telling their partner’s dad that they would like to marry their daughter. 23% said it was a “very scary” prospect and 54% said it was “a little scary.”

When asked why they felt so scared of their prospective father-in-law, the most popular answer given was “I don’t know what he’s like.” This is hardly surprising, given that most of us rarely have the opportunity to talk with our partner’s parents while dating.

Other reasons given for feeling scared were, "I don't know what he might ask me,” and “I don’t make very much money.”

Here is a selection of the respondents’ answers:

“I'm still not confident about how much I earn.” (a 21-year-old from Chiba)

“I'm really worried about meeting him for the first time because I’ve only ever seen photos of him, and he looks like a really boring old man.” (a 30-year-old from Gifu)

“I'm worried because I don't understand the vibe, or what he’s like. I’ve never met him before, and I have to ask him the biggest question I’ll ask in my life.” (a 29-year-old from Hokkaido)

“I think it’s only normal to feel a bit wary of a guy you don’t know, especially when he wants to marry the girl you’ve raised from birth.” (a 33-year-old from Miyagi)

“I'm not very good with words, and I worry that I’ll say something rude to him.” (a 22-year-old from Kumamoto)

Even if you do find your partner’s father ‘scary,’ there’s no escaping the fact that sooner or later you’re going to have to tell him that you’d like to marry his daughter. Fortunately, there are lots of choice phrases you can use to let him know that you’re serious. The survey asked husbands-to-be how they would go about asking their prospective father-in-law if it’s OK to marry his daughter.

“I think you should just say it straight – please let me marry your daughter.” (a 31-year-old from Aichi)

“I'll make her happy, so give me your daughter. Please.” (a 21-year-old from Tokyo)

“I want to live with your daughter. Please let us get married!” (a 33-year-old from Ishikawa)

“I’m going to tell him all the things I love about his daughter, and then I’m going to say, ‘We love each other and we’re getting married. Is that OK?’” (a 24-year-old from Shimane)

So, what do fathers-in-law think about these phrases? More specifically, what does he not want to hear from the man who wants to marry his daughter?

Most respondents gave variations on what a 44 year-year-old father from Wakayama said. “The important thing is to speak clearly. Even if you’re nervous, you have to find the words to say what you want to say.”

In first place was “nothing at all.”

In second place was, “I’ve got your daughter pregnant” (nobody looks forward to a shotgun wedding).

In third place was, “It looks like we’re going to have to get married,” or anything that suggests you’re only getting married because you have nothing better to do.

In fourth place was, “I don’t make a lot of money, but I’m going to do my best by her.” Fathers don’t want to see their daughters suffer. As a 45-year-old father from Tokyo said, “I want to know how he’s going to make her happy if he only has a tiny salary.”

In fifth place is anything that smacks of being overblown or melodramatic. It’s OK to watch sentimental TV dramas but try not to take lessons in love from them.

“I don’t think it’s about ‘giving away’ my daughter,” said a 56-year-old father from Tokyo. “Men and women are equal… My daughter is not a thing, so how can I ‘give’ her to someone?”

As you can see, you have to be careful not to upset your father-in-law. You also have to be careful not to embarrass the old man with your heartfelt expressions of love. A 55-year-old man from Tokushima prefecture, said, “I don’t want to hear his declaration of love. Say it to my daughter, but I don’t want to hear it.”

So, what do fathers want to hear?

“’I will cherish her for the rest of my life’ is good,” said a 60-year-old from Yamaguchi.

“I like the sound of ‘Let me become a member of your family’,” said a 48-year-old man from Tokyo. “It makes it sound like he’s thinking of me and my wife.”

A few other apt expressions to bear in mind are, “I’ll do my best by her,” “I want to make your daughter my lifelong companion,” and “I’ll look after her for the rest of my life.”

In summary, don’t tell your prospective father-in-law that you’ve got his daughter pregnant. Don’t tell him that you make practically no money. Don’t go down on one knee and beg him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. And don’t get too soppy.

Oh, and don’t worry: the survey also found that more than half of fathers-in-law are happy with their daughter's choice of marriage partner.

Next, the survey asked fathers how they would feel if their daughter said, “I want you to meet the man I’m going to marry.”

The most popular answer was “I’d feel happy, but also a bit sad.” The second most popular answer was, “that depends on what he’s like.”

Although many fathers said they would feel positive about their daughter getting married, they were also a little wary.

“I know the day will come, and when it does, I will miss my daughter,” said a 54-year-old father from Gunma.

“Eventually, she’ll go off with another man, and when she does, I’ll be happy, but also a bit jealous,” admitted a 45-year old father from Tokushima.

“I’ll feel sad because I haven’t really seen much of the girl I raised,” said a 52-year-old father from Nagano.

“I trust my daughter, but if she shows up with a guy who I can tell from a glance is no good, I’ll strongly oppose their marriage,” said a 60-year-old father from Hokkaido.

The survey then asked fathers what kind of relationship they’d like to have with their future son-in-law. Here is a selection of their answers:

“I only have one daughter, and she doesn’t drink, so I want to be able to have a drink with my son-in-law.” (a 51-year-old from Fukuoka)

“I dream about having a drink with my son-in-law.” (a 41-year-old from Chiba)

“I like to play go, so I would like us to play go together if possible.” (54-year-old from Shizuoka)

“It would be fun if he can play golf. And if they have kids together, all the better. To have three generations playing golf together would be fantastic.” (a 46-year-old from Hyogo)

“I like pro baseball, so I’d like us to watch baseball together, though it might be a bit awkward if he’s a fan of a rival team.” (a 52-year-old from Okayama)

“I would like us to take a bath and sauna together at Kenko Land and talk man to man.” (45-year-old from Mie)

Another thing to remember when going to your partner’s parents’ place for the first time is that it’s not a good idea to show up empty-handed. Take the time to find out what your father-in-law-to-be likes, be it a top-notch bottle of sake or his favorite brand of chocolate. The survey found that ‘gifts from my son-in-law’s hometown’ are always welcome. You could also ask your partner about her father’s hobbies – this might give you an idea of what to talk about when you meet him for the first time too.

Just bear in mind that your gift might be misinterpreted. “I don't want to receive a present, because I’m not going to give my daughter away in exchange for a souvenir,” as a cantankerous 54-year-old father from Aichi put it. If in doubt, consult your own parents.

In conclusion, don’t worry too much. Your father-in-law is only human, and he just wants the best for his daughter. When you meet him, show him that you are sincere in your intentions, but also that you’re considering his feelings. They may well include sadness, but also excitement at the prospect of having a nice relationship with you.

You can see more details of the Next Level survey and its results here.

Read more stories from grape Japan.

-- World record holders who hail from Japan

-- ‘Tourism Stationmaster’ Wasao—tiny-faced and adorable Akita canine—led a doggone good life

-- Ridiculous reasons for getting canned in Japan

© grape Japan

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

I honestly don't even know what to say to this. "Please give me your daughter"? "I'll look after her"?

Talk about being demeaning to women!

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

“ give me your daughter, please. “ ? ... smh ...

they,re both adults and if they really love each other, they don,t need to worry about what their parents think... all of this “ scary father in law is protecting his baby girl, maybe i,m not good enough for her, so what the h-ll am i supposed to do, i need to be “this”, i need to be “that”... “ ,and so on... that,s a thing from the past. how about just loving each other and taking care of each other.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Well, it's a fraught occasion - 77% per cent of prospective husbands describe it as "scary" or "very scary" and I think you have to cut people some slack in those circumstances. A lot of the guys quoted here obviously don't know their fathers-in-law well and are unsure how to approach them, so they make the mistake of using dated language and reflecting dated attitudes because that's what they think their presumably old-fashioned prospective in-laws are like. Whereas...

“I don’t think it’s about ‘giving away’ my daughter,” said a 56-year-old father from Tokyo. “Men and women are equal… My daughter is not a thing, so how can I ‘give’ her to someone?”

... it ain't necessarily so.

You can see the whole notion of approaching parents in the first place as irredeemably archaic, or you can choose to see it as a charming survivor of another age, just a little ordeal to be gone through, like the whole wedding (not marriage) process in fact. It's how people live their lives after the wedding, and how they and their parents relate then, that really matters - i.e. "I'll look after her" should be echoed by "I'll look after him" and parents should be a part of their children's lives without interfering in them.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

“I would like us to take a bath and sauna together at Kenko Land and talk man to man.” (45-year-old from Mie)

LOL..this one is a bit freaky ;-)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

More than anything, right now, I want grandchildren. But I have not said that to my children, because I don't want to put them under any pressure. Having children is the best and worst experience in life. I desperately want grandchildren, but not at the expense of my own children's happiness. I will support my children no matter what decision they make.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The correct thing to say to a prospective father-in-law is

"Domine, filiam tuam in sanctum matrimonium ducere volo... Benedic nos, quaeso."

"Sir, I wish to lead your daughter into holy matrimony... Please give us your blessings."

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Mother-in-law is more dangerous than father-in-law.

Family men only fight when it comes to big things but women, they make so much family stress over little little things.

But the films by the director Yasujiro Ozu, Yoji Yamada and Hirokazu Koreeda are so feel good about family matters.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Such a timely article. Just when most people don't even want to step out of the house and are discouraged from social gatherings.....

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

“I would like us to take a bath and sauna together at Kenko Land and talk man to man.” (45-year-old from Mie)

> LOL..this one is a bit freaky ;-)

took the words right out of my mouth

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"Domine, filiam tuam in sanctum matrimonium ducere volo... Benedic nos, quaeso."

I like it, and I'm impressed, but classical Latin has never really been that much of a thing in Japanese society.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I’ll bet there is no advice for what happened to me when I met my ex’s father. We went to their place in northern Japan for new year, which coincided with the first time to meet the parents. We arrived on the eve, had a couple of drinks and it was fine. However, on ‘shogatsu’ morning her father disappeared at around 5am and came back very secretively around 7am and would not let me into the kitchen. Around 7:30ish the traditional meal started to come out into the living room. The ozoni stew, mochi cakes, etc. then, the father-in-law came out of the kitchen with a large platter containing a fully prepared king crab that he had been to the markets early in the morning to buy. He paid around ¥35,000 for it and sieve an hour preparing it. He even made the crab guts soup ‘kani su’. He brought it out and said (in English), “This is for you! Your traditional welcome to Japan.” A large lump formed in my throat as a I built up the courage to tell him, “I’m allergic to crab and can’t eat it or I’ll be in hospital for the rest of the week.” Well... his eyes went bright red, he threw the tray onto the table and stormed out of the house into his car and was not seen or heard from again until 8pm that evening. And, that was pretty much the last time he ever spoke to me during nine years of marriage. My ex Mrs knew I was allergic and said nothing to him while he was preparing the crab. Advice? Ha ha!

6 ( +9 / -3 )

As a father-in-law, I can say that it does not bother me that a prospective son-in-law is a little afraid of me. What do I want? I want my daughter to be happy. Forget that at your peril.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

“I would like us to take a bath and sauna together at Kenko Land and talk man to man.” (45-year-old from Mie) LOL..this one is a bit freaky ;-)

took the words right out of my mouth"

Lol..yeah brother, especially coming from a 45 year old dude :)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I was a bit nervous when I first met my wife's parents, especially since they were from a small city. But it did help that my wife spent 5 years in the US, and I speak fluent Japanese and I have a relatively decent job. My father in law loves alcohol, and the fact that I can drink quite a lot also helped.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )


That is a real horror story. Excruciating just to read about it, but for you it must have been the longest 12 or so hours of your life, and then you had the next nine years to get through. And he never got over it. If there's ever another father-in-law, I sincerely hope you get dealt a better hand than you did there.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I was once told by a Japanese guy that if you marry a Japanese woman, you become part of her family, and you must commit to that, like their family is now your priority and you are their property. I told him thats not my culture but he insisted this is Japan and thats how it is. Of course, not for me, but I think its an unspoken but practiced rule in Japan that you are now part of the wifes family.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

All of these give me the creeps... like a woman's ownership is passed from Father to husband. If my husband would have asked my Father for permission to marry me, I'm pretty sure my dad would have been equally creeped out. Yick.

@Do the hustle

I felt that. Ouch.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Do the hustle.... mate, thats a story of the year.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Get to know your beloved's parents before you make the commitment of marriage.  That is good advice for both partners.  If you do marry they are going to be part of your life and you a part of theirs.  Don't wait until you propose to meet your future spouses parents.  Seeing what they are like might make you reconsider and save you from years of grief.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I got married to my wife, a Japanese national,and then we let her parents know-no drama or stress at all...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites