“How I Won Over My Girlfriend’s Dad”

Forget the necktie this Father’s Day. If you want to really impress her old man, try one of these real-world strategies.

By Matt Christensen

ust like death and taxes, one thing is certain: There’s nothing more uncomfortable than meeting your girlfriend’s father. As he stares you down, shotgun mounted on the wall behind him (or so you hallucinate), you’re trying desperately not to provoke him with a verbal faux pas… or even an unintentionally offensive breathing rhythm. Relax. Meeting Pops doesn’t have to be the traumatic experience that Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller made it out to be. Take a tip from these true stories, so that the next time you’re face-to-face with her old man, you’ll leave with a pat on the back, instead of a foot in the mouth.

Seeing red
“My girlfriend told me that her father was
“No dad wants to see your arm around his baby.”
a diehard Red Sox fan so, when I went to meet him for the first time, I took three tickets to an upcoming game—one for me, one for him, and one for his daughter. I knew asking him to go with me alone would be obvious, so I wanted to include my girlfriend as well. Not only did the Sox win, but I scored big points with Dad and my girlfriend.”
—Dale K., 25, writer, New York, NY

Dish it out
“Every time I had dinner at my girlfriend’s house, I noticed that her dad was always the one who did the dishes. I guess it was his part of the dinner routine. One night, I offered to help. He was surprised, and touched, by the gesture. He was even more pleased when he asked me if the dishwasher was full, and I replied, “It’s never full,” meaning that it’s always possible to slide in one extra plate, fork, or bowl. Turns out, his dishwashing philosophy was identical to mine! I’ve since married my girlfriend, and I still help with the dishes whenever I’m at her parents for dinner.”
—Chris S., 32, gym owner, Los Angeles, CA

Reading is fundamental
“My (now) father-in-law didn’t take an immediate liking to me when we first met. He didn’t actively dislike me, but he saw me as a dumb 18-year-old who couldn’t form a complete sentence. Luckily, I noticed that he seemed to be reading a different book just about every time I saw him. I’m a bookworm myself, and I’d actually just finished the book he was reading at the time—Raise The Titanic, by Clive Cussler. We were able to hit common ground with that book, and we even went to one of Cussler’s book signings together.”
—Jeremy B., 34, editor, Carmel, NY

Keep your distance
“The biggest mistake I’ve made when meeting a girl’s father is sitting too close to her. No dad wants to see your arm around his baby. Having learned this, I made sure to sit across the room from my current girlfriend when I met her parents.
“Dads love seeing their daughters with smart guys.”
That way, her father had to look at me and I had to look at him when we were talking. My girlfriend was a bit insulted that I opted not to sit near her, but once I explained my thinking, she appreciated it. In the end, her dad loved me.”
—Will H., 26, teacher, Cleveland, OH

Be ready to rock
“My girlfriend’s parents are divorced, and she doesn’t see her dad very often, so, I was pretty intimidated when I met him the first time. It went OK, but nothing exceptional. While at his house, I noticed he had a pretty massive guitar collection. I’ve been playing for a while so, the next time I went over there, I took my acoustic guitar with me and asked him if he wanted to play together. We jammed for two hours, and, now that my girlfriend and I are engaged, we make it a regular thing.”
—Owen M., 25, finance, Columbus, OH

Talk shop
“My father-in-law loved to fix cars, and I found that ‘So, how’s your car running?’ was probably the most effective ice-breaker in the book. When my wife and I were dating and her dad found out I respected his knowledge of cars, I was in. He’d give me advice regarding maintenance, upkeep, and all that stuff. He was always interested to hear about how his advice worked, which was usually pretty well.”
—Bill C., 54, purchasing agent, Detroit, MI

Win his respect
“Lots of people might subscribe to the ‘let him win’ theory, but not me. My girlfriend’s father and I participated in a homerun derby one year, and I absolutely creamed him. I wasn’t about to go soft and let him beat me. On the ride home, he explained how he admired my competitive spirit. Plus, I did what any gentleman would’ve done in that situation—I offered him a rematch next year.”
—Chris M., 31, designer, New York, NY

Word life
“My girlfriend’s family loved board games. For whatever reason, they were crazy about this game called UpWords, which is like a more intense version of Scrabble. I won my way into her father’s good graces when, not only did I beat him, but remained undefeated champion for five straight weeks—thanks to words like ‘grouse,’ ‘snuffing,’ and ‘prismatic.’ He respected my braininess more than anything — dads love seeing their daughters with smart guys — but also saw that I was a good sport about winning. I was both ‘cordial’ and ‘amicable’ about my victory.”
—Alex M., 25, electrician, Jersey City, NJ

Matt Christensen has written for Maxim and WWE Magazine. He says he believes the best “meet the dad” strategy is the prison approach—kick the father’s butt on the first day, so he doesn’t mess with you.
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