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Dear Ramón: A Letter to My Imaginary Son-in-law

Last Thursday morning, my 3-year-old daughter got out of bed, met me at the stairs, looked me in the eyes, and very seriously said, “Daddy, I have a husband.”

“Oh really? What is his name?”

“Ramón,” she said, pronouncing the name “Wah-mone.”

“Can I meet him?” I asked.

She looked away for a moment, then looked back at me and said, “He’s using the bathroom.”

“I see,” I said, and thus began my relationship with my imaginary son-in-law. In the week since he married my daughter, he has repeatedly mowed the backyard, taken on a job “writing papers,” hidden under the toilet, taken care of my imaginary grandkids, and gotten sick with an “ear confection” (those ear confections are the pits!).

Assuming my daughter is going to get married, there’s a good chance that the real Ramón is alive somewhere, and hopefully, his parents are teaching him how to be a good husband. And when he finally shows up, I want to have my two cents on record. So for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve got to say to you, Ramón, wherever you are.

Dear Ramón,

So you’re the one — the man who’s going to marry my daughter. Wow. I never thought this day would come.

Don’t get me wrong: I wanted it to come; it’s just that her mom and I have spent so many years loving her, praying for her, and getting to know her. Now she’s yours “to have and to hold,” and I want you to do that well.

Believe it or not, loving my daughter well will require you to care for her in many of the ways she needed back when she pretend-married you at age 3. Because the thing is, we don’t grow out of our childhood needs; we just pretend to stop having them. So here’s what that means for you two.

After you two get married in real life, please don’t stop playing together. My daughter would play all day if she could, and she’s still going to need playtime with you when she grows up. The thing is, you can’t maintain a good friendship with someone you can’t have fun with. And if you don’t have a friendship, things like intimacy and deep conversation will become rituals, rather than powerful bonding experiences. So remember how to have fun with her, Ramón — it’s one of the most effective ways you can love her.

Another thing: Please don’t ever stop adoring her. Man, you have no idea how many times a week she comes into the living room and says, “Watch me, Daddy.” Then she does a dance, a new gymnastics move, or shows me her pretty dress. But whatever the reason she asks for my attention, at the heart of it is the same desire: She wants me to stop and behold her. So I do, and I tell her that she’s beautiful or smart or strong, and it means everything to her now. One day, it will mean everything to her when you do the beholding — don’t forget to do that, Ramón.

One last thing: I hope you’ll pray with her frequently. I know a lot of men who find it awkward to pray with their wives — but don’t worry about my daughter. We pray together every night, and this sparks some remarkably profound conversations about who God is, how He answers prayers, and what she wants Him to do for her. She’s going to need that kind of spiritual engagement when she’s your wife, too. So don’t be weird about it — just do it, man. The good thing is that you’ll be drawing closer to her and Jesus at the same time.

I could give you some more advice, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. I just want you to remember although you’re marrying a grown woman, being a good husband to my daughter will require the same kind of love she needed back when she first fell for you.

Love,

Your imaginary father-in-law (for now)

This post originally appeared at Boundless.org.  If you’d like an email with a weekly recap of what I’ve written, click here.  You can also keep up with my latest articles (and more) on Facebook or Twitter.