daddy daughter_blog sizeI’m sure you can imagine that as a marriage counselor I spend a lot of time thinking about relationships. Here’s (some of) what I know. We are inherently drawn to them. We want them, we crave them, and in very many ways we absolutely need them. We need them for the survival of our species, and we need them for the triumph of our souls. They can be tricky and elusive. They can bring pain. They can enslave us, and they can absolutely set us free. They give us a way in which we can become happier and more fulfilled than we ever could alone.  And so, with fervor and intent, I’m dating my 3 year old daughter.

Here’s why (and why I think you should too).

I want my daughter to learn how to be comfortable being vulnerable with another human being, one that she may spend the rest of her life with. More importantly, I want her to learn how to recognize the type of person with whom she is safe to be vulnerable. I want her to be able to help create an environment in which her date feels safe to share and be vulnerable with her. Sharing a life with another person is incredibly difficult. Relationships flourish when partners feel safe to be vulnerable with each other.

I want her to learn how to communicate her thoughts, feelings and dreams, and to listen intently and empathetically to those of another person. Healthy communication is such an incredibly important part of marriage (and relationships) that I’m going to say it again–just for effect. I want her to learn how to communicate her thoughts, feelings and dreams, and to listen intently and empathetically to those of another person. In fact, if there was only one thing I could teach my daughter about relationships that would be it.

Relationship counseling is primarily about communication. Just imagine the leg up she’ll have if she learns how to communicate in a healthy way while she’s young.

I want her to learn what it’s like to feel and be treated special by her date so that she can learn to recognize the type of person that respects and appreciates not only her but also women and womanhood. I want her to know what it is to be the most important person in someone’s life, to have her happiness be the sole focus of another. I want her to learn to be grateful and humble with her date and to learn to see humility and gratitude in someone else. I want her to learn to freely give and have feelings and intentions without the burden of expectation or fear of rejection. Love gives without asking back. Successful partnerships can overcome incredible trials when they’re built on a foundation of true charity.

I want her to learn how to forgive herself when she thinks she looks silly or feels dumb because of something she did or said and to recognize the beauty in mistakes. I want her to embrace the incredible power of love in spite of flaws. I want her to know the way it feels when someone is willing to be comfortable with her imperfection and to accept her for what she is as well as strive to help her become the best version of herself.

I want her to learn to cope with and accept rejection and understand that just because someone chooses not to pursue her doesn’t mean that she’s worthless or undesirable. Self worth and acceptance comes from within, even in marriage. Too often we define ourselves by what others say or think about us.

From my perspective as a father and a marriage counselor, dating and learning to date is so much more than fancy restaurants, sexy outfits and arm candy. I want my daughter to date, not so that others can see the prize she’s won or how hot she looks in a mini dress, but because she loves herself and wants to share a life.

So I’m dating my 3 year old. And when we go out on dates I cherish her and show her love. I listen to her intently and allow her freedom to tell me about whatever she wants. I show her that she’s important to me and that I genuinely want to hear about her 3-year-old excitements and frustrations. I show her how to communicate and I model courtesy and respect. I hold her hand and open doors and situate her popcorn and drink just right, and I teach her how to help me do the same. And I’m going to date her when she’s 8, 11, 14, 18, and 23. I’ll be dating her until the day she marries someone who dates her like I did.

I’ve got a baby boy on the way. Wanna guess who his mother will be dating?