Marriage Missions International

Leaving Your Parents To Cleave To Your Spouse

The following is a small portion of an excellent eight part radio interview series which was put together by the ministry of Family Life Today. It was titled, “Becoming One: God’s Blueprints for Marriage” and Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine were the hosts (afterward, we have a link to an additional article posted on the Family Life web site):

For this cause, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh, and the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24-25)

Dennis Rainey: Today we want to look at the whole aspect of how you leave father and mother to establish this new union. And at the outset I want to say there is a lot of emotionally deep water around this subject of leaving your father and mother to establish a new marriage relationship.

Bob Lepine: I was reading recently in Dr. Dan Allender’s book, “Intimate Allies,” and he made the statement that, in his experience, he could trace 90% of marital discord back to a failure to leave.

Dennis: And most couples don’t think they’ve failed to leave, yet if they could see what is trailing behind them as they walk out the church, they’d see “apron strings” still tied to a man and a woman by their parents; by people who love them, who care about them, but who simply don’t know how to let them leave. And it’s awkward because there is a new union formed there, a new relationship that is an entity, and it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a couple who are one, who are in the process of forging a marriage relationship.

I was reading in Tim Kimmel’s book, “Powerful Personalities,” describing different personality types and how different people try to control others through aggressive or passive behavior and how we can manipulate each other. A young couple that is really not prepared properly to establish this new marriage relationship —if they’re not careful, will be controlled by either his parents or her parents or find themselves in between two sets of parents trying to establish this relationship. The word “leave” from the biblical text means to “forsake dependence upon.” It means to turn your allegiance away from your parents toward your spouse.

We do that in such a way that honors our parents but that sends a clear signal that this is a new relationship that must be established. Sometimes parents don’t realize that this command in Genesis, chapter 2, verse 24 is as much a command to the parents as it is to the couple who are getting married. It’s the wise parents that can understand the dynamics that a young couple is under as they try to forge the identity of a new marriage in the midst of two competing families.

Bob: It’s one thing for parents to understand what they’re supposed to do, it’s another thing for parents to process that emotionally and make that switch.

Dennis: It’s hard to turn your back on the emotional giving, sharing, and development that you’ve poured into this daughter or this son’s life to encourage them to leave. It doesn’t mean you lose the relationship, though. It means, in essence, you get one back that’s different, that has different parameters. You shouldn’t be controlling them as a young adult, anyway.

A lot of parents need to realize you need to let your son or daughter grow up. Let them become a mature adult and relate to them more as a peer and less as a child. But some of our parents simply can’t get beyond that because, frankly, in some situations, we represent the only real living relationship that our parents have. They don’t have a vital marriage, and the only real relationships they have are with their children, and they simply can’t or won’t allow them to leave.

Bob: You said that most of us would think that we have left, and we may not have really left. You defined leaving as “forsaking dependence upon.” How can I run a test to see whether I’ve done the leaving that I’m supposed to have done?

Dennis: There are three areas you can run a test on to see how you’ve done in leaving your father and mother. The first one is emotional — have you left your parents’ emotional control of your life? Are you still looking to them for support, for encouragement, and for their approval?

I remember, in my immaturity again as a young man, simply sharing with my mom a mistake that Barbara had made in our marriage. It was a minor mistake. Barbara had hurt me, but I shared it with my mom, and it was as though I had shared this grievous error, because my mother came running over to me. And although she didn’t say these words verbally, what I felt was, “I knew that she couldn’t be the woman that you really needed as my son.”

Bob: “She wouldn’t take care of you the way I have.”

Dennis: Yeah, that was what she was essentially saying and, obviously, my mom had practice. I was almost 25 years old, so she had 24 years practice caring for me as her son. But what she was doing was rushing in to care for me, and in future conversations with my mom, the mistake that Barbara made would be brought up by her. I learned a very valuable lesson — be very careful, as a couple, of what you share with your parents of how your spouse has disappointed you or hurt you. Your parents don’t have near the grace to give your spouse that you have. You’re their son or their daughter that they will naturally move to protect. They’ve been trained to do that for years.

I don’t condemn my mom for her protective instincts. I just recognize that they’re there. But I realized at that point I couldn’t share those disappointments with my mom. It would simply play to a weakness in her life, and set Barbara up to be a failure in my mom’s eyes.

Bob: So you’re saying that in this idea of leaving emotionally, we’ve got to be on guard against a natural tendency our parents will have to continue to try to be our parents.

Dennis: Yes, and if your parents are trying to manipulate you emotionally, what you have to do is ask your spouse to help you get beyond this. Build some boundaries around your lives, around the holidays, determine how long you’re going to go and when you’re going to go and whose house you’re going to go to for that first Christmas or that second Christmas or successive Christmases. Use the marriage relationship that God has given you to protect one another from being manipulated or being taken advantage of or from emotionally being clobbered by parents.

I think your spouse ought to be that person you cleave to and depend upon to really help you get free of your parents and establish your own identity as a couple.

Bob: Okay, we have to see if we have left emotionally — are there other areas?

Dennis: I think the financial area is one where parents can try to exert power or control over us . I remember early in our marriage, I had invested some money in a small land deal. It was a small amount of money for me, as a single man, but it was an investment. It turned over and sold real quickly, and I made a nice little profit. So I thought, “Hey, I think I’ll put the profits in another investment.” So after we had gotten married, Barbara and I together decided we’d invest in a second investment. And just as the first investment had been really good, this investment was equally bad — and we lost it all.

At that point, the temptation was to call daddy. Now, I use the word “daddy” there specifically because it wasn’t calling “Dad.” It would be calling “Daddy.” For me this situation became an opportunity to squarely face my obligations as a young man with a wife. If I’d made a dumb choice and a bad investment I needed to bear the loss that came with that.

In a very unusual way, I feel like that choice to take my losses and not run home to my dad to bail us out as a couple was a very important step in becoming financially independent and becoming responsible as a man, to provide for my wife and be responsible for my own financial decisions. Now, I’m not saying it would be wrong to ask parents to help you out in a situation.

It turned out, later on, that my dad ended up giving us some money to help us with a down payment on our first home. But that felt different, getting that down payment, than what I would have felt if I had gone home to dad and asked him to bail us out of a difficult situation. I think what happens today with many young couples is they’re trying to live on a higher level than they ought to be living. They’re going home to mom or dad to bail them out of a situation. And it’s creating a dependence upon parents, because where money goes, there can be — not every time— but there can be control, manipulation, and there can be a payback.

It’s interesting that when my dad did help us with the house, later on, I felt absolutely no control by him or by my mom, even though they did help us establish that first home. Here is the wisdom for parents, who are listening — if you do help your kids financially, make sure you’re doing it in such a way that it doesn’t exert control or influence, and it really divides this couple who were meant to be cleaving toward one another.

Bob: How can I tell whether an offer of financial help from parents is coming with strings attached or not?

Dennis: I’d look at the track record of the parents. Do they have a track record of using other things in your life to control you, manipulate you, or seek power over you? If they have, I wouldn’t accept money.

Bob: But if we’re looking at the down payment on a house, and really want to be in the house.

Dennis: There is no house worth the emotional cost that you’re going to have to pay. It really isn’t worth it. Leaving and cleaving needs to be away from your parents —cleaving to your spouse. If you allow money to control you, you’re going to be pulled back when you need to be stepping forward towards your spouse.

Bob: We’ve talked about emotionally leaving, we’ve talked about financially leaving — is there another area?

Dennis: Yes, decision-making, and this could include the spiritual dimension of life as well-just getting advice from parents. Parents need to give advice, and I think we need to go back to them for counsel and for wisdom, but the decision needs to be yours as a couple. You need to share the weight of that decision praying together and making your decision as a couple.

That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t do what they say, necessarily. It just means that you can’t give them power over your lives at that point. Illustration in point — I know a grown man who is stuck in a spiritually dead church. He takes his entire family there every Sunday. He has been going there for 15 years with his kids. His kids are now teenagers. Just down the road there is a church that preaches the word of God and it’s got a great youth group. Do you know who is really controlling this decision — both sets of parents.

Both of those parents go to that church, and they are keeping them in this liberal church, and this guy will not assume the responsibility that he has to lead his family spiritually by taking them to a place where they’ll be nurtured; where they will receive spiritual encouragement to grow. And you know what? It’s going to cost him, and it’s going to cost him big time in his family as his children move on to maturity.

Bob: You talk a lot about the concept of honoring our parents. I’m sure for this man the idea of moving on to another church feels like it would be bringing great dishonor on both sets of parents.

Dennis: This is taking place in a small community, so the pressure is intense. The whole town would know if this man moved his family from that church. But, at that point, you’ve got to look at that man and say, “Do what’s spiritually best for your wife and your family.” In this particular situation, everyone in his family wants to make the move to the other church, but he’s afraid of what it will cost him. He needs to be a man of conviction. He needs to lead his family spiritually.

Bob: It might help if he would read Tim Kimmel’s book on how to deal with powerful personalities, because it sounds like that’s one of the things that’s going on here. He’s got parents who are working to subtly control him in this situation.

In fact, Dr. Dan Allender’s book, Intimate Allies, would be another great resource for him, because in that book Dan talks about the importance of leaving father and mother and about some of the subtle tendencies there can be on the part of parents to continue to try to control us, even after we’re married.

Dennis: I’ve got three quick thoughts for you as you evaluate as a couple what you’ve done in leaving your father and mother. First of all, I’d encourage you to discuss, as a couple, have you left? Each of you —have you left emotionally, financially, and for direction or decision-making? Secondly, if you’ve got some problems there, I’d encourage you to pray together, as a couple, for a solution. And, third, honor your parents but take action. Set a course for your marriage and take control of the future by making some decisions that will create health and spiritual vitality in your marriage.


LEAVINGBroadcast Date: 08/26/04

Bob: The Bible says when a man and a woman are getting married, they are to leave father and mother. But what happens if Mom and Dad don’t want you to leave?

Dennis: You can’t make that decision for your parents. You can’t force them to let you leave. All you can do is leave. Leave your need for approval from them and turn to your spouse and let that person be the one that you cleave to and commit to, to experience approval and appreciation and encouragement that God intended in the marriage relationship.

Many times I’ve used the illustration of the husband having a set of blueprints and the wife having a set of blueprints, and the problem when their blueprints only overlap at points. If a husband and a wife both have the same set of blueprints, and they’re both coming at their marriage relationship from the Scripture, they’re going to be building their marriage as God designed it. Genesis, chapter 2 gives us the panoramic view of the marriage relationship from God’s perspective. In verses 24 and 25 He says, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.”

I believe virtually every marital problem can be traced to a failure to leave, a failure to cleave, or a failure to really cultivate that oneness of flesh. If we really understand these blueprints in the Book of Genesis, it will help us, as a couple, have our marriage set in the right direction.

Bob: Couples will often say, “Our problem is” —and then they’ll go on to list whatever the issue that they’re dealing with is. I oftentimes say, “No, your symptom is communication,” or your symptom is finances. I point them back to Genesis and say, “Your problem is either a failure to leave, a failure to cleave, or a failure to really establish the oneness in a marriage relationship.”

Dennis: That’s right, and in Genesis, chapter 2, verse 24, it talks about a cause. God wants a man and a woman to become one. It’s the marriage relationship. That’s the cause that causes him to leave his father and his mother. The word “leave” here means to “forsake dependence upon.” It means that we no longer look to our parents for approval, for support, or for encouragement. We leave one sphere of influence and move to another sphere of influence.

Bob: Let’s assume that some of our listeners are headed toward the altar this year. What can they be doing now to prepare to leave?

Dennis: I think they are in an enviable position of being able to establish the leaving to occur in the right way. They can begin to spend time with their parents and let them know that although they’re leaving them to establish this new union, they still are going to be their son or daughter, and they want a relationship. But they can send signals to the parents to let them know that their allegiance is switching, that they’re going to be committed to this new person that they are making a covenant with in the marriage ceremony.

Parents need their sons and daughters to help them in this process. It’s difficult. Emotionally, parents don’t want to give up the investment that’s taken place over 18 or more years. It’s the wise person who can understand those dynamics and maybe even talk about it with their mom or dad. Let them know that you know it may be a struggle.

It may be that the son or daughter is the only real relationship they have. They may not have any other relationships. They may be in a dead marriage. They may not be alive spiritually. They may not be plugged into a good church where they have their relationship needs met by other Christians. And so for them to say goodbye to a son or daughter who is getting married, is to cut themselves off from a living hope. It’s at that point that we need to give our parents a gift of compassion. It’s the gift of looking at your parents through the eyes of Christ. How can I so minister to them and encourage them that it will make this process of leaving palatable for all concerned?

Bob: You’re saying that a young man or a young woman who is headed toward marriage would be wise to invest some time and emotional effort in beginning to prepare his parents for the idea that he’s leaving. That will help establish his marriage relationship in the early days?

Dennis: No question about it. If a young man has the wisdom to prepare his parents he will go a long way toward establishing a freedom and ability to establish a new marriage relationship when it occurs. In fact, if he will use these days leading up to the marriage ceremony, at the point when the couple do cleave, there will be a lot less problems in the first years of marriage as they decide where to go over the holidays and whose parents to go visit and how much time to spend at which parents’ house on vacation. And it will also help when parents overstep their bounds, or they’re moving back into control. If there is the relationship there, and it’s been established, then there can be the discussion about these matters without it becoming some kind of polarization.

Bob: Let’s assume that the wedding has already taken place, and it’s 5 years into the marriage, and couples are beginning to look at one another and saying, “Is this an issue for us? Maybe we haven’t done a good job of establishing our leaving from our parents.”

Dennis: I think the process really begins when you realize that you haven’t left, and you haven’t done it properly. If you recognize that that’s true, then at that point you can begin to take some steps that will breathe some health into your own marriage but also into your relationship with your parents.

Bob: And you’d recognize that by seeing that you are either emotionally dependent or financially dependent or still dependent in your decision-making on your mom or your dad?

Dennis: Yes, there are certain parents who are manipulators, who are controllers, and they have such a pattern of controlling that they simply can’t allow their child to leave. I was reading in Tim Kimmel’s book, “Powerful Personalities,” about three kinds of personality types. One is the aggressive controlling type; a second kind is a passive manipulator, and a third one is a combination of the two — a passive-aggressive controller. Tim really does a great job of explaining how you can have your life controlled by another person and how you can break free from that control.

The first step in dealing with this as a married couple is beginning by honoring your parents. I think any leaving of your parents, whether it be the wedding ceremony for a couple who is getting married where you would honor the parents during the ceremony, or whether it be a married couple who have been married five years, 10 years, or more, there are ways to leave your mother and father and still bring honor to them.

Let me read a portion from a story about a couple who recognized they had not fully left their parents and some steps they took to lead their parents but also do it within the context of honor.

“Dan and Rebecca had been married for more than 10 years before they wrote a tribute to honor Dan’s parents. Dan’s parents were controllers. They expected Dan and Rebecca to attend all family functions, even if it meant missing Rebecca’s family gatherings at Christmas. Dan couldn’t say no to his parents. After years of struggling, Dan and Rebecca concluded that they must do something to honor their parents and establish that Dan’s leaving had occurred.

They had a plaque made at a local trophy store. Engraved on the plaque were the words of affirmation for all Dan’s parents had done for him — a recognition that they had given to his life so that he could leave and cleave to his wife Rebecca. Dan used the opportunity of a tribute to discuss and carefully establish with his parents some boundaries that would prevent their control in the future. And it worked.”

You see what happened here? They couldn’t let him leave, so he left. And by writing a tribute, he did it with such honor, that it formalized the process of him leaving. And I recall in the letter how they had a time of interaction with them talking about the need for Dan to be able to cleave to his wife and meet some of her family’s needs as well.

The issue here is, as you return home with honor, you can use that opportunity to formalize the leaving that should have occurred at the wedding ceremony.

Bob: I’m sure some folks think it worked for Dan and Rebecca, I’m not sure it will work for me. Is there a guarantee on this idea?

Dennis: No, because parents are human, and the emotional bond with children is so powerful that you can’t make that decision for your parents. You can’t force them to let you leave. All you can do is leave. Leave your need for approval from them and turn to your spouse and let that person be the one that you cleave to and commit to experience that approval and appreciation and encouragement that God intended in the marriage relationship.

Bob: And if we try to do that without doing it in the context of honor, we send a message to our parents or our in-laws that we haven’t really grown up yet. So the first step for a couple is to make sure they’re leaving in the context of honor. What’s next?

Dennis: If you’re married to a spouse who gets controlled by his or her parents, then what you’ve got to do is step in there to protect them and really preserve their own individual integrity as they go back home. In other words, let’s say you take your wife home, and she has a mom who’s manipulative, and you watch this begin to occur. Within the context of honor, I think there are ways to step in there, put your arm around your wife, and perhaps pull her out of situations that may be inflammatory, where she may be losing it emotionally; take a walk, find opportunities to build space in the schedule so that perspective can be regained and so that the parents do not maintain control over their son or over their daughter. What you’ve got to do is take the action needed to really protect and just be a guardian of your spouse without putting your spouse’s parents down or dishonoring them.

Bob: That takes some courage, doesn’t it?

Dennis: It really does; sometimes tough situations demand dramatic measures and, as a man or as a wife, you may need to move in there and protect your spouse or confront a situation and protect the one that you’re committed to. And here is a real caution —be careful of turning against your spouse in front of your parents and siding with your parents against your spouse. That can create a feeling of disloyalty and of being a failure to leave and cleave to your spouse. What your spouse needs in those situations is to be publicly reaffirmed. And what I’d suggest, as a couple, is to talk about these issues, pray about them, and then ask the Lord what kind of steps need to be taken and go back home with an offensive game plan in place so that if a certain circumstance continues to occur, you know exactly what you’re going to do ahead of time.

The above transcripts are just a portion of two days worth of broadcasts which came from an eight day series entitled “Becoming One: God’s Blueprints for Marriage” with Dennis Rainey, co-hosted by Bob Lepine produced by Family Life Today. The above portion focused on “Cleaving to Your Spouse,” which is something worth getting ahold of. This is a marvelous series to listen to, or read from the transcripts, or purchase. It can be obtained through the terrific ministry of Family Life Today by visiting their web site at FamilyLife.comThe original air date for this series was in August 2004. We thank God for this ministry and pray God’s people will help them financially so they can continue to offer them to those of us who need the help to make our marriages and families healthy and strong in the Lord.

— ALSO —

The following Family Life Today article, written by Mary May Larmoyeux, gives “ten ideas for dealing with a wife who won’t leave or cleave”:

MARRIED TO DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL

And then when the husband is the one tied to his family and won’t leave and cleave, Focus on the Family has a Question and Answer posting on the subject:

SPOUSE PUTS HIS PARENTS NEEDS AHEAD OF WIFE’S

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Comments

97 Responses to “Leaving Your Parents To Cleave To Your Spouse”
  1. Pastor's Kid says:

    (JAMAICA) PLEASE ADVISE!! I’m a 27 yr. old married woman (been married 1 year and 6 months). I’m having difficulty dealing with my parents… in particular my mother. My immediate family is a very close knit family and my parents are also our pastors. I find my parents to be (in my opinion) manipulative. If I don’t take their advice they use scriptures saying that I’m not being obedient or saying that I’m losing my values. They are VERY involved in my marriage to the point where they know our schedules, finances, sleep styles, etc…

    I blame us (me mostly) because initially my husband and I felt guilty when we didn’t want to share info. Initially they encouraged me to let them know whenever my husband and I had an argument. They wanted full details. Thinking I was doing the right thing… and much to my husband’s displeasure… I would tell them everything. At the end of any given discussion I would return home feeling as though I was sleeping with the enemy and not my husband. He of course, felt betrayed and that he was living with a stranger who he could not confide in…. those were some rough times. At one point the word divorce came up as a result of our frustrations.

    The disrespect I face is one as blatant as this: my family comes to my apartment and I request that they remove their shoes before coming inside. My mother walks right in with her shoes on. When I gently remind her that shoes are to be left outside she ‘kisses her teeth’ dismisses me with a wave of her hand and says “I don’t want to get my feet dirty.” We would be having a heated discussion at her house and she begins to say disrespectful things such as “don’t be a jackass” etc… simply because I’m disagreeing with her. What makes matters worst is that it’s difficult for them to draw the line between pastor and parent so anytime we disagree with them or have an argument we end up hearing that we are arguing with our pastors.

    They still speak to me as though I’m a little kid and tell my husband that they will always know me better than he will. My husband doesn’t like it. She often calls him an idiot. When confronted about it, it causes an argument and my dad comes to her rescue by telling me that she is my pastor etc… No matter what we say or do to explain to them that we don’t want them that involved with or lives… or that we feel that our marriage is being disrespected… they (esp my mother) can’t see it.

    My husband also has a hard time calling them dad and mom… he just calls them pastors. In our first year of marriage the majority of our arguments were as a result of my mother’s ‘suggestions’ which were forced upon us rather than us requesting them and the fact that they knew too much about our lives. My parents’ response to this was that my husband was trying to cut me off from them and that he had no sense of family… which of course caused another argument in our marriage.

    They have made it clear that they do not see my husband as being capable of leading our marriage, and have also made it clear to him (unwittingly of course) that the reason that they do the things they do for us is really in an effort to “protect me”…

    Right now we (especially I) are at the point where there is a bitter feud between us and my parents. Just recently, as a result of a big argument I had with them (esp. my mother) over them disrespecting both myself and my husband, I was told not to come back to their house (for some reason I felt immense relief in hearing this) because they stated that I don’t respect them.

    The irony is that since this blow up and bitter non communication between us and them, we (my husband and I) have become much more close and intimate and for the first time in a year and six months are fast becoming friends and lovers once more… so one relationship is blossoming at the demise of another.

    It has gotten so bad that my siblings are now being pulled into this and it is affecting them. Just recently at a service one of my siblings presented me using my maiden name… and when I corrected them (on spot laughing) they brushed it off as though it meant nothing. To me (and my husband) this was a big deal.

    I love my parents… I really do… but their behaviour is driving me away. And the sad part is that our arguments tend to spill over in to church sessions. I don’t want to be a bad example to other church members… but it’s hard to be respectful etc. when even in public, both myself and my husband, are being disrespected -even if it is in a subtle way.

    I’m the Pastor’s daughter… yet I feel like leaving the assembly for the sake of my marriage. At this point I’m almost ready to just let them be and do a cut off. The verse that says children obey your parents… how does this relate to a now married woman? And how do you honour/respect parents that are constantly rude and disrespectful to you… even in your own home?

    Lastly… where does one draw the line between parent and pastor relationship? Would love a reply..

    • Mel says:

      (SA) Dear PK, My word, you are really having a difficult time! I suggest that you don’t say much to your parents but act more, as talking is always regarded as being disrespectful by parents. Why don’t you and your husband move to another church? You have seen that telling your parents about everything that goes on in your marriage causes arguments between you and your husband, therefore just don’t do it anymore. If you can move houses and live further away from your parents I would suggest that too.

      My opinion is that when you are married you are no longer under the law of your parents but you can still respectfully put boundaries otherwise you are heading for a divorce sooner then you think.

    • Cindy Wright says:

      Hi Pastor’s Kid, WOW! What a mess! I can see why all of this is bringing so much tension into other areas of your life –its too complicated. There’s too much overlapping of “roles” going on. I agree with Mel that if there is ANY way that you can find another church to move to, it could help. Your parents will be hurt… yes. I’m pretty sure they would take that posture. But hopefully, you and your husband can eventually get through to them that you both need to do this for reasons that you just can’t go into (you don’t need to tell them what those reasons are because they wouldn’t appreciate them anyway) –that you love and respect them both but you need to do this. And stand firm on that. Don’t shift in your stand or feel you need to explain everything. This is a marriage decision you both are making.

      I don’t think that you need to “cut them off” but rather, you need to break free, at least on this one aspect of your lives. There’s too much hurting going on and even innocent gestures will get thrown in as suspect as this continues to to go along. It’s going to get more and more complicated (with siblings being dragged in, as well) as time goes on if you don’t do something to stop this crazy cycle.

      Please, please read through the quotes and the articles in the “Dealing with Parents” and “In Laws” topics –you and your husband together, if possible. Pray, talk, decide together, stand strong (and yet, give grace and don’t be cruel in how you do this). I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, if you can. You and your husband figure out what church you could visit and quietly do so. I would keep doing that until you figure out which church will work for you. And THEN (if you haven’t been found out by then by your family) tell your parents that as a married woman –as a married couple, you need to do this. Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31; Matthew 19:5-6; and Mark 10:7 are scriptures that will back up this decision.

      In the future, if you parents talk disrespectfully to you, then in meekness (which is defined as “strength under control”) ask them to please treat you with respect as a married woman. Tell them you need that and if they can’t give that to you, it will cause you to distance yourself more and more in the future, which you don’t want to do because you love them.

      Again, this is all so complicated. But if you can find a way to distance yourself by going to another church, it may help. Even moving a bit of distance away could work, if it’s possible. Some type of separation (“leaving”) needs to happen. Hopefully, it doesn’t have to be a dramatic, severe one, so you can still be together sometimes, just not so much. I have no doubt that your parents love you and you love your parents. But for some reason, the dynamics of all of this closeness has gone into a bad direction and it needs to have a course correction happen or else permanent damage will be done.

      You can “leave and cleave” and still honor your parents. But the type of “honor” you give your parents, now that you’re married, needs to change because your husband is now your primary human relationship, with your parents taking a back seat (even though they’re resistant to this). It’s the right thing to do. I hope you and your husband find a way to unite and work this out for the betterment of your relationship with each other and the relationship you have with your parents and siblings and the other church members. Surely, they must sense the tension and it puts them into awkward positions, as well. I pray for all of you and hope for all of you that you’re able to do this in the least painful way as possible –so your future times together are loving and reveal the love of Christ in every way. If the enemy of our faith can get us to fight with each other, we’re not fighting him. That needs to change. Giving yourselves a bit more space may give God’s love more of an opportunity to flow between all of you.

      • Pastor's Kid says:

        (JAMAICA) Thank you both for your replies! They have helped us very much. As a result, we are now in the process of reconcilliation. And, on our side: honouring my parents. Keep us in your prayers! God Bless!!

  2. Sarah says:

    (USA) I never thought in a million years that I would be posting in response to an article such as this, but here I am. I am very newly married (almost 5 months) and cannot say how much of a blessing it was to come across the article and read through other people’s comments. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone/crazy for feeling the way you do. I wasn’t aware of what “leave and cleave” really meant until I came across Dr. Allender’s website and sign-uped for his Intimate Mystery Conference and then I stumbled upon this article, which references him as well.

    I would really appreciate any advice… I have spent days crying and agonizing and praying over this and have tried talking to my husband, but he doesn’t seem to understand. He is the oldest of three with two younger sisters and his parents are still married. His mother seems to find fulfillment solely in her children (she’s actually said that her children are the most important thing in her life above anything else in the world), and subsequently the middle sister seems to find hers in her older brother, my husband (her very best friend in the whole world).

    I have always known my husband was close with his family, but am starting to see it have negative consequences now that we are married (assuming leave and cleave here). I feel like he talks to his mom and sister all the time, not about our marriage, but everything else under the sun and it feels like he talks more openly with them than me -not to mention they ask him about every little detail in his/our life. It makes me feel like they know everything about our lives and that I am not the most important and it makes it feel like I am almost in competition with them for his love and affection (although he assures me I’m not, I don’t feel that way).

    Further, they both have said/done some things to hurt me and while I forgive them, I feel like my husband won’t stick up for me as his wife, for fear of upsetting his mom/sister (he says it’s not his place to step in). His mom makes him/us feel guilty if we can’t attend every single family event and makes it an expectation for us to be at everything and offers to pay when we say we can’t afford flights as yet another way of controlling the situation (I think). She says she needs for all of us to be close and for us (as in all of us) to be a family. I feel like my husband and I aren’t even our OWN family yet. And for some reason my husband doesn’t see that we haven’t even built our family bond yet.

    It just feels like my opinion on what is important is less important to him than his mother’s opinion on what’s important. I feel like she is passively manipulating him and controlling him and he’s unable to say no to her or see what’s actually going on. His sister does the exact same thing and wedges herself into our life creating a rift between my husband and I. It’s even more difficult because we’re all so close in age (she’s 4 years younger than us). I’ve tried talking with him about it, but he gets defensive. I am completely beside myself and don’t know what to do. I’m hoping the marriage conference and sharing this article and others I found will hopefully help. It’s certainly opened my eyes.

    I would really appreciate any advice or help anyone on here could give me… I never though being newly married would be this tough! I hope it will get better, I just don’t know if he will ever leave his mom and sister or more so that they will ever let him go! And I am so worried it is going to ruin our marriage. Please send prayers our way! God Bless.

  3. Nathan says:

    (UNITED STATES) VERY good read. Extremely helpful with keeping notice on the boundaries one must set even before the married life begins. Preparation preparation preparation. Communication communication communication.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    (CANADA) Please help!!! I have been married for a year and a half but we have been together for 4 years. My mother and I are very close. Ever since I was a child she was my best friend. My dad was very abusive for years and my mom always found comfort talking to me; she considers me her best friend. My husband and I are a very young couple. I am 20 almost 21 and my husband is 22.

    My husband is very understanding and didn’t say anything at first about the whole situation but recently it seems that he can’t take it anymore. We are both in school; my mom pays for my tuition and my husband is on loans. My mom insisted in the beginning of the marriage to pay for my school to make sure we do not accumulate a lot of debt. I just found out it really bothers him that my mom is our financial safety net and if we run out of money, she usually helps us. He wants us to be completely independent; I am not sure if I agree. The way I see it is if she wants to help, let her.

    Also we go to the same church, so we see her twice a week, every week. My husband states that it is nothing personal and that he loves my mom but he doesn’t want to see her every week. He wants me to “cut the umbilical cord”.

    Now my husband wants us to change churches; he wants us to take a year off school to work full time so we can save and he wants me to reduce the number of times I speak to her. Ideally he wants her to stop paying for my school so that he can feel like a man and that he is providing for me.

    I need advice because we are at the beginning of our marriage. I want to set the right foundation. My mom often feels that because we are young, we are naive and don’t know what we are doing. As mentionned earlier my dad was abusive so she is VERY protective of me and doesn’t want the same thing to happen to me. That’s why she is constantly involved in our decisions and in some sense filters them. My husband says he is tired of feeling pressured by my mom, because every time he wants to make a decision he must ensure it pleases my mom. My mom lives about 20 minutes away so she often drops by with my siblings so we can have family time; my husband assures me that that doesn’t him though.

    I have already agreed to change churches and work for a year but I don’t know how to tell her not to pay for my school and I am not even sure if that is necessary.

    I love my mom and in some sense she needs me more than I need her. I have my husband to rely on but she has no one. Being the oldest of four kids, the other kids are a bit too young to rely on. I feel guilty. I married young and left home before she expected. I feel like cutting the cord completely with her would hurt her too much. At the same time I am tired of arguing about this with my husband. It is the ONLY thing we argue about; for everything else we are on the same page.

    I know I should cut the umbilical cord, but to what extent? I would REALLY appreciate some advice. I really want to set up my marriage in the way God intended it to be. Thank you and God bless.

    • Claire says:

      (UKRAINE) Hi Elizabeth, since I really don’t know anymore about your whole situation than what you have shared here, my first advice to you would be to pray and ask God to lead you in this situation. While it is very good that you should listen to your husband and try to do what makes him happy, I think its also essential that he should want your happiness as well. Is leaving your fully-funded studies for the sake of pride really the best course of action? Love should be a two-way street between the both of you and you should both seek each other’s happiness.

      That being said, when you decided to marry you basically took vows that your husband would become your most immediate family, even before parents and siblings. So whatever steps that you can take to make sure that your husband really feels that he comes first place in your life, I think you should. You should work to promote peace and harmony between you and your husband first, and then settle whatever issues there are with your Mom.

      I definitely don’t think you’re forced to choose between your husband and Mom; just try in a firm and loving way to stop your Mom from encroaching within the boundaries of your marriage. I hope this helps your dilemma and I wish you the best of God’s goodness in your marriage and family!!

      • Elizabeth says:

        (CANADA) Thank you very much for your help! It did help and gave me an idea of what to do! I will definitely take this matter to the Lord in prayer. Thanks and God bless

  5. Abby says:

    (USA) This article is really convicting for me. I am 20 years old, and one month away from my wedding day, and my parents are really struggling with it all. My fiancé and I live 6 hours away from my parents, and with college and work it is very difficult for us to be able to visit home very often. It hurts my parents, especially my mother. She and I talk a lot and she has called me crying about me getting married.

    She and my dad both love my fiancé and are happy for us, but they are having trouble letting go. I don’t want this to affect my marriage. My fiancé and I want to eventually move to Europe to do mission work, and my parents are completely against that, even though we want to wait 10 years to do so. It is very difficult. Any advice?

  6. Milton says:

    (USA) Been happily married for 4 years. We married later in life. We moved from the Midwest, back east, and we have a home 5 mins from my inlaws. Mom in law blows up my wife’s phone, and is at the house a lot. Whenever we have an issue to solve, and it can be anything, the first person that she calls is her mom. At one point mom in law kept coming to the house unannounced and it got strange because I’d be on the sofa watching tv in my underwear or something and here she comes.

    My wife shops with her all the time, and during the summer her mom in law and other relatives are at our house all of the time, mainly when I am not home, but I still feel that this is not right. Maybe I am being difficult, but this does not sound like leaving and cleaving to me. When I tried to talk to my wife about this, she freaked out and cried and claims that even though this is her hometown, she has no friends to shop with, etc, so she calls mom. I even feel bad leaving her at home to do ministry and school because if I do, she calls mom to keep her company. HELP!!!

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