Cleaving Rather than Leaving – MM #167

Cleaving - Assumptions - Affairs No Love Leaving Dollar photo _10120398.jpgSome spouses set themselves up for leaving their marriages because they never properly “cleaved” to their spouse After they married. They forget the biblical passages that refer to cleaving and leaving.

The Bible says in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” As author Dennis Rainey says of this verse,

“The word, ‘cleave,’ in the Hebrew language means to literally ‘stick like glue.’ It means to cling. Perhaps a modern-day illustration would be to take two metals or objects and super-glue or weld them together to become inseparable — bonded together.

“That’s what God wants us to do in the marriage relationship. He wants us to leave our father and mother. He wants us to forsake dependence upon them, and He wants us to turn to another person, our spouse, and be committed to one another for a lifetime.”

In this message, we’re going to look at the subject of leaving and cleaving from a variety of sources, to gain a better understanding of what we commit to when we marry. Even if you’ve been married 50 years, you can still back up and do things right if haven’t up until now. Each day can bring a new beginning.

Leaving then Cleaving

On the subject of leaving and cleaving, from the web site,

“What does this leaving and cleaving look like in daily life? It means that we no longer ‘lean’ on our parents, but on each other. It means that we do not allow parents to dominate our lives. We show them respect by listening to their ideas or suggestions, but we make our own decisions.

“We do not run to them with a list of our spouse’s failures. Parents are not in the best position to be our counselor. Leaving means that we seek to be financially independent from our parents as soon as possible. We are grateful for their contribution to our lives, but now we want to make our own way. Leaving means that we build upon the foundation which they have given us.”

But It’s Not Easy

From the web site, from the article “Leaving and Cleaving is Not Easy”:

“After we get married, if we still cling on to our family of origin and are not willing to let go, it will not be easy for us to cling on to our spouse as strongly as we should! If our parents cling on to us and will not ‘release’ us to our spouse, then also there will be problems. When our children form their families and we will not allow them to ‘leave’ us and cling on to their spouses, then we will be the ones creating problems!

“What does ‘leaving’ mean? It does not mean we make sharp cuts in our relationships so that we have nothing more to do with the other family. We don’t want to cut off relationships. Rather, what we need to do is to essentially shift our loyalty.

“For example, when we ‘leave’ our family of origin we move the priority of relationship from our parents, siblings, and extended family, to our spouse and also to our children. Then we can cling to our spouse with full commitment and loyalty. If ever there comes a clash of interests, we will stand with our spouse and children rather than with our family of origin. To continue along in the same direction, when our children get married we’ll encourage them to move their priorities to their spouses rather than cling to us.”

A Different Take

And here’s a different take on this issue from the article, “‘Leaving and Cleaving.” It centers on the Bible verse, Deuteronomy 24:5:

When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war. Neither shall he be charged with any business. But he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife, which he has taken.

“The Bible doesn’t say that a man is obligated to cheer up his parents, does it? Nor is the bride to be distracted by parental feelings. Scripture says that, as a newlywed, the groom shouldn’t be charged with ANY business —including yours, dear mother! Including yours, dear mother-in-law! Mind your own business so your son or son-in-law can mind his! His business is to cheer up his new wife. Don’t interfere with his God given assignment.

“To charge the bridegroom with YOUR business is to interfere with God’s business of building unity in their marriage! Do you realize that if a man does not come to understand his wife as he should and honor her as God says he is to do, his prayer life is hindered? Do you want to be responsible for slowing down your son or son-in-law’s understanding of his wife and mess up his prayer life?! I hope not…”

Bonding and Gluing

From the article, “God’s Design for Building Your Marriage,” this quote on this subject gives the following insight:

“The word ‘cleave’ (KJV) or ‘unites with’ (NET) involves a bonding together. It’s much like gluing two things. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gives synonyms for the Hebrew word: ‘cling to, stick to, stick with, join to.’

“When something breaks at our house, my husband often uses super glue to bond the pieces together. In fact, the bond is so strong that he has to be careful not to get the glue on his hand. If he does, he will become permanently attached to it as well! What insights does this give you about oneness? Cleave ‘carries the sense of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty.’

“We need to consider what it means to ‘cleave’ so that we can better understand what it means to ‘leave.’ Leave involves more than distance. It is an attitude of the heart. God’s plan for marriage involves oneness. In order for two to become one, they cannot still be attached to anyone else, parents or siblings or friends. They cannot cleave unless they leave their family of origin. There are women who have left their homes in distance but not emotionally or financially. There are women (and men) who live next door to their parents and yet have ‘left’ them.


“Why is it impossible for a woman to cleave to, or become one with a husband without leaving her family? (The same goes for the husband cleaving to and becoming one with his wife without leaving his family.)

“Please understand that this does not mean that you cannot love your family and talk to them. However, there is a point at which you can be attached to them so strongly that you fail to leave as you should. Sometimes it is the parents who cannot let the child leave. However, notice that the Bible clearly calls the child to leave, not the parents to force them out. The responsibility is upon you to make the break from your home. You may need to help them let go.”

Move Away?

From “Strengthening Your Marriage” by Wayne Mack, as posted on, we’re told what leaving “does not mean”:

“It does not mean that you must make a move away from the vicinity in which your parents live. Living too close to parents at the beginning of a marriage may make it more difficult to leave. But it is possible to leave your father and mother and still live next door. Conversely, it is possible to live a thousand miles away from your parents and not leave them. In fact, you may not have left your parents even though they are dead.”

However, what it DOES mean is:

“Once you are married there is to be a fundamental change in your relationship with your parents. Leaving your parents means: The husband-wife relationship is now the priority relationship. Your relationship with your parents (or anyone else) must now take a back seat to your relationship with your spouse. In fact, all other relationships must now be secondary.

“It means that you are more concerned about your spouse’s ideas, opinions, and directives than you are of your parents (or anyone else). Sometimes there is a power struggle between the two sets of parents. A husband and wife must be careful that they do not allow the parents to manipulate them.”

Amen! In the next message, we’ll explore more on the subject of leaving and cleaving. The emphasis will be on cleaving, and what it means and doesn’t mean. We hope this will help you in your marriage (and you will pass this information along to others who could benefit, as well).

Cindy and Steve Wright

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21 responses to “Cleaving Rather than Leaving – MM #167

  1. (SOUTH AFRICA)  I am married to a leader of the church for a year and 2 months now. He seems to deliberatley refuse to acknowledge God’s command of leaving your father and mother to cleave with wife. This is a topic we discussed before getting into marriage and we seemed to be in agreement with the word of GOD with regards leaving and cleaving. Because he is a stroke survivor who since the attack hardly reads, I would like to know if you have any of these teachings on DVD so I can get it for him. I trust that it would help him understand how his not leaving his original family is killing our marriage.

    1. Dear Nokwazi, I’m sorry to say that we don’t have any of these teachings on DVD’s or CD’s. All I can say is that perhaps he might allow you to read some to him in shorter increments (so you don’t test his patience as much) and then talk about them. My husband used to hate reading (but has since changed) and I couldn’t get him to read anything, but he would allow me to read a few paragraphs of this or that, at different times. I’m not sure with your husband if this would work.

      The important thing though, is not to assault his father and mother and to give some grace and space to them, since they are such an important part of your husband’s life. Be respectful but know in your head that this is something, which is best for all in the long run. The Bible says in Proverbs 25:17, “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house –too much of you, and he will hate you.” That can be applied to extended family. Sometimes it’s too much for one relative or another and if that’s so, then it’s best to see each other less so you can still enjoy the time you have together during the times you do see each other.

      1. Dear Nokwazi, there are wonderful text to speech apps available – some downloadable for free. If you search a little you will find ones that allow you to import any text to be converted int speech. There is also a program for the blind called Dolphin that is awesome for people struggling to read. May you be blessed with the most amazing marriage.

  2. (USA) First of all, I want to say thank you for this website, it has been a blessing to me. My husband & I have a unique situation. We’ve been married for 2 yrs now but I still live with my parents & he lives in his home he has been paying for the past several years. We’d been together for 16 years before marrying.

    My husband has severe anxiety that keeps us from doing many things, having a wedding being one of them. He told me if things could stay the same (our living arrangement) he would marry me (him & I, a pastor before God) & we would ease into living together. I agreed. He told me we would have a wedding with just my family & his dad so they could see us be married in the near future. I believed what he said that after we were married we would gradually ease into me staying with him until we were both comfortable with me moving in & that we would have our small wedding.

    After 2 yrs –nothing has changed. He gets furious when I try to talk to him about it and says when he thinks the time is right & hes ready we will. I’m experiencing extreme rejection & emotional & anger issues due to this among other issues. I think of people that get married wanting to be together, why doesn’t my husband want me to live with him? Our relationship is great in other areas but this really bothers me, I think of it daily & am deeply hurt. It makes me feel unloved and unwanted. This is a negative to being together so long before getting married, you get stuck in your ways. I am not excited to move in with him but I know it’s the right thing to do & I want to. I just don’t understand. He says he’s scared it will ruin our relationship. We have cleave to each other in all other areas. I feel the not living together is hindering our oneness though & causing great inner turmoil within me but my husband pretty much refuses to talk about it civil with me.

  3. I have been thinking about the time when my now 14 year old son and 9 year old daughter come to leave home and marry, although I think God has helped me and my husband to do this fairly well I want to teach them gradually and prepare myself to help him to do this well. Thank you for putting this on the web to help me!

  4. Hi… We do read in Genesis 2:24,”That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” From what I learn from God’s Word “Leave and cleave” is a matter of the heart. Many take the “Leave and cleave” to heart and turn their backs and walk out, some even leave their parents in senior citizen’s home, some wash their hands off them, some just have no time for them any more, some don’t respect the elderly. I can hardly find example in the Word of God where “Leave and cleave” was literally put into practice.

    And Children have to make a choice if they want to stay on with their their parents or move out. When parents live in a small house and children get married and move out it is understandable but let not the modern life style, ‘nuclear family’ system, teachings of others, influence and overtake ‘Biblical values’ and standards. After their children get married parents are to step back, let go and let children take responsibilities, give them their space, not interfere in their decision, their life and choices but still always be there if children need their help or advice.

    And what God wants us to do is more important. He cares for the old, He values relationships. Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” God’s Word says, Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. (Prov. 17:6) A home that has grandparents is truly blessed!

    In this age where people prefer nuclear family unit, both parents working, parents prefer their kids to be looked after by maids and kids learn more from the TV and Internet. There is a generation that has lost the understanding of what it is to honor the elders and seniors at home. God’s Word says in Leviticus 19:32 “‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Even when our Lord walked this earth, families lived in close communities. By using the familiar images of an insula, Jesus helped his followers to understand the kingdom of God —a household of faith where God’s family lives in close community.

    I think in the Biblical times “Father’s House” was very important. I just stumbled on this blog and was blessed. “IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE: A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE!” Posted By: Henry Falcone

    And we need to study a Jewish wedding and why our Lord chose to follow the Jewish wedding pattern. We can learn so… much from a Jewish Wedding! Be blessed as you study the “Jewish wedding” and more about the “Father’s House”

    Even in the Old Testament we see how Isaac and Jacob bring back their wives to their Father’s home.
    Genesis 24:67 “Then Isaac brought her(his wife) into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” Genesis 35:27 “Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed.”

    Jacob continued to live with his sons (Genesis 38-44). Christin Ditchfield writes, “The Scriptures tell us that Jesus —God’s Son —has chosen us to be His Bride. Right now, He’s gone to get everything ready (to build on those extra rooms), but one day soon He’ll return and bring us home to His Father.”
    Read more: In Jesus’s time, families usually lived in clusters of buildings called “Insula”.

    Also check: Korazin – The City Source:
    Studying the ruins of Korazin and other Galilean towns, scholars have pieced together a picture of family life in the first century. Abba Father enjoyed a daily fellowship with Adam and Eve; He loved to walk in the garden (Genesis 3:8-9) and talk with them. But when man sinned they lost this beautiful fellowship they enjoyed with The Father God! Abba Father wanted to redeem His lost to Himself! Galatians 4:5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. After the fall of man, Satan has done a lot to mess and destroy not just our Heavenly Father’s but earthly father’s relationship with children and caused divide and disunity in families.

    But, God takes pain to reveal His Father heart to us through His Son Yeshua and will turn back hearts of fathers to children and children to fathers. Malachi 4:6 “He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents…” May we restore honor, dignity to elders in our families. What would Jesus Christ our Lord do is what we need to do!

    And who says mother-in-law and daughter-in-law cannot see eye to eye? When Naomi asked her daughters-in-law to go to their respective parental homes after their husbands (Naomi’s sons) died, Orpah left but Ruth chose to follow her mother-in-law. Ruth 1:16 “But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”‘ God honored Ruth’s choice! She met Boaz!

    We look around and see some mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law having tough time seeing eye to eye and the world too teaches our kids mother-in-law and daughter-in-law cannot enjoy a loving mother-daughter relationship. heart emoticon But Ruth and Naomi set a beautiful example by sharing a beautiful relationship. Naomi also found great joy to be a nurse to her grandson Obed. Because of Ruth’s faithfulness she was the great-grandmother of King David, was one of the five women listed in the genealogy of Christ along with Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Mary. Please check my blog on Ruth and Naomi here: May we learn valuable lessons from these Biblical personalities and may God restore relationships that the enemy has messed up on earth! Time we listened to God’s voice!

    Timothy inherited good values from his grandma. The elderly need our touch, care, love! As kids parents and grandparents give their best for us, let us not cast them away when they are old like we throw away the curry leaves and spices that added flavor to the curry!

    Our parents spend sleepless nights, sacrifice their time and energy to give us the best and when they are to lean back and rest, we so easily cast them out or turn away from them. Some parents as they grow older, become forgetful, confused and are slow in doing things. They do not remember many things, don’t take their medication on time, are not able to prepare nutritious meals. Does that really matter to us? Do we really care?

    Even when on the cross He remembered His mother and did not want to leave her alone. He trusted John would take good care of her. And John took her ‘into his home’. John 19: 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
    Jesus wants us to follow His example. John 13:15 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Following Yeshua, Juliyana

    1. Thank you so much for this very well thought-out response to the article. I come from a country where society and our Christian churches encourage newly-marrieds to virtually disown their parents and live their own separate nuclear lives which cuts them off from getting good support for their new marriage from those who really love them.

      This mindset from the past 30 years has created a generation who thinks nothing of leaving their elderly parents in rest homes and never visiting them. It has become the way-of-life for almost everyone here in my country. This state of leaving the elderly alone to fend for themselves and also in rest homes where their family never visits was recently a feature of a national newspaper article. Such a terrible shame that our Christian churches have not encouraged several generations of the same family to learn to live together in harmony as the Bible commands, but have bought into the autonomous individualism that socialists and the world pushes. There is so much loneliness everywhere – people are searching for answers – how can we stop the loneliness the elderly particularly are experiencing at homes by themselves all day, or in rest homes where no-one visits them.

      I saw an article showing in one country that young adult students are now living in rest homes, and some day-care centres are being run at rest homes now. This is proving to be good for both the elderly and the young. But what about what God has already designed: the family – many generations living under the same roof or beside each other, sharing close relationships and blessing one another. Obviously a husband/wife relationships trumps the relationship with parents when decisions are being made, but why do Christian churches all around me emphasise each married couple to make decisions without taking into account the impact this will have on the whole extended family unit?

      Surely God is calling us to live in community and to be mindful of those around us when making decisions. It’s time for the Christian church to actually preach Biblical values in family living, not just everyone out for themselves. Let’s pursue multi generational households and see the blessing that can come from that.

  5. I need help my marriage is failing. My husband has packed out of our home today and moved back to his parents house.

  6. I have been studying the subject of leaving and cleaving to your wife for a few weeks. The leaving and cleaving your parents is very well understood. However, what happens when you get married to a women that has older children? It seems like cleaving to your wife is difficult due to the fact that the mother-son relationship never gave us a chance to really cleave together. All problems, financial affairs, decisions and choices were always discussed with the son before I was told of their decision. Where did I go wrong or what could I have done? The son finally got married, lived with us for three years and finally got his place. Yet, the son and wife never let my wife see her grandchildren. We helped them so much. Again, where did we go wrong?

  7. This has been very helpful. I been married for over 3 decades and still trying to get it right. When God is at the centre, where the principles of the Bible are being adhered to, there is better results. Thanks for this article.

  8. I am guilty of not having completed the leaving and cleaving process. Thankfully my husband brought this to my attention 3 years into our marriage, that it hadn’t been done. We started down the road, and I have ready as much as I can find on the subject, and my husband took a weekend course 10 years ago with his ex spouse. I however have not taken the steps that my husband had hoped that I would, and it now seems that there is nothing that I can do that is working towards leaving and cleaving. He expresses daily how much he hates them, as he considers them his enemy.

    I behaved horribly as his wife for this past year, and when I would become so frustrated and hurt by his actions, I would yell at him, and call him vile names.

    I understand how my lack of completion with leaving and cleaving would be a cause of this, and I am constantly trying new things, and reading as much information as I can regarding the subject. However, I think it may be too late, as now he is so angry towards my parents. He now blames them for all things that have gone wrong in his and our life. My parents wrote him a letter to apologize for them treating with him a lack of respect, and after they had sent the letter, I did communicate with my mother again via text message to let he know we recieved the letter, and that Shane would respond. He has since decided that it is not an actual apology, and therefore he will not be responding to the letter.

    He found out that I had messaged my mother on our shared cell phone, and has now ended the relationship as I am a liar and unloyal to him. He was livid to discover that I have had communication with my mother up until a month ago via text messaging. I had never attempted to hide such communication since I did not think that I was supposed to not talk to them at all. As it stands now, I have no idea what it is that I am supposed to do to prove to him that he is the priority in my life. We are long haul truckers and work together. We live in a studio condo together, and we are each other’s only friends… I am at a loss.

    1. I pray and hope that God will enlighten and open your husband’s heart to see your true self. God bless.

  9. I need help I love my husband and he can’t separate from his mother. Financially or otherwise. I moved to a new state to be with him and she lives next door on the same property. I’ve done everything a wife can do without losing it because she controls him totally and he is good with that. Is my marriage doomed?? Please help.

  10. I am blessed by all you have shared. As I am preparing for family seminar as a disciple of Jesus & as a Psychotherapists (treating all psychiatric patients with the leading of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word), I found it very helpful. God bless you richly as you post more such articles being led by God.

    1. We appreciate your kind words. We pray it helps many, many spouses who may never have thought of this issue this way before. God bless!

  11. My husband never separated from his parents. This has caused undue grief and severe problems in the marriage and his parents never let him go; but I blame my husband! This has resulted in my not having any kind of relationship with his parents. He is 52 years old and this has been ongoing for most of the 20 years that we’ve been married. I’m MORE than fed up with this nonsense! It’s inappropriate and very disrespectful to me and the marriage.

  12. Why does every Tom, Dick and Harry think they know the Bible because they read it in English? Leave and cleave has NOTHING TO DO with nuclear family concepts because they were hardly existent 3000 years ago. Did anyone even read the bible???????

  13. Beautiful, so thankful for this article. People from my culture in the church need to hear this over and over again.

    1. Thank you, Frieda. We give you permission to print it and share it with others. Go to the very bottom of the article (before the “Join the Discussion”) and on the left you’ll see “Print Post.” That formats it to be able to print. Again, we’re glad this article ministered to you.