Leaving Parents To Cleave To Your Spouse

Leaving Parents to Leave and cleave married AdobeStock_19723481The following are some quotes on the issue of leaving parents (on the husband and wife’s part) to cleave to your spouse. They come from a radio interview. It is part of an eight part radio interview series, which was put together by the ministry of Family Life Today. It is titled, “Becoming One: God’s Blueprints for Marriage.” Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine are the hosts.

In the parts of the interviews that we will be sharing, Dennis Rainey lays the groundwork with the following scriptures:

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)

In the beginning part of this interview Bob Lepine makes the following statement:

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.

Concerning Leaving Parents, Dennis replies:

“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. These are people who love and care about them, but simply don’t know how to let them leave. It’s awkward because there is a new union formed there. This is 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 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 2: 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.”

More so, on Leaving Parents, Dennis commented:

“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. In some situations, we represent the only real relationship that our parents have. They don’t have a vital marriage, and the only real relationships they have are with their children. For that reason, they simply can’t or won’t allow them to leave.”

Here’s another important point Dennis made on Leaving Parents:

“There are three areas you can run a test on to see how you’ve done in leaving your father and mother. The first 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 as a young man, 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.'”

A Valuable Lesson on Leaving Parents

“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 valuable lesson. Be careful, as a couple, what you share with your parents of how your spouse has disappointed 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. As a result, it would set Barbara up to be a failure in my mom’s eyes.”

Here’s Another Point Dennis made on Leaving Parents:

“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. Also determine 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.

“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.”

Dennis talks about financial decisions made apart from parents (which is quite wise) but then he goes onto “decision-making.” It’s another aspect of leaving parents, which is important.

Dennis makes the point:

“This could include the spiritual dimension of life as well —just getting advice from parents. Parents need to give advice. 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. It just means that you can’t give them power over your lives…”

Here are a few additional thoughts Dennis shares that are very important:

“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 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 decisions that will create health and spiritual vitality in your marriage.”

And then, here are a few quotes that we want to particularly point out from the radio program, “Leaving Part 2.”

In this interview, Dennis Rainey is asked what a couple should do if the parents don’t want their grown “children” to leave.

To this he replied:

“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.

We’re Told in the Bible Concerning Leaving Parents

“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 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 understand these blueprints in the Book of Genesis, it will help us, as a couple, have our marriage set in the right direction.”

Later in the interview Dennis Rainey refers to Genesis 2:24 again and explains why God wants the couple to “leave” their parents.

He said:

“God wants a man and a woman to become one. It’s the marriage relationship that causes him to leave his father and his mother. The word ‘leave’ here means to ‘forsake dependence upon.’ It means we no longer look to our parents for approval, support, or for encouragement. We leave one sphere of influence and move to another sphere of influence.”

In this interview, Bob Lepine asks Dennis how this couple can prepare their parents. Is there anything they can do before the wedding to prepare them on the issue of leaving parents in priority?

To this Dennis replied:

“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. Both of them are 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. It’s established that they’re going to be committed to this new person that they’re making a covenant within 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. Maybe they can even talk about it with their mom or dad. Let them know that you know it may be a struggle.

Sad, But True Concerning Leaving Parents and Others

“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. It’s possible, 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 asked Dennis:

“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 saying, “Is this an issue for us? Maybe we haven’t done a good job of establishing our leaving from our parents.”

To that, Dennis replied:

“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.

Some Parents Have a Hard Time Accepting This

“…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. But he explains 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 can be difficult. It could be done at the wedding ceremony for a couple who’s getting married where you honor the parents during the ceremony. Or it could 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.”

All of this gives you a preview of some important points concerning biblically leaving, cleaving, and “becoming one.”

I GREATLY encourage you to listen to or read the rest of the interviews. Please prayerfully consider what is said here because the advice given is golden. It’s very scriptural and wise concerning the important principle of leaving parents and family. You can do so by going to the Family Today web site. Ask for the 2-part series titled, “Becoming One: God’s Blueprints for Marriage” at Familylife.com.

— ALSO —

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


Concerning leaving parents and extended family after marriage, here’s some good advice to prayerfully consider:

“When you married and established a new home, you departed from your old ways. You didn’t leave your first home in terms of love or communication. But you did leave in terms of authority and priority. The most important human relationship now is the one you have with your husband or wife. More than that, your marriage is a living, breathing institution with a life of its own. It’s a covenant that is a symbol of God’s love for the church, His body of believers in Jesus Christ.” (Dr Randy Carlson)

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Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents

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129 responses to “Leaving Parents To Cleave To Your Spouse

  1. I just felt like saying thank you so much for sharing this! My fiancé and I will be getting married next year (in July) and this was just an answer to my prayers. My parents have a very bad history of being manipulative, controlling and just flat out awful at times. I will give you just a little bit of background on our situation: They discourage going to college, getting driver’s licenses, SSN, and/or getting jobs. They’ve “forced” the last three married couples in my family to not move out of their house and to “stay with the family”… they have an array of reasons. The most popular is, “We need you here right now, things are difficult.” We move around a lot, every 2 or 3 years… We’ve moved twice in the last year. Personally I see it as another way my parents have tried to prevent any of the married couples from moving out. Also my dad’s response to jobs, “God says to have no idols. If you have a job, you’re putting yourself under someone and therefore allowing yourself to put someone before God.” It’s flawed, I know…

    Now that you’re a bit caught up… my second oldest brother and his wife (he’s been married for almost 9 years) have recently, due to circumstances that were unavoidable, stayed behind in a move. My parents believed he would come along shortly. So in their minds he still hasn’t moved out because they think he will be coming out to be with us soon. His wife has wanted children for the last 3 years, however, since they were living with the whole family and unable to move out (no job/income, although my brother is VERY intelligent and now designing his own products and starting a very fast growing company! **so proud of him** And not allowed to leave without causing a big “stink”) they didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of starting their family.

    My third oldest brother, he is in the house right now. Attempting to start a company of his own, in his free time because he has been “helping” my dad with his manufacturing company as a full time job with food/board as payment. However, his wife is incredibly unhappy. He is uncomfortable being intimate with her (hugging, kissing, going on walks, etc) when everyone else is around.. because he feels the need to give equal attention to everyone in the family so that no one feels they’re being abandoned by him. His priorities are out of whack because he is very controlled by my parents.

    And the third marriage, which was my older sister, was a disaster. Her “husband” was not a Christian. He was lazy, selfish, unkind and had no intention of ever getting a job to provide for her (which is why our situation appealed to him…even though he couldn’t get along with any of us. When he didn’t flush the toilet, left his clothes in our KITCHEN, or didn’t help around the house people would remind him so he could correct it whatever it was, and he would BLOW UP and just go on a full out tirade using profane words, etc. Everyone who knew my sister warned her about him and he abandoned her last year, 3 months after their wedding. He just disappeared one night when he was supposed to be at the store, stole $900 in the process.

    Anyhow, my fiancé and I don’t want this life for us. He is a very devoted, loving, hardworking, honest man. He is looking for work and in the mean time has helped me start a mobile business which allows us to be gone most of the day and get quality time together.

    My parents have not tried to control our relationship recently because they realized that my loyalty is to him because I trust him, and they’ve already taken advantage of me (borrowing thousands of dollars.. which I made from various jobs that my dad didn’t approve of). Also, a great example that comes to mind, on our way down here, where we are now, Texas… I was traveling with my fiancé in his car, and my family was all in my parents’ car, my dad pulled me aside one morning trying to tell me that I needed to break it off with Daniel *my fiancé* because he was just like my older sister’s ex. When I told him he was wrong and gave a bundle of examples how Daniel is not like that AT ALL he brushed me off and continued to yell at me.

    Near the end of this he admitted to me that he only had $100 left and no way of making money and he didn’t know where anyone would be sleeping that night, since they had no house yet. I quickly realized the situation for what it was; he had nothing against Daniel, except that Daniel had money and so did I so he was furious about this. I asked Daniel to come over. I had been expecting this for some time. I asked Daniel to take out an envelope that contained a couple thousand dollars. I handed it to my dad, and the entire mood of the conversation changed. We got in our cars and left heading to our next stop. Within the next 20 minutes, my dad was PRAISING Daniel and myself. Saying what wonderful people we are and how much he respects us and how proud of us he is.

    Since then I haven’t been as close with my parents. After reading this article though, I will work on that and try to make it easier on them as Daniel and I will be moving on with our life & marriage next year.. being the first married couple so far to be moving out and setting boundaries. So that we can have a healthy, God focused life.

    So thank you again SO much for sharing this information.

  2. I just get married few months ago, I’m an only child and my mom is a single parent. We only have one another all our lives. Now that I am married, we want to leave but I am having hard time because she will be definitely alone. I am troubled.

  3. What I need to know is how much is too much. My mother in law calls at least 5 to 6 times a day, and if she calls and we don’t answer the first time, she’ll complain about it when she finally gets through. She often calls at odd times, either really late or really early (like 6 in the morning). I brought it up to my wife, and her response was “My mother can call anytime she wants.” I feel like at that point she put her mother before me. She calls as though we have nothing but time, like we are just letting our three kids raise themselves.

    I feel like we have argued over this issue way too much that it’s to the point where when she calls I don’t answer or say anything. My wife finally got the picture when her mom called while she was napping. Unfortunately the frequency has not changed much. The strange thing is she acknowledged that her mom calls too much, but I’m made out to be the bad guy. I read on this discussion board something interesting that speaks to this situation…parents are in such a disarray of a marriage that their relationships lie within their children to the point that they refuse to let go. That’s where we are.

    Her mom has talked about me to her, and she has a habit of gossiping to and about others. This has resulted in several arguments between my wife and me. One situation that I can never forget was when my wife and I were on an errand and her mom happened to be with us, she told us a story about her niece’s first marriage and how the mom was always calling and always at their house. I could do nothing but think “You’ve got a lot of nerve talking about someone else being too involved in a marriage that’s not theirs”. This was an exact description of what she does to us.

    She has another daughter out of state, and I remember when she used to talk to us about her not calling her after being newly married. My MIL used to say that “They are out there living it up and forgot all about us.” And by “us” I mean “her”. It’s worse for us because we are a few minutes away, but she calls her daughter a lot more than normal. Even she says her mom calls a lot but I can’t seem to get my wife to understand that. She also has three children to raise, and she complains about them not answering her calls right away either. Every time we leave the house, my wife has to explain what she is doing and where she is going. Her mom even goes as far as asking her to go run errands with her, leaving me with all the kids. She even says “Let him watch the kids, I need you to help me.” Total disrespect in my eyes.

    We were looking for another church because we go to the same church, and she says “I’m ok with you looking for a new church” as if we needed permission. She even tries to tell us what to do with our kids, even making us look bad to them. She tries to offer them snacks, and when I tell them no she will say “I wanted to give it to you but your dad says no.” She has done this to my wife also, in which case they start to argue. She tries to assert herself in the wrong matters, whether it’s with the kids or our marital business. My wife shares more information with her mother than I think she should, to the point where she had to explain her choices to her mom.

    To put it into perspective, her mom once said “I wish I could buy one big house so that all my children and their families can live with me.” If that’s not controlling I don’t know what is. She is very manipulative and uses guilt trips to get her way with her children, especially with her son. I feel bad for his wife because she has to sit back while he listens to his mom over her. She often goes on vacations with us, and I really hate it because she is so difficult to deal with…most times she just invites herself.

    I could write a book on the many issues I have with my MIL but I’m so frustrated with this. She has even told my wife that “I’m trying to tear them apart”. I thought that she became mine years ago when we got married, but her mom just won’t let go. There are so many other incidents I could describe, but what should I do about this major one? How can I stop her from playing two ends against the middle like she has so often done?

    1. Hi Charles, I am a husband married 36 years with 2 adult children… and I could not help but reply to your text above. In my opinion, your mother in law is clearly “crossing the line” with her too-frequent calls and other manipulative behavior. Your wife’s answer, “she can call when she wants,” is NOT OK- I can easily understand your feeling that your wife is putting her mother ahead of you here. Also when your wife agrees to let you watch the children while she “caves in” to her mother’s request for help with shopping seems to go a bit far in my view. Perhaps OK max 1x per week… but not more than that! But you will know better of course.

      As I read your text further, I find myself even getting annoyed with your MIL!! Telling you it’s OK if you look for another church?? Making you look like the “bad guy” to your children? Wanting a big house so all her children and families can live with her? Noooo… this is for sure not good.

      Here’s how we do it with my adult children- both of whom live with their partners and their children within 10 minutes by bicycle from our house:
      – We never interject into their private matters beyond asking how they are doing once in a while. We do not offer advice at all unless asked.
      – We always call before going over to visit- our children do feel free to tell us “No” if they wish. No worries!! We visit maximum 1x week. We call them or they call us on a very ad hoc basis 1x or 2x a week. Sometimes also a phone message… not more…
      – We always ask our children’s preferences when it comes to boundaries for their children when their children are staying with us. (They are still young, 1, 1.5 and 4 years old) but this is the basis we already have.
      – We never give our grandchildren anything without their parents” OK in advance. I know I would be very annoyed if even a freind offered my children something to eat without my advance input, then I would have to say “no” and then I’m looking like the “bad guy.” No thanks!! In that case I would take them aside and tell them firmy but tactfully “Don’t do that again!”
      – We basically treat our children and their families in the same way that we treat our friends of our own age- this works very well!!

      To answer your basic question, I believe you need to have a well thought out conversation with your wife to establish clear boundaries on which you both agree regarding your MIL. You two are a unit, a family- not an extension of your mother in law’s family. Your wife needs to see that she must put you and your/her children ahead of her mother. Fortunately your wife has a better idea of your position when her mother called while she was napping :)) It sounds like your wife is still behaving a bit too much like her mother’s daughter insead of an independent grown woman. She should certainly not have to explain to her mother what she is doing or where she is going! (Where is your father in law in all this??)

      I would say in your (you and your wife together) conversation with your MIL that
      – you love her and want her to be part of your family, BUT that the too frequent calls must stop… for now you can tell her “Please do not call us, we will call you.” and then do contact her 1x a week at first… If necessary, she should be blocked from your phones so that you and your family are left in peace.
      – she needs to understand very clearly that she has no business telling you two how to raise your children, You can tell her “We do not want you giving our children snacks or anything else without our express permission.”

      I know this is not complete, but I hope that my comments put things into perspective. In general, you may need to set boundaries which seem to be too distant at first, and then ease up as time goes by. Please ket us know what’s happening? WP (Work in Progress)

    2. Hi Charles, I agree with a lot of what WP says in his comment (although I’m not sure I would start out going as far in the beginning… ease into it a bit and if more is needed, then go further). The thing I wanted to write to you (and just haven’t been able to until now) goes along with what WP wrote. I recommend the book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life written by Henry Cloud. It would be a good read for you and your wife to read (if she will agree).

      I believe your mother in law THINKS she’s doing right by you and the rest of the family; she just doesn’t realize that she is going way too far. And truthfully, part of it is because boundaries weren’t set into place when things started out. It really is up to your wife to put some limits on this. She is her mother’s daughter and this will be taken by her mom MUCH better if her daughter starts this process, rather than you. But from what you write, she doesn’t seem to know how to, and just looks away so as not to hurt her feelings (hurting yours, in the process because you feel like you take 2nd place). But it has gone way too far and things need to back up and take more of a back seat rather than doing the driving. She ran her family, now she needs to let her daughter and you run yours. That will be painful to start putting into place in the beginning, but eventually everyone will do much better in this family setting, hopefully, without the whole family blowing apart.

      The Boundaries book is a good one. The reason I recommend for both of you to read it is because I believe it will help both of you to feel more empowered and on the same page as you work through the chapters. And then you will be able to come up with a plan together.

      If your wife won’t do this, you may need to step back more and more with your mother in law and let your wife handle her. Don’t do this in a mean-spirited way because that could sure backfire on you. I don’t believe your MIL is doing this to be mean; she’s just clueless. A softened but steadfast way will go further in establishing boundaries and yet it may not cause as much of an upset. Remember you’re dealing with a woman here, not another guy. Guys can do this too each other and not cause as many problems. Gals need to be handled a bit less gruff, even though it needs to be handled in a steadfast way.

      Also, at this point, you are so upset you will start seeing whatever she does with Manure colored glasses. Whatever you see, it’s all poop (to say it less offensively in this forum — but you get the point). Just be careful about getting offended at everything, which would be easy to do. Give her the benefit of the doubt when you can. Yes, she needs to be reigned back, but no, she doesn’t need to be pushed back aggressively unless she starts fighting you aggressively on this. She will to a certain extent, but try to do this as kind as you can and hopefully, it won’t get to the point of breaking up the family. Remember, there are also grandkids involved and your wife still loves her mom –faults and all. Give them and her that. When you can give in, do so –pick your battles, but just don’t give in as much as you have because she is taking more and more advantage of you and it’s just not healthy. She needs to be (gently) pushed back as soon as it is possible.

      I hope this will help. WP and I agree that things need to change. Our approach is just a bit different, but that’s okay. This is something you and your wife need to figure out. Pray about it, talk to your wife (at a time when neither of you is upset or tired or hungry because those types of settings can cause things to escalate in an unhealthy direction more readily). Tell your wife that you know she loves her mom, and you understand that, but things have just gone a bit too far. You feel like you’re getting crowded out and that the two of you aren’t able to raise your family in agreement because there is too much interfering going on. Get the book and show it to her and see if you two can figure out beforehand how to be the main parents here and the main couple, and find ways to establish boundaries in as kind, and yet not caving in manner as it is possible. I hope this helps.

      1. Hi Cindy, Very well said. Good point about guys being too gruff sometimes. I guess I am a bit overreacting to Charles’ predicament- I think you’re right about “Remember you’re dealing with a woman here, not another guy.” I also had the feeling that the wife was more actively siding with her mother, although your point is well taken- the wife may herself feel caught and not know how to deal with this.

        Hi Charles, There is hope!! Sounds like a good book Cindy is recommending… :) Let us know how you are? WP (Work in Progress)

        1. Thanks WP… What a good guy you are! I/we love your heart and your desire to help so many. Keep up the good work. You are appreciated here.

          1. Thank you Cindy… Very nice of you! Means a lot :) I hope Charles comes back and reads these answers.

  4. Hello I have a question. Well, I may get engaged in a few years, but my problem is that if I leave my family they may miss me so much like my sister. Actually I think that if I get married one day, and my parents die my sister may become alone more (although she may get married too). I’m worried about her. Am I crazy? Or I am right about this?

    1. Hi Thomas, “Leaving your family and cleaving to your wife” in the Bible does not mean physically leaving your family and never seeing them again. It DOES mean that you and your wife become a family unit in your own right. I live with my wife now for many years, many of them a far distance (7 hours by air) from my family. I visit my family every so often, we call, write letters, send cards, and keep up with each other.

      Yes, your family will miss you. But you can visit each other within reasonable boundaries, just like you set boundaries with other families you know- near and far… Your sister may well marry and start her own family. Why ever not?? Both of my children have families of their own, our three families visit each other, and care for each other….

      Noooo you are not crazy. But I do think you’re worrying too much about a theoretical situation (your sister ending up alone) which will likely never happen. Besides, you are her brother! You can always be a brother to your sister, you see? No worries Thomas… Take care, WP (Work in Progress)

    2. Thomas, you seem like a great brother and son. Everyone should have such a caring family member. I’m so glad you’re conscientious of the pull and tug of family members and a spouse. Too many people don’t consider this, and they should, and need to. Just keep all of this in mind. Please don’t tie your heart to someone until you believe you could put her first under God, before everyone else. But also be careful that if you meet someone, she is a family person and doesn’t seek to have you all to herself. You need to be with your family at times and make them a big part of your life. Yes, she should be first, but no, you shouldn’t have to throw your family out because of her. Just don’t marry unless you can give her first priority AND THEN take care of your family. Please read everything we have posted on this issue in this topic, including quotes: https://marriagemissions.com/category/in-laws/.

      You come from a culture that has deep ties to family, and that can be a positive thing. It’s just not good when it’s taken so far that the birth family is able to boss around, and take first priority over your spouse (and eventual children, if you have them). Anything, even good things, taken to excess can be problematic. Consider it all. It may be that you are called to remain single. I don’t know. But I’m thinking more likely, you’re called to be a great husband who loves and honors his wife, but also enjoys and takes care of his birth family to the degree that it is reasonable within your marriage to do so.

      You are a thoughtful young man. I pray God gives you wisdom and help in this matter. God bless :)

  5. Thank you so much for such a lovely blog. The truth sometimes can be twisted according to our own fancies and what we want to do and believe. I really want to seek advise for my situation. I have been married for 17 months now and my husband is a sailor on a merchant navy ship which keeps him out for 4 months at a time until the next contract. We are both Christians from strong backgrounds and when we met I took for granted that he understood the ‘Leaving -cleaving’ concept. Also during our courting days we had spoken about how essential it was to live with his parents as he was away from home and I had been flying with an airline as cabin crew and working crazy hours and odd timings. After we married, I left my job considering the effects on a normal married life and I also sailed with him for 7 months on the ship. However he doesn’t think any of these choices were made as efforts to the marriage and his only problem is that I don’t respect his parents only for the fact that I want to stay in a different home. My husband has a younger brother and his parents and our family is very close, well bonded in love and we are treated as kids. We take permission to go out and in, we are instructed as kids, I am expected to be a stay at home wife as that is my divine mandate (lol). I want what God has in store for us but I feel restricted and alone in this situation.

  6. Well… even though my wife is a faithful Christian (and I am not), and have already brought that text at the beginning of the note already, she has managed to find excuses to not live together. 3 years of marriage so far and she’s still living with my in-laws. There is always an excuse: her dad’s health, her cat’s cancer, harvest season, you name it. Looks like she is not in love but keeps insisting she is and that I don’t understand her and if I get mad then I am the bad guy. Fear some say. Whatever it is is painful, and more if you live in another country.

  7. What if after 25 years of marriage one spouse still clings to her children and the other is always second fiddle

  8. What about a young adult couple where the offspring abandons his parents because the wife does not want to enjoy the extended family?

  9. This has been a huge issue in our marriage. My wife seems to feel that since the Bible says a man leaves his parents that the wife is not obligated. I have lost 2 career paths that would have been night and day for our finances, but I gave them up because she will not leave her parents. I have an offer this week in Cali for 40% increase in income and she won’t consider moving. What do you do in this case? I took a contract position years back out of state and that year she came out but turned into an alcoholic because she was miserable. Wits end!

  10. I don’t know if anyone will see this, but, what if the woman you plan on marrying is all the way across the country and your mother would be by herself if you were to leave? I feel like I would be betraying her.

    1. You need to talk to your future wife about this now, before you marry. You can’t divide your household up right from the start. Talk together about this now. Express your feelings, listen for hers. And then try to work it through so you both come to an agreement and understanding. If you both disagree with the other’s stance and can’t come up with a solution that you both feel good about, then it would be good to talk to a few wise counselors (older friends, pastor, maybe even a counselor, etc.) at this point. THIS is the time to work through issues that arise before marrying. It’s good to learn to work through your problems to see how well you can do as a marital team. If you need to work on it, now is the best time.

      There are so many different solutions that can be possible, but you should both throw them all out there, discuss the possibilities, and land on a mutually agreed upon solution. I hope you will. Don’t be fearful that you will upset the peace between you. Many, many problems will come up after you marry. NOW is the time to make sure that you truly should be together–that you are a healthy, giving couple now AND later. :)

  11. I would like to point out that it is all too easy for American Christians to misuse this leave and cleave issue. Americans have been very spoiled and are accustomed to being able to establish independent households, and living completely separated from their families, so that there aren’t a lot of extended family relationships compared to living styles in other countries. We also have a ton of senior housing facilities with a lot of older people living completely on their own surrounded by other elderly people. This fact doesn’t impress people from other cultures who are much more focussed on family than are Americans.

    It’s easy to use the “leave and cleave” quote as an excuse to cut off contact with parents in a way that completely dishonors and disrepects them. Christians would do well to remember how this behavior reflects upon other Biblical teaching and on their Gospel of love overall.

    1. I completely agree with you Sarah. There can be abuses that can happen on both ends. Sometimes spouses allow too much intrusion by parents and family members where it causes emotional (and sometimes physical) separation between the marriage “partners”. And this should never be. But in other cases, some spouses neglect their parents and extended family members and push them out of their lives in ways that should never be. Either way, it is not what God intends.

  12. I am married since last 3 years. And I was staying with my mother who is a widow. But she was too controlling and manipulating, and always had fights with my wife. I left her house 2 months ago and am living together with my wife. Please advise whether what I did was right?

    1. Yes, Sam, it seems that this was the only thing you could do. Your mother has to realize that she is in a different place in your life. You love her and honor her but you are no longer under her control. You are a man now who is married and is in partnership with your wife. If your mother was supportive and encouraging towards your wife and your married situation, then you would not have had to break away from living with her. But you can’t cleave to your wife, as you are told in the Bible, if your mother keeps trying to get in between you.

      Find ways to show her love and honor, but I wouldn’t live with her if she is controlling and manipulating. If you do, it may cause irreparable harm to your marriage, and it will damage any kind of healthy relationship you could have with her. May God give you continued wisdom, love for both your mother and your wife, and may He bless you in your marriage.

  13. Sometimes a spouse still cleaves to their siblings too much also. The sibs can have various problems like failed marriages or they are wasted from smoking grass, which they don’t accept as being a problem…

    1. You’re right, Louise. This is also a problem of leaving and cleaving… plus allowing siblings to cause “separation” between spouses. Jesus said, “Let no man separate that, which God has put together.” There is mental and emotional separation involved here.

  14. Hi, My husband and I have been married just under two years and are trying to navigate in-law issues. I need some advice on how to handle conflict between my mother in law and I, and a husband who “doesn’t want to take sides” or “doesn’t feel he should have to take his wife’s side if he agrees with some points made by mother” during his mother’s criticism of wife.

    That means, in order for him to have my back I have to prove that I am right and in no possible way wrong, prior to him speaking to his mother and somehow discredit any criticism she speaks of when I am not even there to tell my side. As you can probably see, under those circumstances, it is very rare that he has my back over hers. And as you could probably imagine, it is causing major issues in our marriage.

    I feel:
    – Not understood
    -That I don’t have a teammate or that my teammate also plays for the opposing team.
    – There is no way to know if he will have my back or not because I can’t defend myself during a discussion I am not there for.
    – There is a big chance he will not defend me when I am unable or not there to defend myself.
    – His love and loyalty comes with conditions.
    – I am afraid to engage in conversations with MIL due to fear that what I say will later be mocked by In laws and husband.
    – When my husband wavers on his loyalty it allows for MIL to believe that it is clear that the most important and influential thoughts and opinions in my husband’s life are not always mine, which lets her believe that hers are.
    – When loyalty wavers it allows In laws to believe our marriage is weak, can be influenced by outsiders, and is inconsistent and that we can be divided.

    Anyone have any advice?

  15. Ok, so I need to know if this book will help me. My husband’s mom calls and talks about her dates and boyfriends and this time it was she called because her boyfriend broke up with her and she wanted to know if my husband was at his office so that they could talk. But they talked tonight after he put the boys in the shower and tub so he kept talking to her and did not pay attention to the boys because they where talking. When she is around she stands in the middle of us and we cannot go talk unless I come to our bedroom because she is right next to him. I need help. He is ok with her doing this and I am not and I do not think it’s right.