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)

Print Post

Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents

Join the Discussion

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.

We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.


130 responses to “Leaving Parents To Cleave To Your Spouse

  1. Hi, I am so grateful for these articles, references and so forth as I have a boyfriend who refuses to stop being involved with his sister and her son. I definitely as a girlfriend have not been his priority even though he is a wonderful boyfriend, I do not feel like number one.

    I only wish you would write more about siblings who depend on and control other siblings, but what you did write gave me encouragement that I am not alone in facing difficult inlaws and that I have a right to expect my boyfriend to put me first. Thank you so much.