Respectfully Leaving Your Father and Mother

bible-556720_640The Bible tells us we are to leave our father and mother and cleave to each other after we marry. It tells us, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined (cleave) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh(Genesis 2:24).

Did you know:

“There are three aspects to the statement of Genesis 2:24:

1. Leave

This indicates that in a family there are two types of relationships. The parent-child relationship is the temporary one and there will be a “leaving.” The husband-wife relationship is the permanent one —“what God has joined together, let man not separate(Matthew 19:6). Problems occur in family life when these two roles are reversed and the parent-child relationship is treated as the primary relationship. When an adult child has married and this parent-child relationship remains primary, the newly formed union is threatened.

2. Cleave

The Hebrew word translated “cleave” refers to (1) the pursuing hard after someone else and (2) being glued or stuck to something/someone. So a man is to pursue hard after his wife after the marriage has occurred (the courtship should not end with the wedding vows) and is to be “stuck to her like glue.” This cleaving indicates such closeness that there should be no closer relationship than that between the two spouses, not with any former friend or with any parent.

3. And they shall become one flesh

Marriage takes two individuals and creates a new single entity. There is to be such sharing and oneness in every aspect (physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, social) that the resulting unity can be best described as “one flesh.” Again, when there is greater sharing and emotional support gained from a continuing parent-child relationship than from the husband-wife relationship, the oneness within the marriage is being threatened, resulting in an unbiblical imbalance. (Posted on the web site, in the article “How Do You Balance Leave and Cleave with Honoring Your Parents“)

But then, the Bible also tells us to honor our father and mother. So how do we do both and make it work? After-all, many of us have had a strong tie to our parents all of our lives. How do we “leave” them emotionally, putting our spouse first? Is it possible to do this without hurting our parent’s so they don’t feel dishonored or abandoned?

Leave But Don’t Isolate

“Leaving your home does not mean you permanently withdraw and no longer have a good relationship with your parents. That’s isolating yourself from your parents, not leaving. The commandment in Exodus 20:12 to honor your parents means that when you leave them, you need to go with respect, love, admiration, and affirmation for their sacrifices and efforts in raising you.

“But you must make a break from them and sever your dependence on them. As time passes, you must be diligent to prevent any reestablishment of dependence at critical points in your marriage.” (Dennis and Barbara Rainey)

That isn’t always easy because some parents still feel like their adult “children” should still put them first. Sometimes parents even try to re-establish their authority and/or connection in a way that undermines the new marriage. And that can bring major problems to this newer family unit.

And some “children” don’t want to cause problems if there is tension between their parents and their new spouse. So they either “look the other way” and figure their spouse will just have to work things out on their own. Or perhaps they forget where their allegiance is now supposed to be now that they’re married.

So, how does this new couple “leave and cleave” in a respectful way?

To help with this issue, we are providing below a link to the web site of the ministry of Family Life Today. It has an article posted that might give you guidance that could help.

Please read:


If you have additional tips you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.

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.


25 responses to “Respectfully Leaving Your Father and Mother

  1. Sam from Nigeria. My mum doesn’t like the lady I am planning to marry. She has made all my brothers and sisters against my arrangement. I have tried all I could to make her see things my way but to no avail. Can somebody please point out Bible scriptures and advice me on what to do next?

  2. Our 34 year old son has worked for us since he was 15 years of age. We have enabled him terribly, we’re we’ll aware. Our daughter passed away 6 years ago leaving us two beautiful grandchildren. We have life insurance set aside for them as well as our son and his daughter. Our $2.2 million Corp is to go to our son at this point but we are trying so very hard to understand why we should give our hard work to him when he hasn’t worked a 40 hour week in 10 years. We paid him anyway. We put $90,000 in his beautiful home so he could afford the payments. For Christmas we bought him a very expensive suv for his new wife to drive our granddaughter around due to the unsafe vehicle she was driving and wrecked while our granddaughter was in vehicle. Everything in his and now her home we have furnished.

    My BIG question is: should our son, who lives 2 miles from us refuse to come help us… his mother in an emergency situation, just to help pick her up from the floor after a terrifying fall TEARING the hamstring TENDON from the hip/pelvic bone? She was in excruciating pain. Our son said he now had a family and he had to care for his family. He and his wife were preparing to go on a $12,000 honeymoon where another wedding ceremony was held, day butler, night butler, all inclusive. This was paid for by us and we have NEVER been to an all inclusive resort. We had saved for almost 6 years for us to be able to take similar trip. His new wife sent me a copy of Genesis 2:24 …man leaves father & mother, cleaves to his wife.

    What should we expect from our son? Respect? No, we haven’t received any since he met and now married his wife. He still does not go to work 5 days a week. She tells him he shouldn’t have to since he is vice president of corp, the president age 65 and 1st vice president age 62 still works everyday, always available to babysit, midnight calls from son to let him vent to his mom for over an hour.

    What can we do? Our son is not a mama’s boy. On their wedding night his new wife sent us a cease and desist notice that we were to stop any and all communications with any and all of our son’s ex’s. We are totally lost as to what to do. Help.

  3. Well this is obvious to me. We had my husband’s brother living with us for 2 and a half years. He kept making rude comments and disrespecting our rules. I wanted him to move because he was causing so much division between me and my husband. I prayed about it and God gave me this scripture, “Throw out the mocker and quarrels will stop.” I knew he had to go and God confirmed it for me. Living with family doesn’t work.

    1. You’re right in saying that living with family doesn’t work in many circumstances, but it CAN work sometimes IF boundaries are laid down and the family that lives with you understands that this is YOUR home –not theirs. My brother lived with us for a long period of time after he became homeless because of medical issues. Even though we are very different from each other we did pretty good together. Were there tense times sometimes? Yes. But for the most time, it went well. We would do it again if he ever got to the place where he couldn’t live alone again. There are SOME circumstances where living together can work, but clear boundaries and the mindset of living together as peacefully as possible has to be put into place first and throughout the time you’re living in the same household.

      I’m so sorry this wasn’t your experience. That is truly sad that your brother in law took advantage of you as he did. I’m glad you listened to the Lord and made him leave when it became apparent that he would not change his ways.