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.

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Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents

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34 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?

    1. The Bible says you are free to choose anybody you want but on one condition: 1 Corinthians 7:39. You are at liberty to marry whom you want only in the Lord. I think most parents make those mistakes.

  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.

    1. I think that this really means the husband and wife will be one. Yes, but family are your roots and they are not to be dug up and thrown away. The parents are to be revered and respected, honored, learned from and included. The parents are not to interfere and tear down, but neither is the daughter in law. Respect is to be shown by all sides and as this new unity is being built, there is enough love for all to be included in the making of a new fsmily. When the son marries, what if the parents said goodby, you do not need us? Ridiculous! Interference should not be, but rejection neither. There is room for sll at God’s table. Wisdom in all citations and to be natural in all situations. God is very natural and so is His word.

  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.

  4. I am very conflicted about my wife’s relationship with her mother. We are both 60 years old and have been married for 36 years. While we once agreed on just about everything, we now rarely agree on anything. A major part of our problem involves my wife’s mother, who is 98 years old and lives in her own 3-bedroom house next door to us (that we own and have maintained for her for the past 21 years). While she is in good physical condition, she has dementia and is slowly deteriorating. As a result, my wife and I cannot ever take a vacation or ever travel anywhere together. This has been the situation for about 10 years. My wife has no siblings to assist.

    I’ve been trying to convince her that the time has come to relocate her mother to an assisted living facility, where she can interact with people in her own age group and be cared for by professionals. My wife absolutely refuses; it is her position that she will care for her mother until the day she dies. I am retired and hoped to do some traveling and enjoy my life a little in my 60’s, while I (we) are still in fairly good health. My brother died two years ago (at age 62) and I have no idea if I have 2 or 3 or 30 years left on this Earth to do a little living. Am I being selfish to start thinking of my own happiness a little? I know the Bible discusses a man leaving his parents, but does it give any similar guidance about a woman leaving her parents?

    With a heavy heart, after 36 years of marriage, I’m considering leaving my wife to enjoy what’s left of my life. We are financially secure so that isn’t an issue. I’m prepared to leave her with everything we jointly own, which is substantial. Again, her mother is in very good physical health and will likely live well beyond 100. How wrong is it for me to want to enjoy my life a little while I still can? By the way, my wife will not only not travel anywhere with me – even for one night – but she also objects to me going anywhere by myself. I cannot convince my wife that her mother would be so much better off – even safer in an assisted living facility than living in her own home (our home) where there are many hazards, including basement stairs. Although I still love my wife and always will, the situation has become unbearable for me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  5. I think that this really means the husband and wife will be one. Yes, but family are your roots and they are not to be dug up and thrown away. The parents are to be revered and respected, honored, learned from and included. The parents are not to interfere and tear down, but neither is the daughter in law. Respect is to be shown by all sides and as this new unity is being built, there is enough love for all to be included in the making of a new fsmily. When the son marries, what if the parents said goodby, you do not need us? Ridiculous! Interference should not be, but rejection neither. There is room for all at God’s table. Wisdom in all citations and to be natural in all situations. God is very natural and so is His word.

    1. But there is only room for three in a godly marriage – husband, wife, God’s Spirit. When you start inviting everybody to have a seat at that table, then you are bringing other people into your marriage and it is wrong and ungodly.

  6. My brother married a woman a year ago. We did not know he had a girlfriend, did not know they were engaged, and did not know they got married. We were completely left out.

    She obviously is making sure everything is in her name and stated “should something happen to him I have to make sure I will be ok.” She even changed his financial Adviser that he relied on for 25 years and his advisor said to us “something is wrong here; his finances have never been this low.” She took over that and said she will be his financial advisor.

    Recently her conversation to our family and I’m sure without my brother being around to listen, said this to us: I AM HIS WIFE AND HE HAS A NEW FAMILY NOW THAT CONSISTS OF HIS DAUGHTER, AND HER HUSBAND.” she said “AS FAR AS YOU (meaning our family brothers and sisters) THAT WE ARE LOW ON THE TOTEM POLE AS FAMILY AND she said YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO CONTACT HIM WHEN YOU WANT.

    She has our numbers blocked so we cannot reach him. What do you think about this?

  7. Hello Family Life Today.

    I don’t know if this article is still answering hard questions; but I wanted to write to you about a particular situation I have with my mom.

    I recently got married in 2019 and live with my husband in a 2 bed 3 bath, townhome; we assumed from my mother. She was having problems with her hips and so we offered to take the home thinking it would be a good starter home for us.

    In 2021, my mother recently bought property in Florida; but won’t be able to move into her property until next year. Her lease ends in September of 2021, so she’ll have to find somewhere to stay in the mean time; until her property in Florida is ready to live in. She has to wait to move there because she’s renting it out in the meantime.

    So she asks me if it would be ok to live with us for the next 8 months. I told her, I would need to ask my husband. And better yet, it would be better if you asked both of us together. But she proceeded and continued to only ask me in private. Leaving me no choice but to break it down, in my point of view to my husband.

    My husband says, he will only agree to a max of 3 months. Later after us thinking further, we truly felt our marriage is too new for this arrangement to take place at all. We are young in our marriage and without revealing too much; we’re trying to grow our own family and we’re still waiting on God help us make this happen.

    This offended my mother a great deal. Her response is that family sticks together and does not abandon one another. That she has done a great deal to help us out. And that she has no where to go. But my memory of scripture remembers that I need to cleave to my husband first. I don’t know if my misappropriating the scripture though?

    So my question is, do you think I’m taking the correct stand? Given what scripture has told us to do?

    1. It’s hard to know. God’s ways are not our ways, neither are our ways His. But I have a few thoughts. I believe He wants a man to grow up and establish his own family with his wife, and not be under the authority of his parents–instead giving priority to his wife over his parents. And He wants the wife to grow up, establish her own family with her husband, and not continue to be under the authority of her parents–giving them priority over her husband. That is a definite line of delineation. They both are to still love and honor their parents, but they are no longer under the authoritative umbrella of any of their parents. If they are, then neither spouse will truly grow up and take on the marital responsibilities they are supposed to. Plus, all the lines of authority are blurred and the whole family unit is more chaotic without this line being drawn. Who do their children view as their ultimate authority… their parents or their grandparents or maybe even their great grandparents?

      I can see how God is wise to set up each marriage as the starting point of a new family unit. We are to continue to love and honor our parents, but we are not to allow them to rule over us as their “children” any longer after we make our vows before God to be a husband and wife. It’s the “cord of three strands” that is not quickly broken (husband, wife, and God). God did not put additions onto that number. It is HIS system–whether or not we understand it. We must honor and obey what He decides is best.