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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31 responses to “Respectfully Leaving Your Father and Mother

  1. (CANADA) Thank you! This information helps a lot. Me and my husband have been married for 7 years and we no longer go to the Church where we got baptized and married. It is a very religious church (a lot of rules that have to be followed if you don’t want to be shunned). We have been going to a wonderful church that teaches the only way to be saved is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone as our savior. We have learned oh so much already. Anyway, just the other day my mom again mentioned how hurt they were that we didn’t keep and believe what they had taught me, and that it would make them very happy if we came back. I do love my parents but this helps me to follow where my husband leads.

    1. (USA)  Smart move Margret!!! My parents are both from a “religious” church… It is hard, but stay where God has led you and your husband:)

    2. I agree with you so much here! My husband and I left his parents VERY Religious even cult like church. His mom was so distraught by our leaving the church she hated me and talked very low of me and made mean comments behind my back. When she found out later on that we planned on moving out of state she begged him to divorce me. Thankfully he chose me and we moved out of state 9 hours away. She still puts guilt on him from time to time about moving and begs him to move back. But I know we won’t move back. The Lord moved us here to be free and start our lives going to church where He wants us and being away from all their hypocrisy and manipulation. We are so blessed!

  2. (USA)  My husband’s mother has been sucessful in undermining the marriage. He has forgotten where his allegiance is. He looks the other way. I have tried to be supportive however, I can’t do it anymore. I don’t want him to leave his mother emotionally at all, I just want him to not allow her to be disruptive. At our wedding rehearsal she stormed out. She said he didn’t need her anymore.

    Their relationship is unhealthy. He went back home with 3 small children in tow. They were 2 yrs, 3 yrs and 2 months. Their mom passed. She did what she was supposed to do to support her son and her grandchildren. However, when he met me she began to be disruptive, things like not wanting to babysit while he went to work.

    I think we should pay a caregiver when our schedules clash. That would solve a part of his dependency on her. However, he has a great job with an income of 55,000 to 60,000 a year, mom should want to help so he won’t have problems at work. I am not in competition with her for the children’s attention. The relationship is different, grandma is grandma and new mom is mom. She has no one in her life. So, controlling her son is her way of keeping him at her call. She will go to the local casino and call him after midnight to come and follow her home. This is crazy but he goes to do it. There is so much more.

  3. (U.S.A.) This is more of a question. My bf and I are expecting a child. We are 15 & 16 yrs old. My mom is allowing me to marry but his parents won’t allow him. They tell him that he has to respect and honor them because it says it in the Bible. But the Bible also says that he shall leave his father and mother and join with his woman. So I’m wondering, does he still have to go by his parents choices and decisions or is he able now to stand up for us that will soon be a family and take responsibility? I’d really appreciate it if I can get an answer. Thanks!

    1. Genesis, Even though you both wish it were different, your boyfriend is not married to you at this point. You are both below the age of marrying without the consent of parents to sign for you. He does not have a legal leg to stand on (without his parents giving him one with their signatures), nor a biblical one. Those verses are in the context of marriage. As much as you want to make this point, ultimately, his parents are making the stand they are, for some reason. And whether either of you agree with it, it is what it is. The more you fight his parents, the stronger they will stand.

      The best way to change anyone’s minds to show that you are ready to get married, is to back up a step, and make plans on how to lovingly take care of this precious, innocent child. Whether you put this child up for adoption –giving him or her to a loving couple to raise, or you work together to scrape up the financial means to raise this child physically and emotionally in the healthiest way possible yourselves, you will be showing his parents and yours that you have more maturity going for you than most 15 and 16 year olds do.

      From what you’ve written it appears that you believe that marriage is the way to go for you to “be a family and take responsibility.” But marriage is a HUGE step, and you most likely need some time to be ready for it. It looks easier than it is. And then when you put a new baby into it when you are 15 and 16, it becomes all the more monumental. Why not work on your relationship skills –making sure you are good at healthy conflict resolution and in finding ways to build relationship bridges, rather than walls? You can either put this child up for adoption or have your child while both of you work on your skills and work financially to get yourselves to the place where you CAN raise this child together when you both come of age to marry. THOSE ways will better convince parents to back you, instead of fighting you. And even if they do continue to fight you at that time, you will be in a better place to be united –legally, plus you will be in a better place emotionally and financially to stand together. I hope you are able to make wise decisions together on this for the benefit of this sweet baby inside of you and for the years you have ahead of you –whether or not you become a “family” right away.

  4. (SCOTLAND) My husband and I are currently living in the mostc complicated situation. When we were still dating I was living at university and he lived at home with his mother. Our relationship was great. Of course, it had its problems like most relationships but one security I had was my boyfriend loved me and I was secure and knew he confided in me and I in him.

    When he introduced me to his mother everything changed. She would greatly upset if I didn’t call her within two days. She expected me to speak to her everyday. Once I finished at the university I made the awful mistake of letting her convince us that before we get married that I should move in with them and we could save up. This became a main mistake because she became involved in everything we did. We couldn’t have a disagreement without her getting involved and trying to play mediator.

    We eventually got married and before we could make plans for our own place I fell pregnant. We decided to stay an extra year and get help with the baby as it was our first. Big mistake. As soon as I gave birth my husband became extremly closer to his mum. He stopped confiding in me and told his mum everything. If we had a disagreement he would rather listen to his mum than my opinion, even if it was the same. Once our little boy turned 1 I brought up the suggestion of us moving out.

    Now the complication here is we live in a block of flats. His mother is married to the man that lives a floor above us, so she spends all day with us and then goes up to sleep with her husband at night. My husband’s older brother who is 35 and not married highly depends on his mother and spends all day with his mum. If not at work, he calls his mum after work, comes over till 9 pm then goes to his place and calls as soon as he arrives. So bascially she has told my husband because she’s now married to the man upstairs the flat below is ours and we don’t need a place of our own. She has keys to the flat so comes as she pleases and that is everyday. She invites her friends to the flat and never takes them to her flat upstairs.

    Once briinging up the idea of our own space my husband freaked out and accused me of not being family orientated. He said he owed his mother and brother for standing by him in the past and he would never move and didn’t understand what I meant by privacy; we had plenty of it.

    This has become extremly fustrating for me. He expects me to respect him and treat him like a man yet he doesn’t act like one. His mother says she doesn’t live there. When I make a comment, she says she’s just keeping us company by coming around everyday till 9 or 10 pm. I’ve tried talking to my husband but now he doesn’t listen. When we got into a argument once, I told him he’s dependent on his mum. He replied it’s cause she’s queen in his heart and no one can take it. I’m lost for words.

  5. (SOUTH AFRICA) I had experienced some difficulties when my mom visited us. We have not asked her when she is leaving. A month has gone and me and my husband can’t even discuss things, can’t play and as a result he just goes and comes even at midnight, for there is no privacy. We are in a two bedroom house with three kids who like cartoons and they can’t freely watch, and have to please granny. The menu has changed for she has to teeth. I am alone; I don’t have a maid and I can’t cook different meals. I can’t even pray freely. I can’t even ask when she’s going as if I’m driving her out. Please people don’t allow this to happen in you. It’s painful, but I trust God to free me. Thank you.

  6. (USA) Thank you GOD, AGAIN! My prayers have been answered, I’ve been so distraught behind our turmoil… My name is Torri, I and my wife have been seriously at odds about how information is shared with our perspective families. Even to a point that it ruined our Mothers Day. I and my family come from the background of unity and one hurts we all hurt. Information sharing is apart of the culture we were raised in, never in a malicious form or destructive intent just family supporting each other.

    The reason why this article resonated with me is because we (a married couple, mixed family, pregnant and elated) are having teenage issues with my (our) daughter. Some information was shared by me to our mom, who has direct involvement with my daughter and her situation. The information shared with my mom was received by my wife with no push back. The problem arose when my mom shared the information with my ex-wife, who my mom still has a relationship with, with no malice intent nor an underlining agenda. My ex-wife (who I have a son with) reached out to me because my daughter asked her for a favor since she’s not speaking with us, (my daughter is in college), and she asked how she should handle the fact that she was asked to assist our daughter and respect my wishes plus deal with the situation my daughter has created.

    Of course I immediately talked to my wife to let her know what was going on, and she flipped, totally! I didn’t understand why this was happening. Her position was that I didn’t keep my mom in check from discussing things to outsiders about the situation, that I didn’t do enough to protect in-house issues from becoming public knowledge. My position is, because my mom was directly involved with the situation and tied to my (our) daughter’s education and the incident that she has every right to do what she feels is right with the information she has. Again, my mom isn’t malicious, nor does she judge our imperfections.

    My wife sent this link to me and it floored me! So please advise… Thanks

  7. (UNITED STATES) Please help! I live with my mom. I have a child from a previous marriage. My current fiancé wants me to move out and not visit my mother because of some disturbing beliefs that he has. He says he wants children but they will not go to visit my mom. I am close to my mom and yes, we have our spats but that’s what moms and daughters do, right? She says some mean things and it seem like she trys to control me.

    Now I agree with the part about not visiting every weekend, but never, I can’t do and he says she’s not welcome in his house. I love him but I love mom more. Please help me.

  8. (SWEDEN) My Problem in this sitation for the moment is we are living abroad from my mother in law. My mother in law has never liked me because I took her daughter away from her. She likes to keep them all around her. Two years ago her husband died and she feels depressed and alone. She is making this clear through the phone calls they have. By-the-way, my wife is calling her mother almost evey day, which is not healthy in my opinion.

    But now to the issue, my wife left to go to visit her mom about 1 month ago. When she was there her mother had a mini stroke that did somewhat affect her. She is slurring in her speech somewhat, not a lot. Now what’s coming up is the following issue, she wants to stay for at least 5 months to take care of her and for me to financially support her over there. That is very difficult to do so I told her, you have to make a decision on this. What do you want to do? Do you want to stay with your mother and take care of her (what I know my mother in law wants because then she has won a 12 year war) or come back and stay in your marriage?

    I think staying in your marriage is the first priority; you don’t live with your parents anymore, you have left them. But my mother in law has such a grip on her I really don’t know what to do in this situation. Some advice will be welcomed.

  9. Hi.. I am Cynthia ^.^ I’m glad, I grew up in a country where extended families living in with a couple is very usual. I am not sure how my husband feels about it. But currently, we haven’t had any issue about staying with my parents for 4 and a half years. I am already married for 5 years. Before, we tried to live away from my mother and my father. But almost every night, I can’t stop myself thinking how they are –if they already had their dinner, or if they’re already sleeping. I tried inviting them to stay with me in our house, but they did not accept the invitation.

    I told my husband about it and he agreed that we could move to the house where I grew. And now every night, as I come from work, I could always see my mother and my father’s smile as they play with my kids, I could always remind them to drink their medicines, could invite them to eat what I am eating, and to experience those things that I believe they would enjoy etc.

    With regards to my mother in law, if she wants to stay here with us as well, she could stay. I don’t have any problems with it. When it comes to brothers/sisters/cousins in law, oh come on! That’s a different story.

    At present, I am happy with my husband, my 2 kids and my parents. And I can’t imagine leaving my mom and my dad all by themselves especially since they’re getting older. If I have to take care of my mother in law, too, someday and support her financially, I will.

  10. My oldest son is married and has two teenage children. They live within a two hour drive from me. In the past, my son, who is 45, has always been respectful and loving to me. Two years ago his wife of 22 years told him I had screamed and ranted at her and called her a B—- while I was at their home visiting when he and other family members were out of the house. She said it happened on the date my ex-husband married his girl friend, and I was devastated, and upset. She told him that I began accusing her and my son of not helping me to prevent the divorce. (This does not make sense, only the couple can stop a divorce.)

    This scenario never happened; at the invitation of my second son and his wife, I was visiting their family that weekend for the reason to be with them and not be alone during a heartbreaking time for me. Even with my second son and his wife as witnesses said that I was at their home on that day, and my denial that this never happened, my oldest son has cut me out of his family’s life based totally on her lie and his vow to not call his wife a liar. I told him I did not do this, and his response was that if he believed me, then he would be calling his wife a liar. He said he “cannot call his wife a liar because she is his wife”.

    I heard Dr. Phil say on his show that no matter what the circumstances, a man must always stand by his wife, even against his mother. How can this be right? I did not do anything to her. She has never been a close and loving daughter-in-law, but a distant one. Can this be resolved, or do I lose my son and his children because of her insecurities and hubris? To hit me when I was already down and devastated with the loss of my husband was a cruel act; and for my son to talk to me now with her disrespectful tone and criticism, is heartbreaking. I believe she is a bully, and has anger management issues which she has demonstrated in front of family and guests. Yet, my son tells me he does not remember those events.

    My second son will not stand up for me as he wants to maintain a relationship with his brother, and not disrupt any relationship between their families. He tells me they know she is making it up, but will not stand up for me because of their families. What can I do? I am not a counselor, but she does not behave normally when she is under pressure and loses control. Having family and/or guests to her home usually includes at least one outburst of screaming and bullying at my older son right in front of everyone. He is usually her target, but I have heard her scream and rant at my grandson a few years ago. She also did this at my granddaughter’s 16 birthday party in front of all the teenage guests who just stopped talking, eating, etc. and stared as the drama went on for about 10 minutes. She has obvious emotional problems that the whole family acknowledges, but apparently, she does not believe she should seek counseling. Do I have to accept the loss of my son from my life? What can I do? I am 67 years old and recently retired, and I miss them so much.

    1. Visit BPDfamily. You will find a lot of company, and answers. She appears to have a personality disorder. It is devastating to live with someone like this; I’m surprised this happened after 20 years and not before. My 26 year old son just said the same thing to me after only 18 months of marriage, cutting off our relationship just as our first grandchild is about to arrive. My brother said the same thing to me, thirty years ago, about siding with his wife. She isn’t as loud, but just as contentious.

  11. This passage is mostly interpreted as literally to “leave” your parents’ home. In the eastern cultures this is not the practice at all. Furthermore, it cannot mean literal leaving for in Genesis Adam & Eve had no parents to leave & it was a comment added by Moses. Even in ancient agrarian society of Israel, you would not literally, physically leave your parents residence to set up your own residence because economics would not allow it. All ancient societies lived in “joint” families.

    1. Just because you reside in your parents home or they in yours, it doesn’t mean that your allegiance to your parents still takes precedence over your spouse’s. When you marry, you cleave to your spouse. You respect and honor your parents, but you don’t cleave to them any longer and you and your spouse are the ones who are to be on the same page, more so than the “child” and the parent.

  12. My wife and I were in an argument regarding me and my selfishness and because of a job I’m taking that she doesn’t approve of. She told my mom and now my mom and I aren’t talking. Now it has caused a rift in my wife and I in our relationship…

  13. Isolating the spouse: Perhaps it is more common for parents to be a little too involved in their adult child’s life, but, don’t forget that there are troubled gals and guys out there whose insecurities cause them to fear their spouse’s family and friends. Sooner or later they isolate them from any other close relationship, especially the in-laws.

    Personally: Although we, his parents, have been accused of keeping them from “establishing their own family”, this claim is without even a smidgen of truth. Except for saying, “Would you please invite __________to ( the young adult meeting at church), and emailing a simple list of family birthdays, we have never tried to influence this couple since the day they married. She would use articles like this one to justify her actions of cutting our son off from his entire family.
    We had a 24 year great relationship with him until she came into the picture, not so with she and her parents.

    14 months ago she told me that we were the only ones who could babysit their future children. Last fall she said I was the best m-i-l, to which I raised my eyebrows, since we never communicated with our son. I’ve never had a real conversation with him since they were engaged.

    They live nearby, and until last fall, we attended the same church. When they left the church, they declined to tell us. It was three months before they answered our question and admitted they had left. Though you will think we must have done something, there was nothing we did. This came right after the very first time he tried to have a conversation with me at church. She ran up to him and told him he shouldn’t be talking to me. She was “friendly” and gave several reasons for this and then directed us in the only proper way I could talk with him. We had to have both of them over to our house. In reality, hers is nearly the only voice we hear at our home, when they visit.

    Five days after sending me a birthday card, signed by both saying, “We love you.”, he called and told us there would be no more communication between us, due to a non-personal Facebook comment made on a third person’s page, a month before. This was the first we heard of the offense, and the first time we had heard from them in 5 weeks. He ended by hanging up on us when we tried to reply, so, obviously, the state of alienation was already in effect.

    He said, she “forgives” you, but, it was the end of our relationship. She’s big on talk of “boundaries”, so a simple apology would not suffice, nor was the opportunity given. Of course, if I heard this, I would be skeptical of the Innocence of us, his parents. Surely we must have been showing up at their house, or telling them to have kids, or not to have kids, or cook chicken this way, or mow the lawn that way., change the oil, or go to this church. Nope. Nothing.

    There is a hurting world out there of parents and grandparents, more or less innocent of interfering. Sons, mostly, separated from their families and suffering with the contentious, complaining woman. And they let it happen in hope to keep peace at home. Ladies, don’t separate your spouse from his family. Learn how to make it work with them. Guys, if your wife is separating you from your loved ones, beware. Something is wrong. After she removes those she fears, often she will treat you even worse. I’ve seen it again and again.

  14. I think the hardest part for me is having raised 4 boys to be close to each other and to always be there for one another. We lost our 19 yr old in a car accident in which my 2nd oldest found himself in a relationship that started off very bad. Things don’t seem like they have changed. He forgets that we’re on the outside looking in. He has married this young lady and we feel like the day he left home to move in with her (that’s what she wanted, she didn’t want to wait for him to finish school) he does not talk to us hardly. Now they have a baby and we don’t feel like she shares him with us at all.

    I want to stay closer to my boys, respecting that they have lives now but also because I want to cherish them even more since losing my oldest. We also live in a world where too many parents are not involved in their children’s lives. I always want them to know that I’m here for them. A year and a half ago I also had stage 4 cancer and I heard from him a couple of times throughout the whole year of my treatments. I felt hurt and almost to the point that she has controlled him so much that even when it got so bad for me and things were unsure about my health, he avoided problems with her and wouldn’t call to see how things were.

    Maybe it’s just me expecting this from my kids but I know I raised my children so much more different than this. My heart aches to know my grandson and it aches that my son has distanced himself so much. It feels like almost another loss to me and his brother’s :o(

  15. I’ve been married to my husband Less than a year and I was living with my in laws. Since day 1 I went through so many difficulties but I tried my best to adapt and accept things in my in laws place. It was getting too much for me as my in laws didn’t give me my privacy and space with my husband. One day things were blown out of proportion and I left my in laws place to my parent’s place. My husband didn’t leave with me and he didn’t contact /call/ text or even look for me.

    It has been more than a month since I’ve left the house. He has chosen his parents over me. I feel very distraught he was my first love and I know he’ll be last. I believed that God brought us together but things have turned out this way. He had never stood up for me and supported me in front of his parents. I’m very disappointed with him and very hurt. He had chosen to leave and cleave with them.