Leave and Cleave

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  October 25, 2014

             God’s will for marriage is that the married couple remain married and never venture down the path of divorce. In forging this permanent union, the couple is to leave their birth family and cleave to their spouse in the sacred bonds of matrimony. Sometimes, this does not happen.
Marriage represents a sacred covenant which unites two souls, two lives, and two unique individuals into one bond, much the way two pieces of metal are welded into one. If one were to separate the pieces of metal and break the weld, it is possible, but not without permanently scaring and weakening both pieces. This is cleaving in marriage.  
The reality is, however, simply cleaving together in the marital bond is not a guarantee against stress being placed on the bonds of marriage. In some cases, the very fact of that bond is the cause of more stress. This happens when the couple fail to fully leave the family of birth as they start to cleave to their new spouse.
It can happen very imperceptibly, yet become very subversive over time—even destructive if allowed to continue. In a healthy marriage, some ties with the spouse’s birth family must be cut and then retied with the marital spouse if the bonds of marriage are to survive. Yet, for many reasons this may fail to happen.
Perhaps the parents have a hard time letting go of their son or daughter. Mom or Dad may feel the need to maintain some degree of parental control, financial ties, or unhealthy intrusion into the lives of their grown child and the new family forged in the marriage. It can also be the other way around as a spouse in the marriage remains more emotionally connected to Mom or Dad than to the new spouse.
The problem is made worse when, for whatever reason, there is animosity between the families, or disapproval between parents and spouse. On occasions there may even be the illusion of very good reasons for this animosity. Perhaps the parents feel the new marriage was to the wrong person, is tainted by inappropriate religious ties, or that their child married into the wrong family. It could be something as simple as not liking the person their beloved child chose to marry and they have a hard time overcoming that dislike.
Within the marriage the tension can also come when one spouse feels threatened, intimidated, or judged by the in-laws. Even without a credible threat, some people find it very difficult to resist the desire to degrade the in-laws in front of the spouse and the result is horrific marital discord.
To leave and cleave requires an intentional balance from both sides. Parents must let their children go and do everything in their power to encourage, bless, and pray for the sanctity of the union. It is vital that children know their parents are there to support their marriage and speak or act in ways that serve to undermine the bonds of matrimony.
Likewise, it is vital that as a married couple cleave to each other, they mutually encourage one another to maintain healthy and affirming relationships with the families of their birth while also shifting the primary emotional, financial, and spiritual connections within the confines of their own marriage.
The fact is, marriage is hard work. Although some marriages need to end, no marriage should be destroyed because somebody simply would not honor the principal of leave and cleave.