Leave and Cleave: God’s Design for Healthy Boundaries in Marriage

man hugging a woman

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In order to see what God’s intent for marriage is, we look at the Bible: pure and simple. Genesis, Jesus’s teachings, and the writings of the Apostle Paul give a fantastic glimpse into this.

In pre-marital counseling, certain topics are often discussed, such as: his needs/her needs, expectations about frequency of physical intimacy, family of origin issues, how to prevent adultery, keeping a good work/life balance, balance of household chores, etc. This is typical.

Yet, there is one topic that seems to be either missed, misunderstood, forgotten, or swept under the rug: how a separation from parents needs to happen.

This is called the leave and cleave principle. Genesis 2:24 (KJV) puts it beautifully: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

A man must leave his parents and be joined to his wife. At the same time, a wife must leave her parents and be joined to her husband. Some couples can do this, but the Genesis 2:24 verse ALSO applies to the parents of the adult children as well. Sometimes, parents are not willing to let their adult children go; sometimes they teach this concept to other couples, yet have difficulty putting it into practice in their own lives.

If one marriage partner does not respectfully leave the dependence of one or both parents, this can cause a strain in their own marriage. Sure, adultery can rightfully damage a marriage; lying can do the same thing. But an unhealthy dependence on our parents can damage a marriage. It can cause one of the marriage partners to feel suffocated, not being able to “be their own couple,” not being able to set their own traditions going forward, and not being able to be set free, so to speak.

A husband should be his wife’s adventure, and a wife should be her husband’s adventure. If a wife is her husband’s adventure, but the wife’s parents are her life and adventure, then something is out of place.

Both the adult child and the parent need to be aware of this; sometimes both parties involved are guilty of it, but sometimes it’s just one of them.

How important is this principle? So important that Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:5 AND the Apostle Paul quoted it in Ephesians 5:31-32. The fact that this is said again and again shows the importance of how a man and a woman must protect their marriage. If their destiny is under the thumb of one or more of either the husband or wife’s parents, then the married couple cannot live out their full potential and calling together. Everything is subject to the in-laws’ opinions.

Sometimes this is not as verbally explicit; sometimes it’s a subconscious thing, and it’s an unspoken bond between a mother and her son, or a father and his daughter.

If you are married, do a realistic inventory, and ask yourself: have I truly left my parents? (Leave and cleave doesn’t just mean leaving the house, it means more than that- it’s a re-orientation of devotion).

If you are a parent, have you truly let go of your adult child? If your daughter is about to marry a man, are you ready to let her go and give her away? You must. It’s one of the healthiest things you can do, and it causes a secure relationship between the new husband and in-laws, it creates a mutual respect, when done right.

This article should challenge you. Truly think deep about it. Understanding this principle and putting it into practice can prepare a couple for success, and can save a marriage that has been drowning because of an absence of this principle.

Here is a great article on this:  Click Here

May you be blessed!



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