Leave and Cleave, Or. . .

Stay and Disobey.images

When the Lord officiated the first wedding, He made it very clear about one thing: Leave your father and your mother and cleave to your spouse.

Over the past week to 10 days I have had a bunch (many more than usual) of conversations with a variety of couples about this very thing. Throughout my brief 12 years of pastoring I have seen it time and time again. Though not true for every couple, by and large, when newly married lovebirds live close to ‘mommy and daddy,’ tensions get high quick.


Simply because it is VERY, VERY hard to obey the Lord’s command to ‘leave and cleave’ when ‘maw and paw’ are near. Not impossible. It CAN be done. But it is hard.

Why so hard?

Couples who live down the street to ‘mommer and dem’ are not forced to depend on each other. Rather, they continue to depend on their folks.


It’s simple. Mom and Dad have taken care of ‘Precious’ for 20+ years and ‘Precious’ has relied on Mom and Dad for help. And, by the way, this is what is SUPPOSED to happen between parents and children. But roles are SUPPOSED to change once the rings are on. Hard to automatically switch to total dependence on ‘Mr. Can’t Remember to Put the Seat Down’ when  SuperDad is just a half mile down the road.

So, what’s a couple to do if the tensions are high thanks to Maw-In-Lawzilla who gets ticky if Junior won’t come eat her famous fried chicken livers for dinner for the 5th night in a row?

5 Suggestions:

1. Move at least an hour away if at all possible.

I know, I know. This is simply not possible for many. I get that. But think about it for just a second. Though moving away to find different jobs may be tough, would it not be much easier to obey the Lord’s command to leave and cleave? Though moving away would remove the ‘easy and cheap’ childcare, would it not be best for your children – in the long run – if their mommy and daddy stayed together? Before you rule this first suggestion out, think about it: Ultimately, what do you want more?

2. Set agreed upon boundaries.

If #1 simply is NOT an option (and again – I get it – It’s just not for some), you and ‘Mr. Loves His Mommy Too Much’ or you and ‘Mrs. Can’t Go to the Bathroom without Calling Her Mom’ need to sit down and have a talk. You need to decide and agree how the two of you can best obey the Lord’s command to leave and cleave. You need to set up agreed upon boundaries about finances, family meals, church membership, childcare, child discipline, etc. Decide – TOGETHER – how you can obey the Lord when the parents are down the street.

3. Appropriately express frustrations to all involved.

You’re gonna get frustrated. It’s going to happen. Expect it. But don’t suppress it. When you are calm, when you aren’t raging, when you have stopped plotting your maw-in-laws murder – talk to your spouse. Tell him/her. Get it off your chest. Let them know. For the sake of your marriage and the health of your family – get it out. Why? If you let that frustration build and build and build . . . you will explode. Kaboom.

4. Have fun together.

Yep. You read that right. Have fun with your spouse. As a matter of fact, consider this a demand from Pastor Matt to set up a time on your calendar where you and your spouse go do something where you can just laugh and enjoy life and each other. Quit trying to relive memories you had with mom and dad when you were six. Start making memories of your own with YOUR family. I’m not kidding. Go. Have. Fun. With. Your. Spouse.

5. Intentionally cultivate friendships with other couples.

Why? The more you spend time with friends in similar circumstances, the more you will learn how to depend on each other. The more fun you will have. The more ‘normal’ your marriage will feel. The more you will be able to vent frustrations to someone besides dear ole’ mom. Think about it: how many friends – real friends – do you have besides your folks?

When God said to leave and cleave He knew what He was doing. Heck, He invented the whole thing. HE LOVES YOU AND YOUR MARRIAGE AND WANTS WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU. Do whatever it takes to do what He says here. You’ll be glad you did.

What have I missed? What other suggestions can you think of? Moms and Dads who have married children – how can YOU best help your married kid obey God’s command to ‘leave and cleave’? You wouldn’t be a factor in helping them disobey God would you? Of course not . . . 🙂


11 thoughts on “Leave and Cleave, Or. . .

  1. Laura says:

    Great stuff, Matt! I especially agree with #1. Nothing will bond two people quite like having no one else nearby. I have shared your article on Facebook, so prepare to be inundated with an extra 5 viewers today. 🙂

  2. Libby Kloap says:

    Great!!! Moms and Dads with married kids need to have their own life, not involving the married kids! Vacations! Jobs! Hobbies! Friends! Being busy keeps me from being too involved with my married kids. Although…my kids might have a different perspective of the situation! LOL

  3. Angie Norman says:

    I agree completely with your post.
    Many couples are increasingly faced with caring for aging patients. Caregiving can definitely cause a strain on a marriage. I would guess that a marriage that has established a strong foundation utilizing the suggestions you gave would have an easier time.
    Any thoughts on marriages dealing with caregiving for aging parents?

    • Yes, Angie, I have several thoughts on this. I might wait until another blog post to comment. 🙂 For now, however, I think you are exactly right. The purpose of this post was to focus on those couples who are newly (or somewhat newly) married with ‘younger’ parents. I think it is a different animal altogether for children (older usually) who are called to care for their aging parents.

  4. Brian says:

    We followed #1 to the extreme, and moved 10 hours away shortly after getting married. It was definitely sink or swim together.

  5. Elizabeth Pratt says:

    I moved the hour away. Did improve my marriage vow to leave and cleave! And having other couple friends as well as date night is critical for developing a better marriage.

  6. Jill says:

    While I don’t disagree with anything here, my husband has never left and cleaved in our 12 yr marriage. I have tried all those ideas, everything has failed. The damage done has left me at the crossroads of unbiblical divorce and just existing in this loveless marriage due to his not leaving and cleaving. I have yet to find anywhere what to do in my case. My husband only defends me at my insistence, and he has now reached an impasse where he is going to have to cut all ties since they just told him today that everyone on his mom and dad’s sides of the family must not be wrong because they all hate me and wish he would come back to them. We have 2 girls, 8 & 5. I have prayed for years, asked for counseling, he won’t do anything or help get our relationship where it needs to be. Please help.

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