by Kyler & Britt Nixon

Leaving, Cleaving, and Becoming One

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24

Whenever we post about family and in-laws on Instagram, without fail, we get several questions or DMs that sound something like this:

  • “My fiancé keeps going to his mom whenever we fight. How do we create healthy boundaries?”
  • “My future wife’s mom always oversteps and butts into our relationship… my fiancé can’t see anything wrong with it. How do I help her?”

Ultimately, all of these questions come down to the issue addressed in Genesis 2:24. When you’re dating and engaged, you’re two separate people with separate families. When you get married, you leave your parents and “cleave” (or hold fast) to your spouse and the two of you become one.

In this post, we want to unpack those three areas.

Leaving Your Parents

Men, let me speak candidly to you for a moment. There’s a reason Genesis 2:24 directly addresses men… leaving your parents (and particularly your mother) will likely be harder for you than for your wife. That’s just the nature of the way God designed men. There’s nothing wrong with this challenge, but it does require you to be intentional about leaving your parents and cleaving to your wife.

That said, women are also told to leave their parents and become one with their husband.

This certainly does not imply that you cut ties with your parents or ignore them in any way – “but it does mean starting a whole new relationship in which the core loyalty is not to parents’ priorities, traditions, or influence, but to an entirely new family that must set its own course, form, and purpose.” (spokanechristiancounseling.com)

Below are five areas you’ll need to leave your parents.

Physically leaving your parents.

This one is pretty simple. When you get married, you move out of your parents’ home and out from under their physical care. Your own home with your spouse is a tangible expression of physically leaving your parents’ home.

Quick note: many couples need to live with their parents for a variety of reasons. We lived with Britt’s parents for six months while we tried to buy a home. If this is the case for you, view this as a temporary season instead of a permanent decision. 

Financially leaving your parents.

Similarly to physically leaving your parents, financially leaving your parents is a tangible expression of your new union together. This might mean you need to get your parents off your bank account, pay for your own bills, and create your own budget and financial health.

Emotionally leaving your parents.

One of our favorite parts of marriage is being each other’s best friend. When something hard happens during our day, we first go to each other. When we’re sad or need to cry, we cry with each other. When we’re excited and have good news, we share it with each other first. That’s not to say you can’t share emotion with your parents, it simply means your spouse comes first.

Spiritually leaving your parents.

Up until this point in your life, your parents have been spiritually nurturing and leading you. They’ve influenced your view of faith. Now, you’ll have to make that faith your own and be spiritually “one” with your spouse.

Relationally leaving your parents.

Lastly, you’ll need to relationally leave your parents by changing your relational priorities. Your spouse is now your number 1 priority and comes before your parents.

Cleaving to Your Spouse

When you understand the five areas above, the natural response is to cleave to your spouse. You’ll make him or her your number one priority and pursue oneness with them in your marriage. Your parents’ role in your life changes and you start to create a new life with your spouse.

We’ll give you some practical ways to do this below, but it’s important to understand that cleaving to your spouse takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Becoming One

This idea of “becoming one flesh” is a bit confusing. It’s a common phrase used in the Church when talking about married couples, but what does it actually mean?

In the book of Job, we see an example of what God intended by making us, “one flesh.” Satan essentially tells the Lord that Job has been protected and blessed by God, but if that protection was removed, Job would surely curse God.

The Lord responses: “Very well… everything he owns is in your power. However, do not lay a hand on Job himself.” (Job 1:12).

Throughout the next couple of chapters, Satan begins to torment Job and destroy his life. He starts by killing his livestock and his servants, then he destroys his camels, then his home and his children.

In chapter 2, the Lord again tells Satan he can do whatever he wants but he must spare Job’s life. Satan then gives Job painful boils all over his body.

Through this whole ordeal, everything is taken from Job except one thing: his wife. Surely, Satan knew the most destructive thing he could do was kill Job’s wife, yet, he didn’t.

Why? Remember a second ago when we mentioned that God allowed Satan to do whatever he wished as long as he didn’t lay a hand on Job himself (chapter 1) and as long as he spared Job’s life (chapter 2)?

Job and his wife were one flesh before God (and, subsequently, before Satan). Satan had to honor the powerful, covenantal commitment Job and his wife had made. He couldn’t harm Job OR his wife because they were one. 

What This Means for Us

While it’s a pretty safe bet to say God won’t allow Satan to intentionally torment you and your future spouse the way he tormented Job, it is important to understand what it means to become one.

Leaving your family and cleaving to your spouse is not just a one-time act. It requires making the daily decision to pursue “oneness” with each other.

Let’s talk about how to grow in oneness using the same areas from above:

  • Physical Oneness – “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” – Hebrews 13:4a. Sex and sexual intimacy fall under the umbrella of physical oneness. You can grow in physical oneness by growing in your sexual intimacy.
  • Emotional Oneness – You can grow your emotional oneness by being a “safe place” for your spouse. Allow them to be fully themselves and empathize with their emotions and feelings.
  • Relational Oneness – You’ll know you’re growing in relational oneness when you start making all decisions together. In addition, you’ll find yourselves going to each other about relationship issues instead of your parents.
  • Financial Oneness – Financial oneness means sharing a bank account, making financial decisions together, and viewing finances as an “us” thing instead of a “me” thing.
  • Spiritual Oneness – You can grow your spiritual oneness by doing things like praying together, serving together at church, and growing your spiritual intimacy.

Our online course gives you practical steps for growing in intimacy and oneness. Click here to check it out. 

Preparing Your Parents

Leaving, cleaving, and becoming one can be summed up by this: your spouse is your number one priority. But the other side of that equation means your parents can feel like they’re losing their son or daughter.

While you’re engaged, start taking steps to prepare your parents for this change. Slowly start to prioritize your fiancé and give you parents plenty of time to adjust.

If you’re struggling with how to go about this, here’s a quick script you can use:

“Mom/dad – The wedding is coming up quickly. You know I’m so excited to marry [name of fiancé], but that also means our relationship is going to change. I want to tell you how grateful I am for you and your influence in my life. I also wanted to start to talk about boundaries and what our relationship will look like going forward. Can we have that conversation this weekend?”

Be specific and clear in what that relationship will look like. If they’ve been financially supporting you, give them your new financial plan. If you’re used to seeking their advice for your relationship, let them know you will no longer be doing that.

God desires for you to first have an intimate relationship with Him, and second, have an intimate relationship with your spouse. That starts by leaving, cleaving, and becoming one.

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