“And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.’ For this cause, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2: 23-24
In Leave and Cleave Part 1 we learned what it means to leave your parents when you marry. Many new couples will say, “Ok, I’ve done that. Now what?” Let’s talk about the “now what,” and learn what it means to truly cleave to your spouse.
“My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped with the skin of my teeth.” Job 19:20. Here the word cleave means to stick to or to adhere. “But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day.” Joshua 23:8. In this verse, the word cleave is used to mean to unite closely.
When we cleave in marriage, we are to do three things: join; cling; remain loyal to.
Join: “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself (to another) is one in body with her? For He says, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’” 1 Corinthians 6:16. Here, we see the physical joining of husband and wife.
Cling: The next meaning of cleave is to stick to. We are to stick to our spouse so tightly that we cannot be separated. For all the dog lovers among us, we can appreciate the true meaning of stick to. No matter how hard I try, I never get my black Labrador’s fur off me. He just sticks to me wherever I go. This is the visual we should have with our spouse. I should never be truly separated from my spouse (mentally and emotionally). Your partner should always be stuck to you.
“The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.” Deuteronomy 28:21. In the English Standard Version this verse says, “The Lord will make the pestilence stick to you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” We are to stick to our spouse.
Remain Loyal To: Lastly, to cleave means we are to remain loyal to our covenant partner. “So all the men of Israel went up from following David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri; but the men of Judah clave unto their king, from the Jordan even to Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 20:2. In our modern day language we would say, “The men of Judah…remained loyal to their king.” When we enter a covenant with our spouse, our loyalty is to be for them. As professional counselor Melinda Havard stated, “Cleaving to your mate means joining together so tightly that nothing can come between you.”
I love the example I heard one time about cleaving that has visually been etched in my mind. Imagine a husband and wife facing each other with outstretched arms. There is probably about 3 feet of space between them, but they are holding hands. It would not be hard for other people to stand between the couple, or behind the couple, and break them apart. Why? The only strength they have that is keeping them together is the strength in their hands. Now, imagine the couple embracing in a tight bear hug. First, can outside forces come between them? No, because the couple is clinging to each other so tightly, no outside force can wedge its way in. The force could try to pull them apart from behind, but this will be virtually impossible, because the couple is much stronger when they are stuck to each other as opposed to loosely holding hands. In our marriages, we should be so tightly joined, remaining loyal to each other in everything we do, that no outside force can come between us or pull us apart. Take inventory of your marriage. What can you do to ensure you are clinging to your mate? What outside forces might threaten your loyalty to your spouse?
Going back to our original verse, before we can cleave, we must leave. If we do not leave, there will be an outside force that could potentially cause harm to our marriage, even when it is not intentional. When we leave and cleave, and keep boundaries in place, a healthy relationship with our spouse will flourish. I strongly recommend a book titled Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud. He is one of the national leading psychologists in the field of setting boundaries and maintaining healthy relationships. His book will help you establish healthy boundaries both individually, and as a couple.
Just for a moment, I want to take off my marriage mentor hat and put on my mother hat. As a newly married couple, you may be embracing God’s plan to leave and cleave, but you might find it is hard for your family to do the same. If you have familial relationships that tell you to come to them first before going to your spouse, or that continue to support you with monthly financial aid (when you are capable of supporting yourself), then it is time to set up some healthy boundaries. Do this with great love and compassion, though. As hard as it might be for you to leave, it is also hard for your family. For the past 20 plus years, for parents particularly, we have been the primary source of everything our children needed. We have grown very accustomed to being the person our children come to in all aspects of their lives. Even when the only reason they come to us is for money to go to the movies with their high school buddies, it makes us feel needed.
When my son became engaged, it was such an exciting time. He is marrying his high school sweetheart, and I think she may be the BEST daughter-in-law EVER! I also felt a sense of loss, though, because I knew we would be going through the “leaving” process soon. In addition to these feelings, urgency also coursed through my veins. Urgency for what though? I remember feeling a sense of panic that I had not finished my job, and I was running out of time to complete what I had started. I just kept thinking, “I haven’t taught him everything he needs to know.” I felt like screaming, “Wait! I’m not ready! I still have things to teach you.” But God very clearly reminded me that my son is first and foremost His son, and although our son would soon be leaving and cleaving, HE was not leaving our son. I could feel God calm my heart and whisper in my ear, “Don’t worry, sweet girl. I’ve got this! Everything is right on schedule. Your baby is becoming the man I created him to be.”
I know my son will be fine, and I know that he will continue to learn from me while I have breath to breathe. My own mother is alive and well, and she is still teaching me things! I also find great comfort in knowing my son will soon be in a covenant relationship with a wife who loves, respects and cherishes him, who does not tear him down but lifts him high, who will be by his side, and who is, possibly (wait, did I already mention this) the most perfect daughter-in-law I could ask for!
Even though God calmed my heart that day, I must admit I began making a list of all the things I thought my son needed to remember or that, maybe, I had not taught him. Realizing that if I gave him this list, he’d probably say, “Really, Mom?,” I decided it would be therapeutic for me to just write about all the things that pop into my mind, and thus was born the “Tidbits” section of my website. Although the impetus of that area was my son, this part of Lisa Lou has taken on a life of its own. I love creating Tidbits for all the women (and men) out there, and it has quickly become my favorite way to craft content. It’s also great for social media! (Ok, the cat’s out of the bag as to why I have a Tidbits section, so I may have lost all hope of my son ever reading this part of my blog again. If he just remembers to write his thank you notes, I’ll be good!)
As a newly married couple, even though there will be new boundaries established around your marriage, it is important to cultivate a healthy relationship with your parents, in-laws and extended family. You want to have family ties that thrive on open communication and respect for each other. This will lead to an even deeper bond than you currently have and will allow you to continue to learn from each other as you grow older together. Plus, never forget, you want a strong connection with your parents, because…they make great babysitters!
When you look within your sphere of influence to healthymarriages that have been around for a while, and you find yourself saying, “I want what they have,” with deep examination you will most likely learn this couple took to heart what it meant to leave and cleave. If you can master this in your marriage, then most everything else will fall into place, and the two of you will have a marriage that does not just survive but thrives!
Together with you,
*This blog was summarized, with a few additions/subtractions, from a lesson taught by Melinda Havard, Director of Counseling at SBC in Houston. Melinda has an MS in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi and is a Texas Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor. Much of her content came from Bruce Wilkinson of Walk Thru the Bible Ministry.