The Meaning of Leaving and Cleaving
What It Means to “Leave”
In terms of your parents and family of origin, separation means that you leave the dependence, comfort, and security of your parents’ authority. You are literally breaking apart the old parent-child relationship. You are also separating from your siblings and extended family.
It’s not that you are cutting ties with these dear people; instead, you are forging a new relationship with them, based on the fact that you are married and your highest-priority relationship has now become your spouse and you. You will also need to shift the priority of your friendships, separate from past romantic and opposite-sex relationships, and leave behind your single lifestyle.
Leaving Family of Origin
It’s extremely important to alter your priorities by making your extended family and friends secondary to your spouse.
Dr. Smalley is a huge advocate of friendships. What changes after marriage is the priority of those friendships. Your marriage relationship must always come first.
Leaving Past Romantic and Opposite-Sex Relationships
Many engaged couples ask Dr. Smalley, “are opposite-sex friends okay when you’re married?” Dr. Smalley and his wife say that although it’s possible for a married couple to have healthy opposite-sex friendships, they do not have opposite-sex friends. It’s not that they ignore people; instead, they do not nurture those friendships apart from each other.
Leaving Your Single Lifestyle
Many of the life patterns you established prior to marriage may be difficult to change. Perhaps you’ll have to stop hanging out with friends after work. Or maybe you must change your habit of leaving your laundry piled up until you have nothing left to wear. Or you may have to stop neglecting grocery shopping until your refrigerator is empty. When you’re part of a couple, you have to change your single mentality.
Leaving Past Emotional Baggage
Although we all carry emotional baggage into marriage, the goal is to make sure your baggage amounts to small carry-on pieces instead of trunks full of traumatic issues. If you know of an issue that will negatively impact your marriage, seek a counselor’s help.
What It Means to “Cleave”
Cleaving involves two key components:
Creating a Marital Identity
The lack of oneness that causes many people to suffer in marriage occurs because one or both spouses remain more devoted to self than to their marriage union.
Bonding to Your Mate
The key is to remember that your marriage is the most important relationship next to God and needs to be put in front of all else. Ask yourself, “Do I put in the effort that shows my husband is a top priority for me?” Having a great, God-honoring marriage will take hard work. Put activities into your life together that will help you to enjoy and encourage each other, as well as to foster talking, learning and growing together.
Dr. Greg Smalley serves as executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and is passionate to equip premarital and married couples with the knowledge, skills and insights necessary to enjoy a lifetime together.