For some people change is hard, for others it’s what they love. Wherever you land on that statement, the reality is that when you get married, there will be changes. One big one is that it's time to leave and cleave.
I don’t think you can adequately cover all the transitions that will come up in a marriage when going through pre-marital counseling. One area that Suzy and I (Gio) will always cover is the area of creating boundaries between your new family and your parents.
Scripture talks about obeying your parents in Colossians 3:20, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord". Then at a certain point in your life, it is to honor your parents. Ephesians 6:2 says "Honor your father and mother" — which is the first commandment with a promise. There is a big difference between obedience and honor.
Marriage is definitely one of the transition points for people to move from obedience to honoring. This can be easy for those who did not really have the best of relationships with their parents. But it can be very difficult for those that were close with and highly respect their parents.
What does Scripture say about leave and cleave?
God said in Gen 2:24, "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”. It is interesting to me that this verse came before the fall and to a couple that did not have parents. The only thing I can think is the fact that God is sovereign. He knew what was going to happen after sin entered the world in Genesis 3.
This principle is so important because it is the beginning of the process for a husband and wife to learn to submit to God together. They also submit to each other while accepting the roles that God has given them within their marriage. (We talked about these in the past few blogs linked here for part one and here for part two.)
The principle of oneness is that the old dependence ceases as one "leaves", and the single status you once had shifts to "cleave" as husband and wife. Leave means to untie or to break and cleave means to stick like glue. When we leave the old and cleave to the new, we become one flesh.
Back in the day the unity candle was the most used visual to demonstrate this principle. Suzy and I actually used it at our wedding. The funny part is that the wax burned my finger and I said, "ouch, that hurt". I completely forgot that I was wired for the video. We laugh about it today when we do watch the video.
How does a unity candle represent "leave and cleave"?
Ok, back to the unity candle. It has become a symbol for what I believe "leave and cleave" means. The ceremony usually goes as follows. Typically, the mothers of the bride and groom will light individual candles right before a wedding ceremony begins. Many couples even have their grandparents or fathers included in the lighting of the individual candles as well. These candles represent the bride’s and groom’s families, one candle to symbolize each family. Once the bride and groom exchange their vows, they each take one of the family candles and light a larger unity candle together. The large unity candle represents the joining of the couple together as one. It also represents the bride and groom starting a new family separately as a married couple. They then blow out their family candles once the unity candle has been lit. This symbolizes that this couple is “leaving and cleaving”.
Whether you chose to use a unity candle, unity sand, three cords, or any other symbolism, the fact is it is much easier to do it at the ceremony than to do it in real life. There are so many factors at play that make it hard. One or both of you may be struggling moving from obedience to honoring, or you don’t want to disappoint your parents by going against their advice. There may be a strong emotional attachment, financial benefits, or parents having a hard time letting go. These are a few examples among many that may cause “leaving and cleaving” to be a difficulty.
How does “leaving and cleaving” honor God?
When you leave and cleave, you open the door for God to draw you closer to Him and each other. Oneness results in blessings; one of those being the freedom that you provide each other to speak into the marriage. Freedom that comes without worrying about what others might think.
In Genesis 2:25 scripture says, “Adam and Eve were both naked, and they felt no shame”. Adam and Eve were free to be totally exposed to each other and to God, without fear. They were free emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually in every way.
What an amazing gift we give our spouse when we offer them that freedom.
When a spouse knows that their husband or wife is totally committed to them. That all matters within their marriage will be decided within their home. You start to create an incredible environment for oneness.
How do parents cope with their children leaving and cleaving?
As a parent of three young adults, one who is married, we have now entered this leave and cleave world with a parental perspective. Up until now, Suzy and I could only see it from a husband-and-wife perspective looking to our parents. With our daughter Ashley getting married, it has forced us to view it from the parents’ side of things.
Let me tell you, it is not as easy to release your child. For all these years leading up to marriage, we were the ones giving the advice, raising them, investing time, emotion, and resources for them to become the men and women God has called them to be. Then, all of a sudden, you are taking on a totally different role, a role that encourages and cheers for them and sharing advice when it is solicited. So, parents, we understand. And we ask the children to walk in grace with your parents as you all transition to this beautiful Biblical principle of “leave and cleave”.
As parents, the best thing we can do for our kids is to free them from any form of obligation or sense of manipulation, that we may bring, intentionally or unintentionally, that they may feel in order to keep us happy. It is much easier for a husband and wife to leave and cleave if they are encouraged to do so by their parents. Offer this as your very first gift to them.
In a marriage, responsibility lies with the couple to leave and cleave while clinging to the Lord to help them navigate this transition. Don’t allow this potential problem area strip you from enjoying the incredible oneness that God provides for you in your marriage.