Marriage Monday: The Bible Promotes Cleavage

James and Cindy have been married for about a year now and some problems are beginning to emerge. Everything was great during their courtship. Sure, they had their share of scuffles, but they were so excited to be in love that nothing was too big of a deal. Their wedding went off without a hitch and they thoroughly enjoyed their honeymoon.

As the couple began to settle into their new marriage each became a little more comfortable in the relationship, and with that, the rough edges on their individual personalities became more visible. One problem became apparent in the midst of trying circumstances. Cindy would turn to her mother for emotional support. Also, when something was wrong around the house, she would enlist the help of her father, fearing that James’ inexperience in fixing things would only exasperate the problem.

Holidays were an especially tense time for James and Cindy. Their families placed harsh demands on their time. Each wanted the couple present to celebrate the festivities. James and Cindy would often argue about whose family would receive the lion’s share of their time. The car rides to and from their families houses were often tense, biting comments were not uncommon.

This couple has a cleavage problem. It is all too common in marriages, especially new marriages or when the first child arrives. If it goes unattended, sometimes the cleavage problem will persist for years. Genesis 2:24 states, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

James and Cindy have one foot in their marriage and the other in their families of origin. While they have been joined together, they haven’t drawn a boundary around the two of them. They are going outside the marital circle for support, influence, and help. They are allowing their families to make decisions about what is best for them.

There are a number of reasons as to why some couples do not “leave and cleave.” Sometimes, it is pure naiveté. They are not even aware that they are not turning to their spouse for support or influence. Sometimes it is due to a simple inability to say no. One might worry about hurting their parents feelings if they do not cater to their demands. The problem is, by not setting boundaries and saying no, the individual hurts their relationship. Other times, one will seek support, help, or guidance outside the relationship when their partner does not provide it. When a man does not act with integrity and lead his family, then often the wife will feel the need to go to her parents for support.

Sometimes the problem rests more with the couple’s parents than with the couple. They place harsh demands on the couple or feel they are more qualified to meet their child’s needs than the new spouse. Still, it is the couple’s job to help the parents understand that the dynamics have changed. So if you are a parent and this sounds like you, why not help make it easy on your kids?

Cleaving means that your spouse comes first. It means your parents are no longer your greatest priority (they are still a very important part of your life, but after your spouse). It means you and your spouse are responsible for your own lives. Sometimes, it means saying no to people that you love because your marriage is your greatest and most important relationship.

Feel that there is a lack of cleavage in your relationship? Then maybe it is time to have a discussion, to set some boundaries, and to make sure you are performing your role and duty as a spouse. When there is a lack of cleavage in a marriage, problems will always be in tow. So cut the psychological and emotional apron strings. Lean on your spouse for support.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.


  • efchristi says:

    While I agree with you that marriage requires cleavage, it is a learning process like everything else in life. Also to say the husband is not stepping up to his responsibilities while the wife call her parents for support may be out of line.

    I know a couple where the husband steps up and the wife call her sister and brother for a second opinion. They usually agree with the husband and on the rare occasion they don’t, an agreeable alternative is reached. You would think the marriage is on the rocks because of her questioning all his decisions, but surprisingly it has stayed strong for over twenty years. The wife and her siblings are very close and the husband is understanding of the needs of his wife.

    A girl and her mother are very close, so even though she is married and they live 500 miles apart, they talk every day on the phone. Does that mean the marriage is low on cleavage? I think it is a firm bond that is hard to separate.

    Though I like your story, I think there are many reasons for this couple’s marriage to be strong for many years as they grow in their love and trust of each other. It is a growing and learning experience.

    Walk daily with God at your side!


    • Josh Fults says:

      I am definitely not saying that one or both partners in a marriage shouldn’t be close to their parents. I am immensely close to mine, and we often ask them for advice.

      I am saying there is a problem when a spouse defers to their parents instead of their spouse. When a decision is to be made instead of conferring with their spouse they consult their parents.

      Sure children are often close to their parents. This should be encouraged, but there must be a boundary between the couple and their family of origin.

      I see it all the time in therapy where one (sometimes both) partners haven’t made the transition from my “parents are my priority” to “my spouse is my priority” and inevitably it leads to trouble.

      Thanks for your thoughts Ed. I like when people aren’t scared to disagree.

      Walk good,

      • efchristi says:

        I wasn’t saying that either and I do agree there must be a transition. I was just saying there are times when some understanding must be allotted to your spouse.
        By the way the couple I was talking about is my wife and I. I do admit I was somewhat concerned that she needed a second opinion on things, but later learned she was burnt several times earlier in life. God put us together for the right reasons.

        Also I like giving you another point of view – even if you aren’t asking for one.



  • Kim Melancon says:

    You got me… ;o)

  • Joe says:

    HeHuHeHuhehehuhuhehehuhu – “He said Cleavage” Beavis and Butthead.
    Sorry Josh – i couldnt resist that one. – Hope you have a since of humor.
    Anyway great post i agreed with the entire lesson on Cleaving – It is something that many many people forget about. It is biblical – and i believe to be part of the foundation for a Godly marriage.
    Soli Deo Gloria
    In Christ

  • I totally agree with you on this! I think for about the first 2 years of our marriage this was our problem. Just the simple thing of setting up a schedule of which parent we will go see on which holiday made it so much better. We also set that up before having kids which made that a lot easier once they came along. I had to ask my dad not to worry with my car and finances b/c it was not his business anymore. I called and visited my parents less and less. We joined a church here in our town together and got busy serving here….which also caused us to go visit our parents less and less.
    11 years later I can honestly say that my husband is who I turn to first.
    Funny thing…..My husband still cringes when we go to visit my parents and he can see my dad walk around our car to check our tires. My grandpa (dad’s dad) does the same thing :).

  • Kristina says:

    Very true. I think if you live in a small town with relatives, it is best to live on the opposite side. Better yet, move away for at least the first year of marriage so they can learn to lean on each other.

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