And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh- Matthew 19:5 KJV
and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH ‘?- Matthew 19:5 NASB
The title, it’s scary, right? It makes us wince as mamas of grown and married children. We don’t want to be that mama, that mother in law. Do we? Or, should I say, we shouldn’t want to ever be the meddling mother in our children’s marriages.
Or, the meddling mother-in-law. Scripture tells us that the man should leave his father and mother and ‘cleave’ to his wife. Let’s look at that word cleave.
Webster’s Dictionary 1828
1. To stick; to adhere; to hold to.
My bones cleave to my skin. Psa 102.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. Psa 137.
Cleave to that which is good. Rom 12.
2. To unite aptly; to fit; to sit well on.
3. To unite or be united closely in interest or affection; to adhere with strong attachment.
A man shall leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife. Gen 2. Math. 19.
Cleave to Jehovah your God. Josh 23.
“My bones cleave to my skin.” That’s pretty close, isn’t it? That’s what scripture uses to tell us how close we should be to our spouse. Not our parents, but to our beloved. Our spouse.
When our sons leave us, they are to cleave to their spouse. It is the same if our daughters leave for marriage, they will cleave to their spouse. We should want this.This is what we have prayed for them since they were babies.
The ties that bound the decision making, care, nurturing, and day to day confidence, that is cut between parent and child. It is cut and transferred to another and that bond is connected to another. A connection that will be more intimate, personal, and until they die. This is good and profitable for our child.
Scripture gives no ambiguity about this ‘leaving and cleaving’ and I will tell you from counseling and my own children, you will do well to accept it, early on.
Sometimes as parents we get very attached to our daughters or our sons and they to us, and when they get married, we don’t realize it and we continue to talk to them as single children and not use care to include the spouse. And sometimes we don’t refrain from our respective roles as parents. Of course, we are still parents, but we are now parents to grown and capable adult children.That need to be treated like married adults, and not like children that still need to be instructed in everything .They are married. They will learn and grow, just as you did. And I did.
You have raised your children and they are adults; they have entered into a covenant. Not with you, but with the man or woman leaving your protection and provision and will cleave to their mate until death do they part.
They needed you and you were there for them, you were God’s steward in their lives. They love you and respect you, but there is a time you must let them go. And if you have not before their marriage, the wedding is a good time for closure, of one chapter to another.
You should never seek to control or administer your opinion, especially if it is contrary to their spouses. They are now “one flesh” with their spouse.You insult the spouse you are hurting your own child. They are one, not two, but one flesh. Treat them as such.
Believe it or not, this is difficult for some mamas and mothers-in-law. And even fathers and fathers-in-law. Sadly, they do this to their own destruction of relationships, there is no instance where trying to meddle in adult children’s marriages is biblical or advantageous for the married children or the parents. And always destroys relationships. When we first get married as our young selves, we always have a “honeymoon period” where/when everything goes wonderfully and without issue and then the children come, and while everyone is happy, the couple becomes tired and life happens. The adult child is at moms and then we hear some discontent leak out and the mom takes over, not giving a care of the damage that might ensue and joins in with her son or daughter to complain about the husband or wife.
Terrible mistake. Sin in fact. We, as parents witnessing the solemn ceremony of our children entering into marriage, and the sober and God-honoring vows, and then we dare to enter in to helping to break those vows, by disparaging the spouse. When we do this we become part of putting asunder what God has put together. We can’t do this. We should not ever do this. Fight this urge. Fight it. Be no part of it.
Newly marrieds have been known to complain and be discontented if they find a sympathetic ear. They are still very immature in their marriage. And that is to be expected. And if there is a person they can find to encourage their complaints instead of encourage unity, and ‘cleaving’ to the spouse, then there they will find an ally against their spouse. This is deadly to a Christian marriage. No parent should have any part in this. The closest confidence should always be their spouse. Not their mother or father, but your child’s beloved. When confidence and backbiting is pursued, the vows are being violated, they are not honoring their spouse. And we as parents are not honoring our child.
He or she, husband or wife should hear the complaints about themselves, never the mother or father or mother-in-law or father-in-law. Not your business. You and your husband have your own business between you two, no one else’s business. How is your adult child’s marriage your business? How are you to tell your child in essence, disobey God, don’t cleave to your husband but come back to where you were told to leave and complain behind your spouse’s back. This is encouraging betrayel of your child’s spouse. I will tell you this type of biblical disobedience, never is beneficial to young marriages. Or your relationship with your child.
Here are a few instances I have encountered from mothers that I have counseled and my responses.
Mother: My son-in-law plays video games too much, my daughter is confiding in me she hates how he spends much of his free time doing this.
My response: Can I ask you what you told your daughter when she said these things?
Mother: I told her she needs to give him an ultimatum, that she will leave him if he doesn’t stop playing so much.
My response: Where did you get this scriptural authority to instruct your daughter about her husband, in such a manner?
Mother: Uhm…she can’t live like that, he has to stop being so lazy.
See where I’m going here? This mother had no business to put such meddling in her daughter’s mind. She immediately took a position against her son-in-law. Mind you these are Christians, when they became married, they became one, so this mother essentially is trying to put asunder what God put together.Undermining and not encouraging unity but discord.
Mother: My son has mentioned that his wife is wanting things he can’t afford. And this is worrisome to me.
My response: What did you say to him, when he mentioned this?
Mother: I told him he needs to put her on notice that you can’t afford frivolous things. That she should be content with what you make and the things you can afford.
My response: I’m curious, can I ask what scriptural basis you had for your answer?
Mother: Scripture talks about being content and not coveting.
My response: While what you said to your son would have been a perfect Bible study for young married women, it was not appropriate for you to meddle in your son’s marriage concerning his wife. The correct and biblical response would have turned him back to his “one flesh” to go to his wife, to work this out with her, biblically, not to come to mom. Mom was whom he had to leave, so he could cleave to his wife. You must reinforce his cleaving to his wife and not speaking of her to anyone in a disparaging way.
I know, this is hard to do, and I think the only reason it has come easy to me, is I had a grandmother and mother that reinforced this to me. I was never allowed to complain or put down my husband and I am thankful for that. How would we have learned to be “one flesh” this 38 years later? It took practice and hard discussions, working through our ‘one flesh”.
If our complaining would have been accepted and left to fester? Disaster. But rather we were pushed back to ‘cleave’ to our ‘one flesh’ and we did. We worked stuff out, as we still do. Perfectly? No, but we don’t look to others or take our problems to others. We have learned to deal with them. Together.
I remember my daughter would come to me and complain about her husband, mildly, but still complaining. I would gently tell her that that was not my concern, that she had married her husband and she should not talk dispraisingly to me about him, that he would not appreciate that. She would tell me she was venting, making excuses, and I would gently counsel her that if she would like to complain about her husband, that her husband would be the one to whom she complains or talks. That it is not my place to get in the middle of your marriage unless there is abuse. And she knew that was not part of it, so she would take her issues up with her husband. And that is where she should take them up, not with mother, mother-in-law, father, or father-in-law. And she does to this day. And her marriage is growing.
When we are told to ‘leave and cleave’ that means what it says. Leave the things of your youth and cleave to the wife of your youth into your adulthood. Grow together. Don’t encourage them to come back, that would be selfish, and contrary to Scripture. Encourage them to cleave. Not to seek counsel to complain, to be discontent. Discontentment skews our perception and grows selfishness in our hearts.
Encourage them to cleave to the one they took an oath to never leave, to love and cherish in sickness and health. Encourage them in their marriage and discourage their discontent that is evident by their complaining.
They need you mama, they need you to be strong, to not be tempted to meddle. They need you, not to have them need you. Your work is over, their work with their husband, wife and children begins.
Meddling is easy as so much sin is, and it can do so much damage. I have seen the damage, even divorce. We don’t want to meddle, no matter our temptation. We want the best for our children. We want them to have happy and healthy marriages. And to have happy and healthy marriages, they need to depend and work the problems that inevitably will come up. Together.
We see the divorces in the church, we see the discontent and unrealistic expectations in young marriages today. We see scripture is being abandoned in our quest for good, healthy, strong marriages. And scripture should be the very place we start in our marriages. But instead, many times, see marriages as an end all, be all. That will fulfill all of our dreams and expectations. This is not realistic expectations. This is ridiculous, and Scripture in no way gives us such a frivolous view on marriage.
Marriage in a scriptural context has always been about two people that love God and their neighbor, standing before God to enter into a lifelong covenant. No matter what. Divorce is not an option. We seek first to honor God in our marriage, and we do this by honoring and loving our spouse. Honoring our spouse is respecting and not speaking ill of them to anyone. This is one of the ways that the heart of a husband trusts in a wife, that she will do him good and not evil by speaking evil of him. Or allowing our children to speak ill of their spouses.
Marriage is hard, it is hard and messy and there will be trials and pain, love and joy. But as the years wax on our love for each other grows, not a worldly mushy sentimental ‘love’ like the world spews, but a true love that grows out of our love for God and His precepts. We find we will be loving our spouse’s traits we once thought we hated. That’s what God does in marriages, He grows us. If we are patient, He grows us. And even if we are impatient, it matters not, we must wait on Him. We love because of Christ, because He has given me this man and he has been by my side and fought with me and for me in this marriage. We are stronger, together. We won’t give up because we have labored hard and long hours to know what biblical love is, and we haven’t arrived, but are confident He who started the work in us will complete it. He is at the center of our bond.
Your children need Christ at the center of their marriage, not you. Love them enough to leave them alone, and push them toward each other and not away from each other.
Things to ponder:
- Adult children can be immature. It’s okay to push them to maturity.
- Adult children can be dependent. You should encourage their dependence on their spouse
- Something adult children need from their parents is to be steadfast in believing and trusting God and His Word.