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Leaving and Cleaving

By Fr. Dr. Daniel Johnson

Bruce Wilkinson, with over 25 years of counseling experience, asserts that virtually every marriage problem he has encountered stems from one or both partners violating what he deems the most crucial verse in the Bible concerning marriage. This verse can be found in Genesis 2:24, which states: “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

In Mark 10:6-8, Christ echoes similar words: “But at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this cause, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Thus, this concept was God’s original intention from the outset. He recognized that it is not good for a man to be alone and established a 3-step process:

1. Man and woman must leave.

2. They must then cleave.

3. By following these two steps, they will become flesh.

First and foremost, whom or what do we need to leave behind?



Extended family

Sometimes, a sport, hobby, or activity

Our selfish ways

Anything else that might obstruct our ability to bond with one another

How do we leave?




In terms of authority



When do we leave?

It actually commences at birth and should be a gradual and continuous process.

When you depart for college.

When you marry.

Are you uncertain if you’ve completed the process of leaving? If so, take the 5-minute test given at the end to find out.

Reasons people do not leave:

Personal reasons; they are selfish and don’t want to.

Parental reasons; the parents don’t want you to leave, they want you to be happy and protect you from any struggles.

It’s crucial to understand that this is God’s plan, and Christ reiterated it to ensure the message is clear. If you find that you have not left, it is YOUR responsibility to take action in a loving and kind manner with your parents or whoever it is that you need to leave. Remember, you are still their little boy or girl, so don’t be unkind. Being a parent and letting go is very difficult. Try to imagine letting go of one of your children right now. It doesn’t get any easier, but it must be done, and you will need to help your parents through this process.

However, don’t go to the other extreme and avoid associating with your parents. Families that stay together are an incredible blessing. The key is to strike a healthy balance between having a solid relationship with your parents, family, and friends, while not allowing those relationships to interfere with your personal relationship with each other. If you ever think about “going home,” you have a problem. Your home is with your spouse. If your parents believe you have left them or have been taken away, gently remind them that when you stood before God and them on the altar, you were given away.

You need to start thinking about CLEAVING, and you cannot do that if you are still in the process of LEAVING. CLEAVING doesn’t happen automatically. It requires extensive planning, willpower, and effort. We will be devoting the rest of the classes to discussing how you can cleave.

According to Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, here are the 7 Steps to Cleaving:

1. Completely leave everyone else, including old friends of the opposite sex.

2. Maintain sexual purity, which includes abstaining from pornography.

3. Commit to long-term love, with no turning back. Think of yourselves as being in a boat 3,000 miles at sea, where dealing with problems is the only option. There’s no swimming to shore or jumping ship.

4. Live according to your standard of living, not your parents’ or someone else’s. Learn the secret of contentment and spend wisely, as debt can be a harmful tool.

5. Work on marital happiness through love languages, serving, and romance.

6. Forgive each other 70 times 70, as most affairs stem from unforgiveness, leading to bitterness and a hardened heart.

7. Keep God in the center of your marriage, letting nothing but God mold you into one flesh, not man, kids, parents, business, or friends.

Psalms 67:1 – May God be gracious to us and BLESS us and make His face shine on us. Bless our marriage, God, so that we can be a blessing to others.


If you are unsure whether you have “left,” take this test to assess your status. Please complete it with your spouse and respond to the questions using a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 = Very False and 7 = Very True. Here are the questions:

1. We were successful in leaving our parents when we got married.

2. Leaving family and other close relationships has been a harmonious process for us.

3. Even though we may have problems from time to time in our marriage, we resist the temptation to run home to our parents.

4. Both of us are free from manipulation or control by our parents.

5. Neither of us has tried to force our spouse to be like one of our own parents.

6. We have established our own residence away from our parents.

7. We are not financially dependent on either set of parents.

8. While we may enjoy frequent talks or visits with our parents, our sense of emotional well-being does not depend on such communication.


Score 48-56: You are not experiencing any problems and have successfully “left.”

Score 8-17: You have not left and need to have a gentle conversation with each other and your parents to work out a plan to leave. Note that this doesn’t mean blaming the parents, but understanding that you need to take the initiative and convey what is biblically correct, all IN LOVE.

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