Pin It

Leaving and cleaving: How to leave your parents well

During the first year of marriage and for long afterward, it’s not easy to leave your parents while also honoring them.

Leave your parents - Stepping Up | FamilyLife | Dennis Rainey

A few weeks after their wedding, a young man came home to find his wife in tears. She told him that his father had called her and said, “I cannot believe you forgot my wife’s birthday.”  In the father’s mind, it was her responsibility to keep up with occasions like these — even birthdays for her in-laws.

The young man knew what he had to do. First he got on the phone with his mother and said, “Mom, I want to apologize for not sending you a birthday card or present.  I’m really sorry about that.” Then he asked to talk with his father.

“Dad, this is the only time I want to have this conversation with you,” the young man said.  “I never want you to do that to my wife again.  My loyalty now is to her, and if you have a problem with something I have done, then you need to talk to me.”

I wonder how many young husbands would have stepped up with that type of courage in similar circumstances?   What impresses me is that he honored his mother through his apology, but he also did not hesitate to let his father know he had overstepped his boundaries. And in the process, he let his new bride know that she was the new priority in his life.

Honor … and forsake

When we marry, we face a difficult balancing act with our parents.  On one hand, the fifth of the Ten Commandments tells us to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).  No matter what your age, you should honor your parents by spending time with them, thanking them for what they’ve done well, caring for them as necessary … and, yes, remembering their birthdays!

But then we look at Genesis 2:24, part of the narrative where God creates the institution of marriage.  This verse tells us, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  The Hebrew word for “leave” means to forsake, to leave behind, to literally let go.  As difficult as it may be, when you marry, you declare to the world, “No other person on earth is more important to me than my spouse.”  Your spouse becomes a higher priority than your parents.

So how do you balance leaving your parents while also honoring them?  Here are a few suggestions:

1. When you marry, determine to set up your own home and family.

This means more than physically living apart from your parents; it also involves setting your own schedule, creating your own family traditions, and establishing your own values and priorities.

Early in marriage, one of the most common points of conflict with in-laws is holidays.  Where will you spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or other occasions?  It is difficult for many to accept the fact that those holidays will never be the same as they were.  Talk with your parents well ahead of these occasions about possibilities.  Be creative and flexible, and urge your parents to do the same.  And in the future, when you have children of your own, there may come a time when you ask your parents to begin coming to your home for these holidays.

2. Pull away from dependence upon your parents.  

One of the most common problems you will face as a newly married couple will be the temptation to allow parents to bail you out of financial difficulty.  I know of one couple that kept turning to the wife’s parents to bail them out after poor financial choices.  As a result, the husband was not forced to step up to his responsibility to provide for his family and to live with the consequences of poor choices.  It undermined his self-respect as a man, and his wife was losing her respect for him as well.

It’s also important to pull away from emotional dependence.  Some couples are so accustomed to consulting their parents, for example, that they feel uncomfortable making decisions on their own.  There’s nothing wrong with getting advice — the problem comes when they doubt their ability to make good decisions independently.  This also means being willing for you or your spouse to make bad decisions and learning from your mistakes … just like your parents did when they were young.

3. Look for opportunities to spend time with your parents.

Remember how difficult it is for them to let you go.  And for single parents, the loss can be even more wrenching. Leaving does not mean withdrawing from them; that’s abandonment, not leaving.

If you live far away from your parents, you will need to make a special effort to visit them on a regular basis during weekends, vacations, etc.  This will involve flexibility and sometimes sacrifice, but that’s part of the commitment you make when you join another family.

4. Don’t allow them to manipulate you.

This is one of the most difficult issues to address.  Your parents know you well, and they know what buttons to push so you will do what they want.  And sometimes they don’t even realize how they are being manipulative.  At times you will need to lovingly confront them to establish your independence.

5.  Protect each other.

Don’t criticize your spouse to your parents, and defend your spouse when your parents are critical.  If you are having a conflict, don’t get advice from them.

I once made the mistake of making a negative comment about Barbara to my mother. It was not a major issue, and I soon forgot it — but she didn’t.  For years she brought up that comment occasionally, and I realized I had not protected Barbara as I should have.

For many of you, the act of leaving your parents will be one of the most difficult steps of your life.  But it’s a vital step in the process of growing up and establishing your own home.

Copyright ©2013 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Similar posts

8 Comments

  1. May 17, 2013    

    Excellent post. Right on and very pertinent.

    • MenSteppingUp's Gravatar MenSteppingUp
      May 17, 2013    

      Thanks, Josh!

  2. Eddie's Gravatar Eddie
    May 17, 2013    

    My wife and I fought about this our whole marriage. She never let go of her parents. After 13 years of marriage she left me and moved back home and took our kids because she missed her family. It’s been a year since she left and today she lives across the street from them and has filed for divorce.

    • MenSteppingUp's Gravatar MenSteppingUp
      May 17, 2013    

      Eddie,
      Sorry to hear about that. Though it may seem darkest at the time, God can change hearts. We will be praying that for you.

  3. September 17, 2015    

    Just want to add that it can be other family members or relationships that the spouse has trouble leaving. Great article!

  4. lavell ward's Gravatar lavell ward
    February 19, 2016    

    OK MOST OF THE KNOWLEDGE ON THIS SUBJECT MATTER OF FORSAKING THE PARENTS FOR YOUR SPOUSE WAS ON POINT AND CORRECT ACCORDING TO THE WORDS OF YAH WHO A LOT OF PEOPLE IGNORANTLY CALL GOD…. BUT A MAJOR FLAW I SEE IN WHAT THE HUSBAND WEN’T THROUGH WITH HIS FATHER WAS COMMENDABLE ON A LOT OF LEVELS EXCEPT FOR 1….. FIRST OF ALL ACCORDING TO THE WORDS OF THE ALMIGHTY US HEBREWS OR ANYONE WHO FOLLOWS OUR CULTURE SHOULD KNOW THAT BIRTHDAYS AND HOLIDAYS ARE MAN MAN MADE AND ARE NOT OF THE MOST HIGH CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF.. SO IF SOMEONE IS CLAIMING THEY FOLLOW CHRIST OR THE MAHSHEAKH …… WE SHOULD DO AS HE DID…. CHRIST OR NONE OF HIS FOLLOWERS ALONG WITH THE RIGHTEOUS ANCESTORS IN THE TORAH A.K.A OLD TESTAMENT NEVER CELEBRATED THEYRE DAY OF BIRTH OR ANYONE ELSES’S FOR THAT MATTER…… JOB & ISAIAH CURSED THEYRE DAY OF BIRTH…… AND YAHSHUEA WHO MOST CALL JESUS NEVER TOLD US TO CELEBRATE BIRTHDAYS…… ALSO THE HOLIDAYS OF NOW ALSO EXISTED IN ANCIENT TIMES JUST HAD DIFFERENT NAMES BUT THEY ALL ARE PAGAN IN ORIGIN AND WHERE PRACTICED BY HEATHEN GENTILE NATIONS…… HOLIDAYS ARE VAIN….. THE MOST HIGH ONLY COMMANDED US TO KEEP HIS FEAST DAYS WHAT MOST CALL HOLY DAYS THAT WE CAN SEE IN THE SCRIPTURES….. THE DAY OF ATONEMENT, THE PASSOVER, FEAST OF UNLEVEND BREAD,FEAST OF WEEKS, FEAST OF TABERNACLES AND IM MISSING 2 MORE I THINK… THESE ARE THE RIGHTEOUS HOLY DAYS OF THE CREATOR THAT WE HAVE BEEN COMMANDED TO KEEP FOREVER….. NOT BIRTHDAYS, XMAS, THANKSGIVING, 4TH OF JULY, VALENTINES DAY, HALLOWEN, KWANZA AND ANY OTHER MAN MADE HOLIDAY MADE TO TAKE THE PLACE OF THE FEAST DAYS…… THE BROTHER WAS RIGHT TO HONOR HIS MOTHER’S FEELINGS BUT NOT ABOUT NOT CALLING TO SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY OR MERRY X MAS……. HONOR THY MOTHER AND THY FATHER UNLESS WHAT THEY WANT FROM THE CHILD GOES AGAINST THE MOST HIGH ….. YES THE APOLIGY WAS COOL JUST OFF THE STRENGTH THAT THE MOTHER WAS HURT BUT WHEN HE CHECKED HIS FATHER HE SHOULD’VE RESPECTABLY TOLD HIM BIRTHDAYS ARE NOT OF GOD AND AS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST WE DON’T CELEBRATE THAT MAN MADE FOLLY AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU ALL….PEACE

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      February 19, 2016    

      We’re glad you appreciated the post as it was in line with our mission to call guys to step up in their role as men, husbands, fathers, and sons.

      As for your concerns, we understand your convictions. We would also remind you to consider the teachings of the Apostle Paul in Romans 14, as it pertains to the observance of days.

      “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

      Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

      ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
      and every tongue shall confess to God.’ [quoted from Isaiah 45:23, where God’s covenant name is spelled YHWH in the Hebrew, but used generically by Paul as God, or Theos in the Greek]

      So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

      • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
        February 19, 2016    

        We would also point out that Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew, Iesous here in the Greek) in Mark 10, held the honoring of parents over the ritual keeping of the Mosaic law, as dogmatically interpreted by the Pharisees. It is the heart attitude that the Savior said we should focus on. In this vein, it would be more important to honor a mother on the day of her birth, which she chooses to celebrate, than to reject her because of a rejection of the idea of celebrating specific days.

        Mark 7:10-13
        And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

  1. Leaving and Cleaving: How to Leave Your Parents Well - ChristianLiving.tv on May 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Leave a Reply

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.