One of the age old dilemmas facing married couples is their interaction with their parents, extended family members, and sometimes friends. Of course, everyone is familiar with the standard conflicts that can arise over holiday and birthday celebrations, but often these conflicts spill over into the everyday aspects of life causing hurt feelings and dividing families.
In Genesis 2:24, God created Eve as a mate for Adam and pronounced the ground rules for future generations. He used two words, leave and cleave. The word leave indicates leaving something behind, in this case the old family structure and authority is to be left behind to create a new family with its own traditions, customs, and authority structure. Leaving does not necessarily indicate a required breaking of regular interaction or even being involved in family business ventures or other interests. Leaving implies more of a change in relationship as the parents are required to respect the newly formed family as independent adults who are making their own decisions. The new family is expected to live in independence.
The second word, cleave, indicates a clinging or affectionate closeness that exists only in marriage. God indicates that no one should interfere with the “cleaving” of a husband and wife to each other in this new family that has been formed.
The question often arises about how to deal with parents, family, or even friends who attempt to interfere with the couple’s decisions. Sometimes family or friends create strife by being critical. Sometimes this criticism becomes rude and demeaning. Normally, couples who are struggling with how to handle this problem are worried about hurting someone’s feelings or creating long term problems in the family so they often allow it to go unaddressed until the pressure builds to a boiling point and then things get ugly.
The key is to realize that God planned for the new family to be independent. Any outside person who is creating conflict and trouble in the marriage is overstepping their boundaries. It is imperative that the person be addressed respectfully and lovingly and placed back in their proper role and the fence rebuilt. Sometimes, the intruding party insists on interfering and tries to use various manipulation techniques. The key is to explain lovingly and refuse to be manipulated. In extreme cases, it may become necessary to limit contact with people who consistently create division and turmoil in the marriage. Such people are obviously consumed with selfish interests and may be a real threat to the life of the marriage. Again, these would be rare cases. It is critical for the couple to desire a right relationship during the time that they are engaged in protective measures (David’s attitude toward Saul is a great example). It is easy to become hurt and retaliate with bad behavior, to engage in gossip, or to hold onto unforgiveness. All of these are terrible responses that create more trouble.
Taking a stand for your marriage requires courage and may bring tension to outside relationships for a while, but it is necessary.
As parents, family members, or friends we should acknowledge that God has sanctioned the marriages of those around us and we should never engage in anything that might bring trouble into those marriages. If we have bad or critical attitudes we should seek God’s forgiveness and work to change these. We should respect their decisions, offer advice when asked, and give out generous amounts of encouragement. Every couple needs people who encourage and build up, not people who try to control and point out flaws in their mate!
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