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What Does it Mean to Cleave to Your Spouse?

Scripture suggests that marriage is to be a place of vulnerability and transparency. In Genesis God says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The act of cleaving involves fully respecting your mate, honoring him/her, knowing them and enjoying that intimacy.

Let’s look a little more closely at this issue and its application to us.

First, cleaving to your mate means being dedicated to them. Having said “I do” means you are now dedicated to your mate. You have chosen to “forsake others” and are investing your life in this relationship. You are dedicated to keeping the relationship vibrant and healthy through being intentionally caring, giving and sacrificially loving.

Second, cleaving means ongoing exploration of who they are and how they are unique. We never stop learning about our mate. We are on a never-ending quest to fully understand and appreciate our mate. We experience joy and excitement in this journey. To not do this leaves our mate feeling profoundly neglected.

Third, cleaving means sharing with your mate on a deep level.Dedication to our mate means we will know them more fully and deeply than any other person. We study them because we want to know them fully and deeply. Intimacy requires deep sharing, transparency and vulnerability. To not do this leaves our mate feeling deeply abandoned.

Fourth, cleaving involves mutual submission. We gladly give of ourselves, our time, talent and treasures to our mate. We listen to them and take a keen interest in what they value. We are responsive to their needs and desires and understand this to be a responsibility of marriage. To not engage in this mutual submission leaves our mate very alone.

Finally, cleaving means enjoying each other fully and exclusively. Relating to this ‘real person’ is enjoyable. We delight in this relationship and are pleased to offer our full selves to them. In return, they give themselves to us and we enjoy a full and robust relationship. To not engage fully robs our mate of a God-given joy.

[written by Dr. David B. Hawkins]