Cleaving To Your Spouse

June 13th, 2011

A couple of months after I got married, my parents moved to the Marshall Islands for a new job. Being a newlywed, I was already nervous and scared of living away from my parents and being completely independent. And with their sudden move, I felt even more anxious that I wouldn’t be able to turn to them for guidance as easily as if they were in the U.S.

Several weeks before they left, my aunt gave me some very important advice, “Cleave to your spouse. He is all you need. Cleave to him as if your life depended on it.”

Cleave means to adhere like glue to something or to be completely faithful to someone. At the time I don’t think I fully understood what her words meant. I was so upset about my parents leaving that I couldn’t comprehend what it really meant to “cleave to my spouse.” It turned out that having my parents a half-a-world away was a blessing to teach me how to create proper marital boundaries.

Richard B. Miller, a professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, wrote an article entitled “For Newlyweds and Their Parents.” In it, he talks about how to create appropriate boundaries in the marriage by setting limits for parents as well as close friends. He says, “The spouse must take priority. In a united marriage the husband and wife are always most concerned about each other’s feelings.”

Problems and private exchanges within the relationship should never be disclosed to those outside the relationship. A committed relationship is a place where great trust and confidence should be maintained. By talking to others about private matters, you are violating that trust.

Sometimes when you allow others into the relationship, it can do more harm than good.

Professor Miller related a story about a husband and wife who got into an argument. The wife decided to call her parents to complain about the argument. Naturally her parents took her side and started to have very negative feelings towards their son-in-law. Shortly after the disagreement, the husband and wife calmed down and apologized to each other for what had happened. The problem would have been resolved; however, the wife’s parents could not get over their negative feelings. This continued to be a problem in the marriage long after the couple fixed the problem.

This goes beyond family to friends as well.

After being roommates with a few of my best friends for a couple of years before I got married, it was hard for me to not  go running to them to talk when I was upset about something in my relationship. They were there through my whole courtship with my husband and so I was used to telling them everything. Even though I wanted to talk to them about all my frustrations, I knew that my husband could lose trust in me and that they should stay private matters.

There are times where conversations with friends and family members about your relationship can be very constructive and helpful. However, it is important to consider how much information you are disclosing when seeking advice and that it does not threaten the trust your partner has in you. Also, those who you turn to for help should be openly supportive of your relationship or else it could be especially damaging.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that violations of martial vows, such as abuse and repeated infidelity, are not a private matter anymore. In order to keep marriage and individuals safe these kinds of problems should be disclosed to those outside the relationship to get the proper help.

The transition to marriage can be difficult. But I know that when you create a private and trusting environment by “cleaving to your spouse,” it can greatly strengthen your relationship in the end.