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Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

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What Does it Mean to Cleave to Your Spouse?

What Does it Mean to Cleave to Your Spouse?

Do you ever wonder if your mate really knows you? Do you question whether or not he/she has made up their imagination of you to relate to?

“I don’t think he knows me at all,” Susan said, pushing her long blonde hair out of her eyes. “He stares at me when I’m talking, but never says anything that suggests he’s taking what I’m saying in. I think he makes up a version of who he thinks I am and then relates to that.”

Her husband of twenty-five years was sitting watching her. He made no comment to her painful suggestion. He sat woodenly without much noticeable emotion.

“What do you think about what she’s saying, Dan?” I asked. I wondered if her observation was true.

“Well, I care about her very much,” he said. “As far as what she’s suggesting, I have no idea.”

“The issue is this folks,” I said. “Intimacy is ‘into me see.’ It is true transparency and vulnerability. We ask what our mate is thinking. We stay tuned into what they are doing every day. We care about what they care about. We make changes they ask us to make. We speak their language. We make every effort to ‘get them.’ They do the same for us and this creates a powerful bond.”

“That never happens in our marriage,” Susan said, now visibly upset. “I can’t remember the last time Dan asked specific questions about my day. I don’t know when he remembered what I was doing in my day and then asked about it. I tell him ways to love me more effectively and it seems to go in one ear and out the other. I make efforts to care about what he cares about, but feel terribly dismissed and neglected by him.”

At this point Dan was clearly upset.

“I feel very inadequate to do the things she is asking,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m capable of loving her the way she wants to be loved.”

“While I can appreciate you feeling inadequate Dan,” I said, “I think that is what we have to do. Love and relationship requires that kind of energy.”

“You put that kind of energy into your job, Dan,” she added. “You know every possible investment to help your clients with their financial portfolio. You research investments. Why can’t you research me? There is a cost to really relating to me.”

Scripture certainly 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.

Please send responses to me at and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group, Thrive, for women struggling from emotional abuse. 

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