There can be an extremely difficult adjustment period when two people get married. Learning new roles, finding out about one another’s idiosyncrasies and weird habits, experiencing the withdrawal of “honeymoon” romance, and a variety of other issues all get in the way of starting a new family off on the right foot.

I grew up playing video games–a lot of video games. My wife’s family did not play any video games. Before we got married, she knew that I played a lot of video games, but she did not have the categories in her brain to understand just how obsessive I was with them. This obviously led to daily fights about the way I used my time, my love for her, and my idolatry of video games. By God’s grace, video games are not an idol to me anymore and I am using my time much better, but this is an example of something that hurt me and my wife as we started our new family.

As if uniting two people into one life isn’t complicated enough due to personalities, interests, weird habits, and–most importantly–sin, it can be much more damaging that most people do not have a solid grasp on the basics of starting a new a family.

What do we do with family get-togethers? How do we handle in-laws? What is the basis of our marriage? Is marriage a long-term roommate commitment with conjugal benefits, or is it something different? How can we pursue “happily ever after”?

God gives us practical advice for starting a new family IN THE SECOND CHAPTER of his book to us! It is important to him that we navigate well the awkward and difficult waters of starting a new family.

Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

In this first post, we will focus on “shall leave his father and mother,” in the next post we will focus on “hold fast to his wife,” and in the third post we will cover “and they shall become one flesh.”

What Does Leave Mean? 

The word “leave” means “to depart from a place, with implication of finality.” A good, simple definition in this context is to “severe, cut ties, or shift loyalty.”

The nature of the relationship between a person and their parents changes when they get married. This involves a choice by the child to leave his/her parents behind and pursue a new life with their spouse. This does not mean that a child stops being a son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle (1 Timothy 5:8). But rather, this means that in light of your new relationship with your spouse, all other relationships become secondary. This will probably involve pain and an adjustment period for all the parties involved, but it is necessary for a marriage to form the right way.

I don’t know of a better illustration of not “leaving” than “Everybody Loves Raymond.” This show is primarily about Deborah, the wife, and how she puts up with Raymond and his inability to detach from his family. They live next door to Raymond’s parents. Raymond’s mom is constantly passive-aggressive toward Deborah. Raymond is constantly sneaking over to his parent’s house for his mom’s cooking. Raymond’s parents constantly come into their house unannounced. Raymond, sometimes accidentally, includes his parents in arguments that he had with his wife. It’s a mess!

What Does “Leaving” Practically Look Like? 

  • We seek to understand and appreciate our spouse’s family culture. If we love someone, we will want to understand where they came from and what values have shaped them. If they are important to our spouse, they should be important to us, even though those relationships are secondary.
  • We prioritize the husband/wife relationship. The husband/wife relationship is primary over all relationships, including: moms, dads, children, sisters, brothers, grandparents, and friends.
  • We go to our spouse first with problems or blessings. We should go to your spouse first with good news or bad news. This does not mean that friends, parents, or siblings don’t know what’s going on, but the spousal relationship takes priority.
  • We handle our spousal arguments in-house. We should not go to our parents if we have an argument. Forgiving and asking forgiveness quickly is necessary for a good marriage, but parents should almost never be involved in the mediation or advice-giving of reconciliation.
  • We set up reasonable get-togethers for family fellowship times. Frequent get-togethers can be a good thing. Some will be able to get together weekly. Others will be able to get together quarterly. We should do whatever maintains our spousal relationship as the primary relationship while loving our other family members.
  • NO COMPARISONS! Comparisons to “how mom did things” or “how dad did things” undercut the marriage relationship. These comparisons breed insecurity and bitterness toward the in-laws.
  • We, as in-laws, refuse to talk about our our children’s arguments with our spouse. It may feel good to help our children when their marriage is struggling, but our children need to learn how to handle their problems in-house in order to keep their spousal relationship primary.
  • We, as in-laws, direct our children to share blessings and trials with their spouse first. We need to encourage our children to talk to their spouses before they pour out all of their problems on us or share huge successes with us.

The Gospel and Leaving

Marriage exposes a wide variety of sins in our lives, but we sin against God in many ways. God must always punish sins. Jesus Christ died to receive the punishment for our sins so that we will not have to endure God’s punishment for sins in hell. Through his sacrifice, we find forgiveness and grace. Through his resurrection, we find a new life and a nature of love.

If someone truly receives this new nature, his/her way of thinking and heart’s desires change. I have experienced God’s new life. Suddenly, my sin disgusted me. It no longer felt ok to sin. It didn’t feel like I was being true to who I was, or rather, who God had made me.

But it wasn’t just my attitude toward sin that changed. Even my attitude toward money, my future goals, my friends, my family, and my hobbies changed. God was not calling me to walk away from all of my relationships, goals, and hobbies, but he was calling me to prefer him above everything.

In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, he was calling certain people to follow him as he journeyed so that he could teach them and partner with them in ministry. Luke 5:27-28 records an interaction between Jesus and Matthew (also known as Levi):

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And LEAVING everything, he rose and followed him.

In the same way that a new family relationship should change the way we interact with our old family, a new relationship with God should change the way we interact with this world. This doesn’t mean we should leave the world and become a monk on a secluded mountaintop, but it means that all relationships, hobbies, interests, and goals should be secondary to our relationship with God. The mark of a true disciple is someone who values his relationship with God above all earthly things.