"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen 2:24).
Though we often use the word, "cleave," in our wedding ceremonies, elsewhere in our times it is mainly used of a meat cleaver that cuts things apart. Certainly not what God intended by Moses' inspired comment! The Hebrew word means to cling but few translations use that and also have the true meaning of "one flesh." The word for cleave also means "adhere," in our vernacular, "stick like glue" or to "cling like Velcro." Obviously God intends that the husband hold the woman fast to him in a special way that is unique, different from any other relationship.
Unquestionably, God intends "one flesh" to be a full-time occupation and it is the man's primary responsibility. "What God joined together" stays together though geography separates the couple by hundreds of miles. The importance of developing this relationship is emphasized by the use of the same word in the same way in the Shema, "Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah" (Deut 6:4). Though we understand that God is three persons, He is ONE. In the same way, the husband is to leave all else to make himself one with his wife. Perhaps God intended this relationship as it approaches its ideal to teach us about Him. If so, treating it casually reflects our disdain for God.
Becoming one first requires leaving. Moses refers to "father and mother" as the ultimate that a man must put behind him. They were the first people he knew and the first and primary relationship in his life. Again, geography has little to do with leaving and especially in that society where generations of extended family lived together. Jacob was probably not the first "Mama's boy" and he certainly has not been the last. Not only must he leave, the husband must act so decisively that his wife is confident of her primacy. "The way Mama did it" and large amounts of time spent with his family with or without the wife indicate a failure to leave. He must never allow his parents to criticize his wife even if that requires strong measures. I often tell Dene that she is my "only." My actions prove that is not just "sweet nothings."
Parents are not the only obstruction to leaving and cleaving. Many men I have worked with spent more time hunting and fishing with their buddies than they spent with their wives. Hobbies can be wonderful and useful to a man's character, but when they regularly occupy more time than she does, the wife is justified in feeling that she is nothing more than a cook and a sex object to him. Couples who both work outside the home and for whom household chores occupy much of their time together must make special effort to keep their relationship strong. The fact is that they both spend more time with and have more conversation with co-workers than they do with one another. Children become another separator. If care is not taken, time will pass and no glue will remain to adhere them to one another; occasional sex will become the only sense of "one flesh" that remains.
Oneness must be nurtured with care—make mutual decisions about everything: where to live, whether to take a promotion, where to worship, the standards and rules to apply to raising children, whether she works outside the home and the division of labor for the housework. What others think does not matter. Otherwise, you neither left nor are you cleaving. A husband demonstrates commitment to his wife by never even thinking about flirting with another woman and the wife should see this and have this confidence. He must never criticize her to others, and care must be taken to not fight in front of the children. Not only must he not criticize, he must not allow others to criticize her in his presence. I should not have to say that women never appreciate male humor and she is well aware that "many a truth is spoken in jest. Don't. Just Don't.
Timothy was likely in his forties when Paul admonished, "flee youthful passions" (2Tim2:22). If he was not speaking of "midlife crises" than application certainly exists. Men begin to realize their dreams conceived in youthful idealism will never happen and they go wild in pursuit of youthful fancies. Observation leads me to believe that well over half of all Corvettes are owned by men over 40 which is also true for Harley motorcycles. "Arm candy" for gray headed men has spawned a major industry in Viagra and Cialis. Leaving and cleaving and one flesh are left in Satan's dust as husbands think of little but Self.
Many married couples have lived together for years in various residences and are no more married than the shacked-up couple who sees no need for a legal piece of paper to validate their relationship. The unmarried couple has a point, a piece of paper does not make a couple married in the sense God intends—He must leave and cleave, she must submit, he must dwell with her according to knowledge, he must love her as Christ loved the church, he is to lead and he is to nourish and cherish her. Notice how heavily these foundations of marriage are weighted toward the husband—this is the responsibility of being head. "Head" is not a right. If theirs is not a marriage that emulates the relationship among the Godhood, then the failure is his.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. (1Pet 2:18).
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, (1Pet 3:1).
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1Pet 3:7).