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For Your Spouse, “Cleaving” Probably Means Something Different than What It Means to You

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We read in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It is from this verse that we get the well-known saying that a husband “leaves and cleaves.” But for the husband who interprets this scriptural command to “leave and cleave” and become “one flesh” as purely sexual, I have some disappointing news to share with them. For most wives, cleaving does indeed mean a face-to-face closeness, but not in a sexual way. For her, this face-to-face closeness entails talking about the things that matter to her.

When she gives her daily report to her husband, she feels a rapport with him. She feels a heart-to-heart connection.

For her, cleaving is not sexual per se but emotional and spiritual.

However, do not despair, men!

Meaningful closeness between you and your wife can (and most often will) arouse her sexually. Heart-to-heart intimacy, for your wife, is the foundation of sexual intimacy. Generally, without that sense of heartfelt connection, the act of sex to her is less than meaningful.

A husband does himself a great favor when he recognizes how God designed his wife. Truth be told, to most women romance is the drama of life and sex is the intermission from that consuming drama. Meaningful sex is an expression of their nonsexual oneness. For her, the sexual intimacy she feels with her husband is a reflection of the emotional connection she feels she has with him.  

What does this connection look like? A husband:

  • Responds to her desire to be with him face-to-face.
  • Looks at her when she shares her heart with him.
  • Values her need to feel emotionally connected.
  • Is affectionate without sexual intentions.
  • Makes regular good-faith efforts to do the above.

Of course, a wise couple recognizes that no husband does any of these things to the extent that his wife desires. He will always fall short. No husband is perfect at being close, therefore no wife should expect her husband to always do these things perfectly.

Having said this, no husband can let himself totally off the hook in doing these things simply because he knows he cannot do them perfectly.

For this reason, each couple must decide, what is an acceptable good-faith effort at closeness versus what is a lack of good-faith effort at closeness?

She must allow for him to live his life and be distracted if not disinterested at times. He will not always be able to come home from a long, hard day of work and give her the face-to-face connection that she has been anxiously waiting for all day. And she must see that when she responds to his lack of heart-to-heart intimacy with critical, complaining, and contemptuous words, she actually pushes him away even farther than she already feels he is.

He, on the other hand, must not argue that her expectations about closeness are unrealistic, when his simply spending fifteen minutes each night to listen to her share about her day can energize her like few things can. Instead of walking away from her when she appears negative, he must allow for her negativity as her way of venting and experiencing catharsis.

Whether “cleaving” to you brings to mind more of a physical intimacy or an emotional one, don’t forget what God clearly intended in His command to “cleave.” To cleave to something or someone means to “adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly.”

Remain unwaveringly loyal and close to each other!

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. In your marriage, does the husband make good-faith efforts to love his wife by being close? Strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree, strongly disagree.
  2. In your marriage, does the wife respond favorably in a sexual way to the husband’s efforts to make face-to-face, emotional connections with her? Strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree, strongly disagree.
  3. What is a realistic plan of action for a husband, given he is less close than his wife desires, leaving her to feel unloved various evenings? What is a realistic plan of action for a wife, given her husband is closer than she acknowledges, leaving him to feel disrespected various evenings?
  4. How will you attempt to “cleave” with your spouse tonight in a way different than most nights?