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Should a wife cleave to her husband?

This is an important question that many wives face. Cleaving to one’s husband is a biblical concept that means a wife should be united to her husband. However, there are various viewpoints on what this means in practice. In this article, we will examine key questions around this issue:

What does it mean for a wife to cleave to her husband?

The word “cleave” in the Bible means to be glued or stuck to something. When applied to marriage, it is a call for the wife to be devoted and loyal to her husband. She is to forsake all others and be faithful and committed to her husband alone. It is a strong bonding of two people into one.

What are some reasons it is important for a wife to cleave to her husband?

Here are some reasons this concept is emphasized in the Bible:

  • It reflects the oneness of marriage where two become one flesh
  • It fosters trust, intimacy, stability, and faithfulness in the marriage
  • It models the commitment Christ has to the church
  • It provides a nurturing environment for raising children
  • It honors the leadership role of the husband in the family

Cleaving to one’s husband brings practical and spiritual benefits when done properly. It is a way for a wife to fully invest herself in the marriage.

What are some potential downsides if taken to an unhealthy extreme?

While cleaving to one’s husband is generally a positive concept, taken to an unhealthy extreme, it can lead to:

  • The wife losing her own identity and voice
  • The wife tolerating abuse or toxicity from her husband
  • Co-dependency where the wife relies entirely on her husband’s opinions
  • The wife unable to have healthy friendships or activities outside the marriage
  • Overly clinging to the husband out of insecurity versus mutual love and respect

So cleaving should not mean a wife is unable to have an opinion, identity, or life outside of her husband. Healthy cleaving recognizes the dignity and value of each individual.

What are key biblical principles on this issue?

The Bible gives us principles for how cleaving should properly function in a godly marriage:

Husbands should love their wives sacrificially

The Bible calls husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. This means loving sacrificially, being willing to die to self, and always acting in her best interests (Ephesians 5:25). A wife being united to a husband who loves this way will thrive.

Wives should voluntarily submit to and respect their husbands

Wives are called to voluntarily submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24). This is motivated by reverence for Christ and a trusting respect for her husband’s leadership, not demanded control. Submission becomes easier when the husband loves well.

Husbands and wives should serve one another

The Bible calls both husbands and wives to be servants to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Marriage should be marked by mutual service, honor, and love.

Husbands should be considerate and treat wives with gentleness

Husbands are instructed to be considerate as they live with their wives and treat them with respect. They are to cherish their wives as a delicate gift (Colossians 3:19, 1 Peter 3:7). This prevents misuse of leadership.

Wives and husbands both belong to God first

Our highest commitment is always to God. While we should cleave to our spouse, God must remain first in our lives (Matthew 22:37-38). This keeps the marriage relationship in proper perspective.

How can wives cleave to their husbands in a healthy way?

Wives looking to cleave to their husbands in a balanced, godly way should:

  • Have realistic expectations of marriage and their spouse
  • Maintain a vibrant personal walk with God
  • Pursue mutual understanding and good communication
  • Work through differences respectfully
  • Prioritize time together without distractions
  • Look out for one another’s emotional, physical and spiritual needs
  • Protect marital intimacy and faithfulness
  • Value their husband’s input without being controlled by it
  • Determine any potentially toxic or abusive dynamics
  • Cultivate other healthy relationships as well

Cleaving does not require a wife to go along with sin or dysfunction. Seeking help may be needed to improve the relationship.

Practical examples of healthy cleaving

Here are some everyday examples of healthy cleaving in action:

  • A wife considers her husband’s needs and perspective when making decisions about her life and schedule but thinks for herself
  • A wife lovingly discusses areas of disagreement with her husband instead of sowing division
  • A wife prioritizes time with her husband over other activities
  • A wife protects herself from toxic friendships or influences out of devotion to her husband
  • A wife cares for her husband’s physical needs like meals, clean clothes, and physical intimacy
  • A wife speaks well of her husband and protects his reputation

Healthy cleaving requires teamwork, communication, spiritual growth and mutual care.

What should wives do if their husbands are not loving them well?

When a husband is not fulfilling his biblical obligation to love his wife sacrificially, the wife’s response can help influence the situation for better or worse. Here are constructive steps for wives to take:

  • Pray for her husband and the marriage
  • Examine her own behavior and seek to change anything contributing negatively to the marriage
  • Respectfully communicate her concerns and desires to her husband
  • Suggest marriage counseling to get helpful perspective
  • Practice patience, continued love, and faith in God
  • Determine if boundaries or temporary separation are needed for safety in cases of emotional, physical, or substance abuse
  • Seek support from spiritual mentors and trusted friends
  • Consider separation if destructive behavior continues long-term

Wives should continue cleaving to the best of their ability while prudently seeking change.


The Bible calls wives to devote themselves to their husbands out of reverence for Christ. Cleaving fosters oneness, stability and faithfulness in marriage. However, it should not lead to a wife losing herself or accepting toxicity. Wives cleave best by maintaining their faith, engaging in mutual care and respectful communication, upholding intimacy and prioritizing the marriage. Even when facing relationship challenges, wives can cling to God and seek to positively influence their husbands. Cleaving in a balanced way allows wives to thrive in marriage without losing their identity in the process.