Leaving with Nowhere to Cleave

The past year or so has been a new kind of struggle for me. My relationship with my family has been changing. In the sense that I’ve been growing into a more independent individual. I’m more private about my affairs. I don’t solicit opinions for every major life decision. This all probably should have happened long before my 27th year, but some of us are slow learners ok? I’ve actually been making this journey for some time. Little steps here and there, but the ties of influence still remained stronger than they should for an adult child.  My decisions were still colored by the opinions of my parents. Essentially if Benjamin Moore made a shade called Parental Approval, my walls would have been covered with it.

The process has been somewhat painful in that change tends to sting. And my parents are having a difficult time of it. I think ultimately they will accept that the change in our relationship is a healthy one, and that it’s good that I don’t depend on them as heavily as I once did. But they still see it as losing their daughter on some level. It’s been difficult for all of us to find a balanced relationship that doesn’t require them to approve of everything I do. I attribute the abnormal amount of difficulty, in part, to my Christian background. Biblically speaking an individual leaves his or her parents and cleaves to their spouse.

But what happens to those of us who leave with nowhere to cleave? Without the logical breaking point signified by the life-altering rite of marriage, the transition can become muddled. We aren’t marrying as teenagers anymore. Some of us are waiting until our 30s, 40s or forever to tie the knot. When the wedding didn’t happen for me, I remained in this limbo between full adulthood and childlike dependence.

I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Most people (Christians and otherwise) probably figured out how to navigate around this archaic milestone to establish their complete independence on the first day of college, in their first apartment or after they took their first job. But not me. My dad was still the first person I called when my car broke down or when I lost my job. And it was great to have that relationship. I still hope elements of that will make their way into the new resurgence.


There are still things my parents instilled in me that will always be there. My core faith. My love and loyalty toward my family. But I’m beginning to accept that there may be dissonance on some of the lesser issues. And that doesn’t mean our relationship has to completely crumble. I think that’s been my biggest fear. Losing the relationship I have with my parents altogether. I’ve held on to what it has been. Refusing to let it change because if it’s not defined by the parent/child parameters, what could possibly be left?

I know. It seems stunted and ridiculous. But my identity has been so shaped by the eyes of my parents that if I disappointed them in even the smallest ways I felt I wasn’t being true to who I was. I’m learning now that being true to who I am is going to undoubtedly look very different than living the life my parents would want me to lead from time to time. Because it is not their own. This means I’m going to make some mistakes that I never would make if I followed every step my parents would take. But I’m also going to uncover a lot about what will make me happy in the long run.

It’s a bit scary. I know I’m going to disappoint them from time to time. And that is not a feeling I deal with very well. To their credit, they haven’t been unreasonably disappointed about much in the past, which is why I’ve come to value what they think to an unhealthy fault. But as my life has taken different turns and my path becomes more complex, I know I will choose a turn or two that they may not agree with. I just have to trust that altering our relationship does not mean ending it. And that I will always have a refuge in their home if I should ever need it despite diverging from the path they envisioned for me from time to time.