After the creation and introduction of Eve, the Torah establishes that the natural pattern of things is that “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they will become one flesh.” Though I often mention these words while officiating weddings, as it points to the incredible love and bond that I am witnessing in the couple, there are important questions about the nature of relationships that come up when I read this text.
The verse mentions leaving the nuclear family, and though most Jews getting married today are not dissociating themselves from their parents to do so, there is a breaking open of the original family, with all the possibilities that this brings. Even in the most positive circumstances where the parents of the bride or groom fully embrace their child’s partner, there can be some sadness about the change in the dynamics within the nuclear family and new relationships need to be negotiated. This is especially true when there is friction with the new in-laws, or when the pre-existing relationship between the parent(s) and the newlywed(s) are problematic.
When a newlywed is overly influenced by his or her parents’ needs or that of his or her new partner, there is a lack of autonomy and differentiation for that individual that, in many cases, leads to suffering and conflict. How a couple understands “becoming one flesh,” whether about the focus on their biological fusion (i.e. children) or on their new close and intimate relationship, the success of the family system can very much be dependent on how the various relationships within the family system are negotiated and balanced so that each person can feel loved and important. May we all have a year of sweet new beginnings.