My wife and I just celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. I can say, without hesitation, that I love her more today than on the day I married her — and I loved her a lot then. One word comes to mind when I describe my relationship with my wife: friendship. We are friends. We started as friends and we remain friends.

Once you get married, you become many things. You become husband and wife. Eventually you might become mother and father, and even grandmother and grandfather. You become partners in life, and even in business. But in the process of becoming all these things, you can lose sight of the original purpose of marriage. That's probably what prompted someone to say that marriage can be a three-ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering. But let's look at what God says about His plan for marriage:

"But for Adam there was not found a help meet for him. And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam,... And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said: 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh....' Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:20–24 KJV)

The above passage sums up two essential elements of marriage: leaving and cleaving. First you must leave. Then you must cleave.

First, marriage begins with leaving — a leaving of all other relationships. The closest relationship outside of marriage specified in the passage above is that of a child with his or her parents. If leaving your father and mother is necessary, then obviously all lesser ties must be broken, changed, or left behind. A man's full commitment must be to his wife. A woman's full commitment must be to her husband.

Unfortunately, this process of leaving never takes place in many marriages. A spouse may think, "If things don't work out, I'll run home to Mom." Or, "If things don't work out, I'm going to run to my old friends and hang out with them." But husbands and wives should be friends. Not only that, they should be best friends. It's good to honor your parents and love them. It's good to have other friends. But you should have only one best friend in your life, and that should be your husband or wife. Cultivate the friendship in your marriage.

Next, you must cleave. What does it mean "to cleave?" From the text in Genesis 2, it means "to adhere to, to stick to, to be attached by some strong tie." You might be thinking, "Yes, that's me. I'm stuck!" But that isn't the meaning here. In the original Hebrew, this verb form speaks of doing something aggressively. In other words, you're not stuck to something like a fly on flypaper, trying to get loose. Rather, you're holding on. Imagine walking along the edge of a cliff and suddenly losing your footing. As you go over the side, you grab a branch and hold on to it. It's something you've done by will, because your life depends on it. That's the implication of the word cleave here.

Therefore, I must periodically examine my life and ask myself if any relationship or pursuit in which I'm currently involved would put distance between my wife and me. Will it draw us together or drive us apart? Will it build our relationship or tear it down? It is not always the big things that bring a marriage down. It is often the small things. As the Scripture says, it's "the little foxes that spoil the vines" (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV). In marriage, it can be neglect, or the unwillingness to hold on tightly to your spouse.

Friendship. Companionship. Closeness. These lay the foundation of your marriage. Concentrate on leaving and cleaving. Evaluate all other relationships in light of your relationship with your spouse. Make your wife your best friend. Make your husband your best friend. Start communicating like never before. Work on your marriage. Seek to make it better. As you aggressively do your part, following the counsel of Scripture, God will do His part and will bless your home.

Leaving and cleaving: they're God's essential principles. It's Marriage 101.