Part of the Leaving Old Relationships to Embark on a New One Series
You can listen to Al and Lisa Robertson discuss their commitment in marriage, too: Staying Committed Through the Rough Seasons of Marriage
Al Robertson is the oldest son of Phil and Kay Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame. He and his wife, Lisa, along with Beth Clark, have written a book about their relationship and marriage.
When we married, we did so with the "benefit" of about 30 minutes of premarital counseling at a preacher's house. At least half of that time was spent with the preacher trying to talk us out of our wedding! We look back now and realize 30 minutes of good advice, instead of bad advice, might have helped us get off to a better beginning. In actuality, it would have taken months of solid biblical teaching and counseling to get us off the crash course we were on and put us in position for a great marriage.
One of the biblical principles from Genesis 2 is the principle of severance, which is commonly called the principle of "leaving and cleaving." That means to leave old relationships behind to embark on a new one. We’re not asked to discontinue the relationship with our father and mother — extended family relationships can add a wonderful dimension to healthy marriages. But "leaving and cleaving" does mean giving a relationship with a spouse priority over family-of-origin associations, and it means honoring the husband-wife relationship over the parent-child relationship.
When a man and woman become husband and wife, a new family is birthed. Often couples don't think of themselves as a family until their first child arrives, but that's not the case at all. A new family comes into being when two people join themselves together in the covenant of marriage. When couples leave and cleave, their marriage becomes a place of sanctuary (where they honor God in the relationship), retreat (from the pressures of life) and safety (from the work of the Enemy in various forms).
One of the things that hurt our marriage was that I did not sever my involvement in certain activities with my dad or my brothers after our wedding. Rather than spending my evenings and weekends with Lisa, I often goofed off with the boys and watched late-night television with Dad.
Although financial struggles created the need to live with my grandparents, Granny and Pa, next door to Mom and Dad, we now tell couples to try to start with their own space. The more independence a couple can gain from their parents and grandparents, the better, but this is a transitional time and it usually doesn't happen overnight.
The idea of severance is emotional and mental as much as it is physical. It's essential that we change our allegiance and shuffle our priorities. Even good relationships with parents, siblings, in-laws and extended family need to take second place to the marriage relationship.
Unity versus uniformity
Healthy severance sets a husband and wife free to be joined to one another. That joining — that coming together of two hearts, two lives, two sets of opinions, two of everything — is what unity is all about. When a couple commits to unity, the focus is not on what they're leaving behind but on the new and wonderful relationship they're entering.
But there's an important distinction between unity and uniformity. When one spouse tries to be just like the other or lives simply to please the other, that's uniformity, not union. Lisa struggled with this from the very beginning of our relationship; her goal was to please me. That may seem to work for a while, but ultimately people who conform in this way end up sacrificing who they really are — and become frustrated and resentful.
God created each person on earth with a unique design, and He did this for a reason. When two people come together to be joined in marriage, they bring their unique temperaments and personalities, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, dreams and disappointments, hopes and fears, habits and feelings. They may also bring different ideas about practical matters such as money management, how to spend holidays and how to raise children. In an ideal marriage, these differences become assets, not liabilities. Handled properly, differences make teams stronger and keep life interesting.
One key to making these differences work for us and not against us is respect — looking to see what's good about our differences, not what's wrong about them. Another key is deferring to each other's strengths and allowing the other person to take the lead in his or her area of giftedness. In unity, no one gets his or her way all the time. Unity means knowing when one person needs to step up and the other needs to back off. If the same person is always out front, that may indicate domination, manipulation or control, certainly not unity.
Think about it this way: A university is one institution, but it includes multiple colleges. In the word university itself, we can see the ideas of both unity and diversity. No one expects the college of pharmacy to be like the college of art. In fact, the quality of the entire university depends on each college excelling in its specific area of focus. If they are all excellent and work together as parts of a whole, the university is stable and strong.
In joining together as a husband and wife, God wants to blend everything about one person with everything about the other, for the sake of strengthening both. The heart of unity is the blending of all these things into a unit that functions successfully in the world, blesses other people and brings honor to God. The goal is not conformity, where two people are exactly alike, but unity, where two are free to be who they are so they can complete each other as they celebrate their differences and mingle them together for the good of the relationship.
Joining together in true unity takes humility, perseverance and sometimes creativity. But when both spouses are willing to offer themselves completely to the marriage, let go of what may not be helpful about themselves and embrace what is valuable in each other, great things can happen.
Our current season
The season Lisa and I find ourselves in now is an exciting one. We are praying and planning on our marriage being strong, being healthy and growing until one of us goes home to be with the Lord. We are experiencing tremendous thrills with the coming of our grandchildren, and that season seems to be far too short. We are launching into a new season professionally as well.
After 22 years in full-time ministry at our home church, White's Ferry Road Church, Lisa and I left our jobs at the church in 2012 to rejoin the family business, Duck Commander, and particularly the Robertson family's hit television show, “Duck Dynasty.”
The time Lisa and I have been able to spend with my family has been a tremendous blessing to us. We travel a lot with Mom and Dad and thoroughly enjoy getting to spend so much time with them. We bought a house on the same street as Willie and Jase, and then Jep followed suit and bought one on that street, as well. For the first time since Lisa and I and our baby daughters left our house on the river in 1989 halfway through preaching school, the four brothers are living together in the same neighborhood.
We eat a lot of meals together, work together filming the show, appear together at events around the country and attend church together when we are home. We also fuss sometimes, get on each other's nerves, and have to apologize and forgive each other. We live in both an ideal and real world with our family. We are not perfect, but we all have given our lives to a perfect Savior, which makes things work very well for us.
This article is an excerpt taken fromA New Season: A Robertson family love story of brokenness and redemption by Al Robertson, Lisa Robertson and Beth Clark. Their newest book, The Duck Commander Devotional for Couples, will be available in February 2016.
For more from A New Season, read "Seven Ways to be Respectable" and "Seven Ways to be Lovable."