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The news this week was that actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay front man Chris Martin are splitting, or as they put it “conscious uncoupling.”

In a joint statement, the couple that married in 2003 said:

“We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.”

So what’s conscious uncoupling? According to Paltrow’s lifestyle guru Dr. Habib Sadeghi: conscious uncoupling

“A conscious un-coupling is the ability to under-stand that every irritation and argument was a signal to look inside ourselves and identify a negative internal object that needed healing … From this perspective, there are no bad guys, just two people, each playing teacher and student respectively.”

It isn’t too hard to guess what their divorce might look like; if you’re doing anything consciously, that means you are putting thought and care into your actions  — and that is exactly what should happen during a split (and conscious coupling is what Susan Pease Gadoua and I promote in our book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels). And if there are no “bad guys,” no one’s pointing fingers and laying blame. That matters a lot because study after study have confirmed that it’s parental conflict — not divorce per se — that hurts children, and the couple have two, Apple, 9, and Moses, 7.

What I like about the idea of conscious uncoupling is that does not have the stigma of “failure” attached to it. People tend to see a marriage that ends in divorce as a failed marriage even though not every ending is a failure.

And, sadly, people still say they feel a sense of shame if their marriage ends, and some 46 percent of those who do divorce feel they face “daily judgment” from others because their marriage ended.

I did a Google search to learn more about conscious uncoupling and stumbled upon Katherine Woodward Thomas, creator of a five-week conscious uncoupling program and evidently the woman who created the concept. She says we need to rethink the heartbreak we feel when a romance ends:

“The problem is that we’ve all been taught to end our relationships in ways that often guarantee just these kinds of painful results. … The end of your relationship doesn’t need to be a painful ‘breakup.’ It can simply be a completion, and it can also be a wonderful transition into the next stage of your life . . . and your next relationship.”

Few would say that divorce is “wonderful,” but it’s true that it can lead to a happier, healthier life. After all, many men marry again successfully and many women focus on nurturing themselves after years of care-taking kids and husbands and find new partners as well. There shouldn’t be any shame or sense of failure for turning an ending into a new beginning.

While it’s always hard to divorce when there are young kids, Paltrow’s and Martin’s emphasis on being good co-parents is also essential, and it’s much, much easier to do that if you can be kind and loving to your former spouse. And it looks like that’s how they’re handling it.

I imagine some may make fun of their conscious uncoupling; for some reason, Paltrow is unpopular in some circles. But I love the idea of conscious uncoupling and wish more people would think that way, not only for their own sake, but also for their loved ones.

  • What do you think of conscious uncoupling?
  • Could you end a romance with compassion for your former partner?
  • Do you see every breakup as a “failure”?

Photo © holwichaikawee/Fotolia.com

One Response to “Is conscious uncoupling a better way to divorce?”

  1. Kent says:

    There was an article on BBC this morning, apropos :
    Just what is ‘consciously uncoupling’?

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