Is ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ the New Divorce? The Search for a Better Way to End a Marriage

The concept of ‘conscious uncoupling’ was coined by psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, ‘to help couples negotiate the end of a romantic relationship with goodwill and respect in a way that enhances instead of destroys the lives involved, especially when children are present.’

If the phrase rings a bell, it’s probably because Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin used it in announcing their separation and subsequent divorce in 2014 – they wanted to maintain a positive, non-hostile relationship with each other during and after divorce. While most ‘normal’ divorcing couples might not actively ascribe to ‘conscious uncoupling,’ there are still ways to take the heat out of a divorce.

Does It Have to Be This Way?

If you’ve ever found yourself curled up in a fetal position for days on end, curtains drawn, emails and calls unanswered, moving only to wipe the tears from your face… you aren’t alone. With between 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce, if you haven’t found yourself reeling from a break-up, you probably will.  Breakups can be a nightmare and make even the strongest of us want to pull the covers over our heads and disconnect from life for days on end. When you can’t see past your hurt and loss, motivation to do basic self-care, from showering to eating, can be out of grasp.

Once the initial shock subsides, the pain and grief will come in waves, but you are able to return to normal functioning. You might find yourself wondering how you’re ever going to get yourself and your children, if you have them, to the other side of this overwhelmingly painful and confusing time. With all the hurt and devastation done to your life, it’s possible to move through the loss of a romantic relationship or marriage in a way that is kind and caring, so that no one, including yourself, is left with a million pieces to pick up.

Too Often, Hurt People, Hurt People

In a perfect world, most of us would aspire to an amicable ending to a marriage that offers ourselves and the others involved a soft place to land, but that is rarely the case. Most breakups are incredibly angry, hostile experiences that are filled with a tremendous amount of animosity. In spite of your good intentions, if you are hurting, you often hurt the ones who you feel are the root of your pain. So what is the process of conscious uncoupling and how can you turn your sights on leaving your relationship in a healthy manner?

Steps to Conscious Uncoupling

*    Protect yourself and your children, if you have them, from further harm in the dissolution of the relationship, by learning to navigate your breakup with dignity, honor, and respect, with or without your former partner’s cooperation.

*    Wake up to the fact that you are worthy to be loved and to love, even if the person you love is not loving you back in the ways you need them to.

*    Come to a place of deep, inner peace, by resolving the baggage you have been left with of grief, resentment, guilt, shame, anger, or hurt.

*    Use your heartache to propel you forward for any painful, recurring, relationship patterns that you can identify and trust in the possibilities you hold for health, happiness, and well-being in love and life as you move on.

*    Restore deep confidence in yourself, knowing you will never, ever again make the same mistakes.

*    Take all you’ve learned in the process of breaking up and discover how to authentically forgive yourself and others.

Conscious uncoupling may also reduce the legal problems that accompany many traditional divorces. Uncoupling suggests that the coming separation won’t be a battle between two sides, but instead a conversation and team effort, leading to resolution, not a battle. Divorces involve the drawing of lines and often include fights over visitation and who is entitled to what properties. Look at conscious uncoupling as a ‘pre-divorce,’ as you and your partner work through separating in a slow, calm and caring manner.

*Steps to conscious uncoupling are from the writings of Katherine Woodward Thomas.



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