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Conscious Uncoupling vs Divorce

April 18th, 2014 05:00:00 am

Conscious Uncoupling vs Divorce

            Gwyneth Paltrow was recently praised—as well as criticized—when she announced that she and Chris Martin were not divorcing; they were consciously uncoupling. Rants about her need to be different, or somehow better than everyone else (who just get divorced), played across media wastelands as “news.” Something struck home with me about the very aware way in which Gwyneth and Chris decided not to use a term with so much baggage and negative connotations attached. I personally can't blame them for not wanting to use it.


            As a product of divorced parents, I was all too familiar with being used as a weapon. At times, I had to be the adult, even though I was still a child, because the adults involved (mother-father-stepfather) could not get their act together, much less their parental one. It wasn't until I was in my last twenties that I started giving ultimatums—instead of just receiving them. I started stating what behaviors would or would not be tolerated in my presence, and the closest I ever got to them being civil to each other was thirty-two years after the divorce.


            Going on to work professionally with blended families, broken families, and various degrees of dysfunctional families, I saw how friends, families, and society oftentimes fueled others to seek revenge, point the blame, act like perpetrators and victims in divorces. When there are children involved, the children are the ones who suffer the most. I have too often seen adults egging their friend on to stick it to their ex (or soon to be ex), or exploit the kids as the ultimate weapon: “If I don't get what I want, you can't see your children.” Long legal battles ensue. Sometimes the parent who is being punished chooses to walk away. They're demonized for it, even though sometimes fighting for kids makes it worse for kids in the long run.


            Years ago, I had the honor of officiating a divorce ceremony for a couple that I was close to; they had been married thirteen years. This was closer to the conscious uncoupling than the adversarial, take-no-prisoners-divorce. They released each other from their vows, thanked each other for everything they had experienced together, and wished one another well. Members of both their families attended. Their daughter, who was eleven, was there. Did they have people in their lives who wanted to make it acrimonious? Absolutely. But they chose not to give those people their power.


            I have been married and divorced (in the eyes of God) thrice. (Man is still catching up to recognizing all God Blessed unions because some people find differences threatening, but man is growing up.)


            The first two were much closer to the divorce of my childhood. Thankfully, neither union produced children. The first time, I got to play the victim. I was lied to, cheated on, and had the replacement flaunted in my face. For a while, I did play the victim card. Until I got over myself. The second time around, my ex needed me to be the full and present bad guy, and he needed to be the discarded victim. We were together for over seven years; I always said we had six and a half years of heaven and six months of hell. Like a lot of couples, heaven only lasted so long because of what I did not know. But knowing what I know now doesn't change the fact that I was happy then. I refused to go back and retroactively rewrite history to make the good times into bad.


            The third time was the charm—divorce-wise. We were together for seven years, and reached a point where following our individual dreams were not going to permit us to stay together. We came to the end of it mutually. We wrapped up our relationship with a divorce honeymoon in Majorca for ten days. We parted as loving friends, and have stayed that way, maintaining our connection as we moved onto other relationships. Again, no children, although there were cats. In the end, we resolved to do what was in the best interest of our cats.


            In actuality, I had two divorces and one conscious uncoupling. As an expert counselor with experience with divorces and conscious uncouplings both, I can adamantly state that they are not the same.


           Those out there who are bashing Gwenyth over the term “conscious uncoupling” have probably only known divorce. I assume that they haven't reached the place where they can understand or implement the principles of a conscious uncoupling into their own lives. It's okay. That's part of the growing up process I was talking about. Hopefully, we'll all get there—in this lifetime.



Image Credit: Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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