When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their intention to ‘consciously uncouple’ last month, the twitter-sphere went crazy. Not only is a Hollywood bust up big news, everyone wanted to know what ‘conscious uncoupling’ was. The LA counsellor who hosts a website with the name found herself inundated with calls and her website crashing.
Apparently, the term is a contemporary replacement for the ‘good divorce’ popularised in the 1980s. It is intended as a kinder, more humane way, to end a marriage and break-up a family.
Some have suggested that it’s just psychobabble designed to ease the guilt of divorcing parents, a necessary euphemism because the reality is too confronting. Divorce, whether it’s a ‘good’ one or a bad one, is always painful and tragic for those involved. There is no escaping that it represents the death of someone’s dream, even if that dream is so far buried by resentment and words spoken in anger that neither party can remember it. When there are children involved, the split inevitably ruptures their world and permanently undermines their confidence in the permanency of love; though they may be deeply loved by both of their parents, the fact that their parents no longer love each other is a soul-wrenching reality that clever phraseology simply cannot change.
Marrying well vs Divorcing well
While we congratulate the parents who aim to minimise the harm to their children from a divorce, it is an ironic reality that many put more effort into ‘divorcing well’ than they ever did into making their marriage work in the first place. One can’t help but wonder that if they can summon the motivation, for the sake of the children, to ‘consciously uncouple’, could they not equally choose to ‘consciously recouple’ and rebuild their marriage?
We’ve seen couples do exactly this. Typically, they turn up at one of our marriage seminars. In some cases, the meeting with the lawyers is already booked; they come along so that they can reassure themselves that they tried everything before proceeding with the divorce. Many times they have also attempted counselling with little success.
Our experience is that when both spouses are open and willing to participate, well structured ‘interventions’ like the SmartLoving seminar provides a constructive environment where they can productively deal with some of their issues. For most, a weekend seminar is not enough to completely ‘reset the marriage’, but for many it provides forward momentum and hope; which, for couples wanting to make their marriage work, is often enough to get them to take an exit ramp off the divorce superhighway.
Divorce is not a discreet event; the process starts without the couple even noticing. They begin to drift into independence and indifference as the busyness of life fills the space between them. Before they know it, there is an ocean between them and reclaiming their coupleness seems hopeless and overwhelming. In reality it does not take a lot to avoid this outcome, especially if we start early. ‘Conscious recoupling’ as a way of life is a far better option than ‘conscious uncoupling’ later in life!