The world of celebrities seems to greet us on an almost daily basis with yet another superstar couple that have decided to go their separate ways. Trust me when I tell you that I don't always even know the players. A few years back, a magazine contacted me for a quote about a famous couple divorcing. I had to ask my wife who they were. So, forgive me if I am a bit weary of the media attention on the ending of relationships.
If only they would cover the continuing successful relationships. Then, perhaps, we would be treated with a positive outlook on relationships and the potential for love and commitment, even in the relationships of people in the limelight. When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced the ending of their relationship, though, it may have brought another question to mind. Instead of deciding to divorce, Paltrow and Martin have decided to "consciously uncouple."
This is a new term for most people. But have no fear, it simply means they are divorcing. They may be doing it more peacefully than others (think back to Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards), but they are still deciding to divorce. Paltrow and Martin announced the ending of their relationship in a short note, followed by a longer article about Conscious Uncoupling. The question will arise for many people, "Is this something I should do?"
When a marriage is in trouble, we often look for justifications for any easy way out. People naturally seek permission to escape their problems.
In reality, this process of "conscious uncoupling" is really not much different than people saying, "I am choosing to not eat as much food" instead of saying "I am on a diet."
In the end, the end is the same. Paltrow and Martin will divorce and a person will be on a diet. Let's just follow that analogy for just a moment. There are healthy ways to diet and their are unhealthy ways. Some people opt to give up sugary, processed foods and switch to more veggies or other healthy foods and others simply choose to drop their caloric intake. They starve themselves instead of becoming healthier in their diet.
The same is true in divorce. Some people do make a conscious decision to not fight, not be destructive, and to make healthy choices for children and their assets. They decide to co-parent their children peacefully and decide not to spend all their money on attorneys, just to demonstrate their anger. Others take a "scorched earth" strategy, destroying everything they can—even if it takes a price on the person destroying everything. But let's be clear: there is still a divorce.
In the article that follows the announcement, Drs. Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami give their rationale for the need to "consciously uncouple." Their primary reason that we need this? Because we live longer than we used to! Unfortunately, Sadeghi and Sami use a false fact to prove their point. They note that in paleolithic times, the lifespan was 33. They further note that in the 1900s, the life expectancy for men was 46 and 48 for women. The rationale is that we now live so much longer that perhaps we can't sustain a relationship for a lifetime. That is their reason. Their reason is a) false and b) not based in fact.
The quoted "life expectancy" figures they note are an average. In other words, if a baby dies in childbirth and another person dies at 100, the "life expectancy" is 50. In paleolithic times and in the 1900s, infant mortality was very high. In paleolithic times, a tribal disagreement could turn deadly and a cut could lead to mortal infection. In the 1900s, tribal warfare was less an issue. But antibiotics were still in the future.
If you made it to adulthood, and if you didn't fall victim to an infection or illness, your life expectancy was much like the expectancy of life today, but with one exception: You were likely healthy, fit, and able to stay active. In other words, a rationale that says: "We are not designed for such long relationships" has no grasp of the fact that people have stayed in family units for millennia, and did so for as long as many people today.
I do like one aspect of the "conscious uncoupling" approach. I just disagree that it necessarily means you need to "uncouple." In fact, I would suggest the foundational piece of the process could be used to "consciously couple." In the Conscious Uncoupling process, both people have to take on responsibility for their role in the marriage problems. Too easily, people want to point a finger at the other person. They want to shift responsibility away from themselves and toward to spouse.
In other words, they want to blame the spouse for the breakdown of a marriage. Remember that being "responsible" means "able to respond," that we all are capable of responding in a wide variety of ways. We have the option of responding in ways that are healing as well as in ways that are destructive. Conscious Uncoupling seeks to heal those points of irritation and conflict by looking within to see why those issues are within you.
This same approach can be used to heal a relationship. By looking at personal responsibility, it is possible to seek healing and wholeness. It is possible to re-form the team. When you do that, you become what I refer to as a WE. Then, there is no reason to "uncouple." You have simply shifted to being conscious and responsible.
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