Relationships are hard work, and sometimes they fall apart.
It seems when a celebrity couple announces that they're splitting, the talk (gossip) quickly turns to who was at fault and whether folks are surprised. When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin went public with their split recently, they were no exception to the rumor mills bandying about theories behind who did what and why. But that's not the most talked about part of their split.
Nope. What's being talked about most is their choice of phrasing. Much of the scuttlebutt and jokes are about the words "conscious uncoupling" used to describe the couple's decision to divorce. From my perspective, as a life coach that works with people both before and after divorce, approaching divorce in a conscious way can be a more positive and healthy way to look at the death of a relationship.
Let's be real: relationships take work.
When we first begin dating someone, everything is more easily seen in the rose colored glasses of newness and love. When we decide that yes, indeed, this person is “the one” for us, we strive and fight for happiness and love together. We agonize over every detail of the wedding and the honeymoon, but in reality, most couples really don’t create any kind of vision for what a daily life together will ideally look like or feel like.
Then, everyday life happens. We believe that now that we’ve reached the altar, the work is done. We give into the stresses of managing work worlds. We have children and realize that raising kids isn’t as easy as it looks.
We get lax in the maintaining of our happy state. We don’t make room for the growth of each person as an individual, which is always going to happen because no one remains exactly who they are in that moment when they go from single to coupled. We begin living an unconscious existence where you are going through the motions.
If you want a relationship to go to the distance, you understand that not everything will be easy. You communicate and you consciously choose to stay all in. You choose to fight for the health of your marriage, even when your exhausted with work demands, sick kids and aging parents. If you don't you will eat away your innate contentment. In order to maintain happiness as a couple, you have to be willing to do the work.
What can you do if you discover that you've gone unconscious in your relationship?
- Acceptance: Simply acknowledging where you are is the first place to start. Denial helps nothing.
- Decision: Decide that you want things to change. There is tremendous power in decision.
- You First: The first person to look at with a magnifying glass is yourself. Though we can influence others to change, the only person you can honestly change is yourself.
- Communicate: Open the lines of communication with your partner. Share specific examples of where you're feeling unheard or what you miss about the early days in your relationship.
- Envision: Create a vision of how you’d like to live your daily life, including your relationship. Be positive and detailed. After you’ve created a vision from your perspective, work with your partner to create a joint vision.
- Seek Help: Most couples wait too long to seek help. Marriage and Family therapists that specialize in couples therapy are a valuable asset. Alternatively, find a coach to help you get clear about what you desire. You don’t have to do it on your own.
- Prioritize: Make your marriage a priority. It's a priority over work. It’s also a priority over other family members, including aging parents.
- Make Time: Don’t get lost in being too busy for your partner. This includes being so busy being a parent that you neglect your role as spouse. Have a regular date night. Make time for conversation.
- Be Conscious: Approach each day of your life in a conscious manner. If you want romance, for example, then buy fresh flowers and light candles for dinner. Yep, even if you’re just having take-out.
- Be Realistic: Don’t expect your marriage to change overnight, but with conscious steps towards a joint vision, you can create a stronger relationship over time.
No matter how hard we work on a relationship after we realize that it's beginning to fall apart, sometimes, we're like the celebrities and realize that the best option for all the parties is to divorce.
If that happens, I hope that you choose conscious uncoupling over a nasty divorce.
This means kind and cordial discussions. This means communicating respectfully instead of name calling. This means mediation instead of lengthy court battles. And, if like Gwyneth and Chris, you have children, this means keeping the needs of your children at the forefront of all negotiations.
Conscious uncoupling may be a new phrase, but the intent behind it is about appreciating and honoring your partner, the relationship you shared, and the family you created as you move into a new phase of life.
Debra Smouse believes that within every woman is an Inner Sex Kitten just dying to go from "meow" to "roar". To connect with Debra, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook or Twitter, where she shares snippets of how she nurtures her own conscious relationship.
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