Want To End Your Marriage? Try Conscious Uncoupling

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Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin just announced their "conscious uncoupling", but what is it?

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin just announced their "conscious uncoupling" and it has brought up new questions for some people and a media conversation about what endings might look like in a long term, committed partnership.

See Paltrow's blog

Conscious uncoupling or what I call intentional divorce is more common than ever before. The move toward a more intentional uncoupling in marriages, a committed partnership or family is a positive one in a society where divorce rates still hover at about 50-60%, and second and third marriages are common.  When marriage seems to have an expiration date, it's the endings that are traumatic, and we need a new way in our society to deal with the finality.

No one wants to get divorced if it means we tear each other apart, but sometimes a marriage is over and we have to leave in order to start a new life. And we don't want to throw each other to the wolves in court, suffering an adversarial legal battle where the winner takes all. We want to end our marriages well. We want to know that we have our children's best interests in mind, and that we are protecting ourselves and our partner's financial interests for the future. And divorce can be, well, let's face it, emotionally devastating. However, there isn't a lot of good advice about how to do it well.

Today we have choices. We can choose a "collaborative divorce" where both attorneys commit, in writing, to a process without fighting or instigating a legal battle. Both parties can share a mediator, someone who can help negotiate the parenting plan, the financial arrangements of splitting property and savings and filing paperwork. Divorce doesn't have to be frightening and create a world of hate. Nontheless, what if you are in that emotional space where you don't want to be nice to your soon to be ex? The following is a list of reasons to end your marriage or partnership consciously.

Reasons To End Your Marriage With Intention:

  1. If you don't end it well, you may jeopardize the new relationship you can have for the future, as co-parents.
  2. If you don't do this with integrity and respect, you could potentially hurt your partner's feelings, which could mean they may want to hurt yours, in order to find closure for the divorce. The process could drag on for a lifetime. Neither of you will find emotional satisfaction in this.
  3. Some partners who feel disrespected may create more chaos in the divorce, complicating the legal process and dragging it on, making financial pressures greater for both of you now and in the future.

Rules of Disengagement:

  1. Be clear.
  2. Make sure you are clear that you want to end the marriage.
  3. Let your partner know that you are not interested in pursuing continued therapy if you are done.
  4. If you want to try one more time, be specific about what you will or will not do. (For instance, if you are willing to try six sessions, stay with the treatment for the whole six sessions.)
  5. Set boundaries. (Try to maintain a "light and polite" relationship, avoid personal discussions where sharing feelings may trigger arguments.)
  6.  Make amends. Tell them you are sorry for hurting them, leading them on, or getting them into this mess in the first place.
  7. Show empathy. Try to relate to how they are feeling, and take responsibility for your part in the marriage ending this way.
  8. Admit Ambivalence. Make it clear to them that you have to end the relationship, although you may have regrets and even ambivalence.
  9. Thank them. If you feel it, thank them for all that they have shared with you.
  10. Share priorities. Let them know that you are working on an intentional divorce and that your relationship with your children is your priority.
  11. Commit to ending the marriage with integrity: This will let your partner know that you are not setting out to devastate them legally, emotionally or financially.
  12. Be patient. Your partner is still catching up. You are way ahead. Let them have the feelings that you may have had long ago.

Remember, you don't have to go through this alone. Get help. Find a therapist who is familiar with conscious uncoupling or intentional divorce,  or find a support group. For more information on Relationship Therapy, Intentional Divorce, Intensives or Retreats for Couples, or trainings for therapists, please go to www.drtammynelson.com

Dr Tammy Nelson is a licensed relationship therapist and the author of The New Monogamy, and can be found at www.drtammynelson.com

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