We in California are often bombarded with the latest celebrity divorce gossip, and it can sometimes influence how we perceive the entire divorce process to be, because it seems like the tabloids make every juicy morsel in the process seem far more (or less) dramatic and upsetting than it really is. With some of these famous couplings lasting mere months, to the ones that break our hearts because we though they would stand the test of time, many of these stories fascinate us. When it come to your own legal separation or divorce, though, how feasible a goal is it to try to model such a personal situation after the rich and famous? Back in 2014, when actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin announced their “Conscious Uncoupling”, the term inspired its share of satire and ridicule not because it seemed like a bad idea, but because it seems so out of touch for regular people with actual emotions and real-world grievances to achieve. Now that Ms. Paltrow is remarried and making the talk show circuits touting the happy state of her new marriage AND previous divorce along with a promised book on the subject, the American public is again forced to examine this complicated ideal.
If you ask the experts that commented on Paltrow’s Goop website, conscious uncoupling "brings wholeness to the spirits of both people who choose to recognize each other as their teacher." While THAT may seem a bit esoteric for most of us, what it really means is that former partners put aside blame in favor of effective co-parenting and/or emotional well-being.
The term, coined by relationship expert Katherine Woodward Thomas, whose five-week program of the same name promises to "release the trauma of a breakup, reclaim your power, and reinvent your life." Where it differs from other break-up scenarios is that the couple believes that they have both tried to work through problems in their relationship without success. The decision to end the relationship, whether a marriage or long-term relationship, is made by both parties with an agreement to cause the least amount of damage to themselves, their personal integrity, and their offspring. Sounds like a sound concept, doesn’t it? And if both parties are equally financially solvent with substantial resources and neither is rubbing a new love interest in the other’s face, it also seems like a viable option. The problem with “Conscious Uncoupling” as cited by celebrity, is that most of us don’t live like that. Also, and this is the kicker, most of us have some sort of feelings of despair or anger that we are just too exhausted or busy to deal with because the realities of separating one life into two leaves little time for anything else. What the proponents of “Conscious Uncoupling” may not have to deal with is the practical matters of that split. Where am I going to live? Who is going to pay for daycare or school for the kids? What about clothes and groceries, and will I even be able to afford my weekly yoga class? EVERYTHING is going to change, therapy may not be an option at first because things are so up in the air. You want to take care of your kids, and it may seem more realistic to you to make it easier for them by pretending to table resentments because that is all you can manage right now. Finally, if there has been infidelity or abuse of any kind, this concept can be an impossible pill to swallow for the aggrieved party.
Sure, “Conscious Uncoupling” works out if you have multiple homes, and various sources of income is coming in to both parties. In these cases, many of the common stressors of the average separated couple can be bypassed in favor of immediate attention to emotional adjustment. When you are talking about giant sprawling properties with different housing structures situated across the landscape, it isn’t such a hardship to consider staying on that property with your ex to co-parent when the chances are slim that you will run into each other. The same can be said for those “family vacations” that former Hollywood couples like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner go on - new love interests in tow with the kids. Its difficult to imagine such a scenario involving regular folk who must worry about furnishing new apartments since they moved out of the joint home, much less enjoying tropical getaways in those first lean months/years of starting over.
Conscious Uncoupling is surely successful for the lucky few that have the time, finances, and lack of emotional distress. For everyone else, it’s probably best to call an experienced attorney…and they can hopefully recommend a good therapist.