On March 25, Gwyneth Paltrow & Chris Martin announced their divorce after over a decade of marriage, using the phrase “conscious uncoupling.” This announcement hit very close to home, for my partner and I, after over 10 years together, separated in mid-March.
Conscious Uncoupling is an approach toward separation in which partners reject the traditional combative cruelty associated with divorce, and instead adopt a more mindful, loving, collaborative approach, “uncoupling” with grace and respect.
“There are no bad guys, just two people,” says author and psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, (creator of the Conscious Uncoupling 5 Week Program), “feeling valued and appreciated for all that is shared.”
With two children under 10, my partner and I definitely resonated with the loving and respectful approach, especially considering what I do and how devoted we are to co-parenting. It doesn’t make the separation any less painful, but it does help to acknowledge we are two people “extracting” ourselves from the relationship instead of severing our family.
Even with this approach, this break up is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Because my partner and I have always maintained a strong friendship, shifting boundaries has been the biggest challenge for me. We are working on redefining our friendship which takes time and is a process. Sometimes it becomes frustrating because there are awkward moments where I wish our interactions would be smooth and less uncomfortable but I have to remind myself that aside from redefining our relationship we’re each going through our own process of mourning the loss of what we had and what we thought our future would look like.
What I’m learning through this process is that it takes time and being patient is key in this process. I’m also learning that the best parts of my relationship with my partner remain. Once all the dust settles, the true friendship that we worked hard to develop and maintain will come to the surface. What gets in the way of me remembering that sometimes is the anxiety of our situation and fear that somehow because we’re no longer partners that will inadvertently undermine our friendship.
This situation could have turned out much worse had we both not agreed to honor and respect each other’s feelings during this process. Some of the ways in which we uncouple include:
1: Taking space, physically and logistically from each other. Even though we co-parent, we made it a priority to ourselves to take space, helping to initiate the healing process.
2: We engage in your own self-care. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and making new friends. Reestablishing ourselves away from the relationship and creating new memories is important to the process.
3: We allow time for the grieving. Mourning the loss of our relationship, dealing with the emptiness and awkwardness of our interactions requires effort. It’s not easy, but necessary. Giving ourselves permission to grieve allows time for the emotional residue to ebb and something new and healthy to emerge.
If you are going through a break up, attempting to uncouple can make the transition a little less rocky and can help you both heal quicker. I know it has helped give my own process a lot of integrity and dignity and allowed both my partner and I to be present and mindful of the journey. I hope the sharing of my story inspires you to approach your break up with respect and love and allow your own healing process to evolve.