Actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, recently made news by announcing that she and her husband, Chris Martin, will be divorcing in a humane way called “conscious uncoupling.” This is actually one of the methods by which couples can respectfully develop ways to care for their children and divide their property and debts. This reduces the level of stress, shields the children from witnessing their parents arguing and cuts costs. It actually refers to a 5 week course developed by a mental health worker. It also protects the family’s privacy.
Conscious uncoupling is not new. This method and similar methods have been around for decades. It’s helpful to us all to see celebrities like Paltrow and Martin using it, rather than some of the tawdry and highly visible ways that people, particularly celebrities, end up divorcing. The fighting may fuel gossip or sell magazines, if you are famous, but it isn’t good for your family or you. In the end, you are paying a lot of money to lawyers and not ending up with a good plan for your future.
Conscious Uncoupling acknowledges that divorce, separation or any major life transition is highly emotional. These charged emotions touch the way we approach child rearing, how we divide assets and debts and how the partners treat each other in the future. Initially, when one partner announces the relationship is over, the negative emotions are very high. They need a course like conscious uncoupling or the equivalent to get the emotions under control and develop a workable future plan. This can also be accomplished working with a therapist or a coach.
When the couple have sorted through the emotions, then it’s time to work on the legal and financial aspects of the divorce or separation. The key to a successful divorce or separation is being aware that this is a process. It involves grieving. It is important to work through the different stages of uncoupling.
Collaborative Practice is another form of conscious uncoupling. The team, consisting of mental health professionals (ideally one for each party), the neutral financial advisor and a lawyer for each party and a mediator, help the couple to get through these stages.
There is little point in trying to settle the legal and financial aspects of a divorce or separation while the parties are still really mad at each other or even when just one person is still really mad. The anger needs to be dealt with effectively.
Dealing with the law that impacts the particular aspects of your case without considering the financial effects, is also not effective.
Considering the long term impacts of legal and financial decisions on your emotion health is also only looking at part of the solution.
My hat is off to Ms. Paltrow and Mr. Martin for their thoughtfulness and respect for each other and their children to systematically and humanely restructure their family. We probably will not be reading much more about their divorce, since this is clearly an announcement that they are requesting privacy. Conscious uncoupling will allow them to engage in this very private process away from the public eye, just like all folks deserve.