This article is from Linda Solomon, a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Dallas-Ft Worth area. She is actively involved in the collaborative approach to divorce, working as a neutral team member focusing on the family. She has served as a Board member of The Collaborative Law Institute of Texas and The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
Earlier this week, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced that they were getting divorced, but they did something more than that — they introduced many of us to a concept called “conscious uncoupling.” As explained on Paltrow’s own lifestyle website, Goop, “conscious uncoupling” is a process by which couples can focus on healing and preparing for post-divorce life, rather than hanging on to the “story” about all the things their partners have done wrong to create the need to divorce.
The New York Daily News has a good summation of the points in Paltrow’s article — essentially, because people now live longer, and because our society is still relatively new to the concept of being with the same partner for 25 to 50 years, that it’s perhaps not the measure by which we should determine a relationship to be successful. Part of the philosophy behind conscious uncoupling is that we need to reassess divorce and not think of it as failure. Many of us know someone who divorced years ago and has yet to “forgive” himself/herself or the former spouse.
The other parts of conscious uncoupling — having to do with the healing process and the focus on each partner’s growth, and exploring the issues that the marriage revealed for each partner — is in line with the work that couples do in collaborative divorce. The concepts of conscious uncoupling, as defined by Marriage and Family Therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, are in line with those that are encouraged in the collaborative divorce process. Since there is no court intervention in the collaborative process, the couples have the opportunity not to see one another (or their lawyers) as adversaries and instead to work together to create a positive outcome for the family.
If couples go to court, the process defines them as adversaries, and they’re likely to see each other as adversaries even beyond the final divorce decree. If they work together as collaborators on settling their divorce, though, and have ownership over the final decree, they’re working on the skills they’ll need to be effective co-parents or just former spouses, with a healthier mindset than if they were combatants.
I applaud Paltrow and Martin for not only the dignity and bravery they’re showing with this public announcement, but using the announcement as a way to introduce people to a healthier conception of the divorce process. Even if the workshops associated with conscious uncoupling only find a niche audience, I believe that more people will look for better ways to divorce, and come to realize that the collaborative process has been here for years, growing and evolving to meet the emotional needs of couples going through this challenging time in their lives. Each time a couple consciously chooses a process to divorce that is less adversarial and more respectful, everyone in the family wins.