• Facebook
  • Feed

Recent Posts

31 Mar

Conscious Uncoupling - A Fad or Can it Really Work?

Written by 

Can we all be as new age as Gwenyth and begin to call our divorces "Conscious Uncoupling"?  What exactly does that mean? I did a little research on Goop, Gwenyth's site and read the information from Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sams to understand the terminology and to see if it is a concept that might apply to those of us in the "regular" world.

According to Drs. Sadeghi and Sams, the theory is based on the idea that our life expectancies have dramatically shifted over the last few centuries. When people only lived to 50, it wasn't unreasonable to expect a marriage to last a "lifetime" but with life expectancies into the late 70's and 80's it might place "too much pressure" on couples to expect to be with one person for 50 or 60 years.

That information combined with a natural shift in the nature of marriage, can cause conflict. According to the Drs., the first part of marriage is filled with idealization where each partner projects their positive thoughts on the other. Once the "honeymoon" phase is over and reality sets in, partners begin to project their negative projections on each other.  My sense is that means that we see the flaws in our partners and these flaws may trigger old wounds that we have within us.  Partners may tend to blame each other for these imperfections and feel disappointment in the expectation that the other isn't perfect or they can fix the old hurts within. This causes resentment and anger and if the marriage falls apart this is magnified by grief and a sense of failure. Often this is where the divorce process begins.

The idea behind Conscious Uncoupling is to view this process not as a failure but as a natural step in our own personal progression. Instead of shielding ourselves from others and our former partner, the idea is for each of us to "evolve a psycho spiritual spine" that will support us internally regardless of what the environment or any particular partner throws at us. Moreover, it asks that we look at our partners as teachers who have been sent to help us look at and begin to heal our own hurts. Rather than resenting your partner, this concept asks that we thank our partner for the gifts they have given us to help us along on out personal journey.

While I'm not sure that I agree with the evolutionary impossibility of being with the same person for 50+ years, one can't deny that they divorce rate is at 50% or over. For those couples that choose divorce the concept of Conscious Uncoupling is a nice theory.  I agree with the assumption that many divorces are the result of unhealed wounds that are not properly "tended" by a mate. Often the spouse has no idea why their partner is so angry with them and the partner may not even be aware that old childhood hurts are being triggered by the behavior of the spouse.  One of the benefits of couple's therapy is that both partners can become more aware of their own hurts and how they are triggered by their partners. This can result in self growth but it is also possible that once a spouse is aware of the hurts they are triggering, they might be more compassionate in the relationship.

Yet it is true that sometimes this doesn't work and divorce is inevitable. In these cases it would be nice to see the relationship as one step in a personal journey to inner strength. That would be a nice way to think of an ex-partner, especially if there are kids involved in the split. It is respectful and honors the strength of both partners in the relationship. I have met some couples who might be able to do this in the initial stages of a divorce. These couples are usually well grounded, confident people who have the best interest of their children in mind. They consciously do not want to fight and understand that their continued conflict will only further harm the children.  As a therapist who sees both children and adults, I have seen far too many children who would have survived the stress of their parent's divorce without harm, had the parents treated each other respectfully after the relationship ended.

Sadly that isn't the result that I usually see. The idea of Conscious Uncoupling requires individuals to have a great deal of self awareness and to have the ability to see beyond their emotional pain to ways they can use their hurt to improve themselves and not focus on the flaws of their ex. Often this process requires individual therapy but it is possible and it is a noble goal, both personally and for the sake of any children in the relationship.

In conclusion, while I don't necessarily agree with the underlying assumption that humans weren't made to stay in one relationship for their whole life, I do think that in situations where divorce is inevitable, Conscious Uncoupling is a nice goal for being able to move on personally and to help the children of the relationship. Thinking of the ex as a teacher is a nice concept but in my experience, for. most people this will be an end point through a hard process of dealing with hurt. If Gwenyth and Chris are already there, more power to them!