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Conscious Uncoupling: What It Means

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GWYNETH PALTROW
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Conscious Uncoupling Is About Compassion, Respect and Awareness

The phones have been busy here since Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their split, with media inquiries about what "Conscious Uncoupling" is all about. (For the record, Gwyneth interviewed us for her blog, goop.com, two years ago and cited our book, Conscious Loving, as one of her favorite relationship books.)

Here's a brief look at what Conscious Uncoupling is:

Contrast Conscious Uncoupling with the more traditional kind, unconscious uncoupling. In the unconscious variety, both parties engage in blame and bitter recrimination throughout much of the process. In unconscious uncoupling, one or both people are unable to discuss important items such as children or money without blame-rages and other behavior that slows down the process. The worst effects of Unconscious Uncoupling are on children, who are forced to watch as parents use the splitting-up process as a further escalation of the patterns that caused problems in the first place.

In Conscious Uncoupling, both people commit to communicating their feelings transparently to each other, especially the ones relationship counselors call The Big Three: anger, fear and sadness. In Conscious Uncoupling both people commit to taking responsibility for the state of the relationship rather than engaging in blame toward the other. In Conscious Uncoupling you live in the question, "What can I learn from this?" not "Why is he/she/the world doing this to me?" Eventually you evolve to an even more powerfully positive question: "What can I learn from all this that will help me be more loving and loved in my next relationship?"

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Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D. and Gay Hendricks, Ph.D. have been married and working together since 1980. Their book, Conscious Loving, is a classic in the field of relationship transformation.