Huffpost Divorce
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Lisa Haisha Headshot

What We Can All Learn About Relationships From Gwyneth Paltrow

Posted: Updated:

We've all heard the statistic that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. And the word itself -- "divorce" -- has gotten a bad reputation over the years. In fact, when most people hear the word, they immediately focus on the bitterness, anger, resentment, disappointment, and emotional pain of an ending relationship.

But does a breakup have to be a bad thing? Does a couple going their separate ways have to be engulfed in negative energy and emotions? After all, sometimes the breakup really is no one's fault. Sometimes individuals in a relationship grow in different directions. And sometimes, a breakup can be a learning experience filled with personal growth and positive feelings. No where can we see this more clearly than in the recent news that long-time couple Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are embarking on a "Conscious Uncoupling." Following is their official announcement:

Conscious Uncoupling

It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children, and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.

Love,
Gwyneth & Chris

What Is Conscious Uncoupling?

Their announcement, of course, begs the question, "What is conscious uncoupling?"

Contrary to what many people may think, Conscious Uncoupling is not some cute phrase Paltrow made up to match her squeaky clean public image. Conscious uncoupling is a form of therapy developed by Katherine Woodward Thomas, MA, MFT, several years ago. It's something I have often implemented into my own work to usher couples through the emotional roller coaster of a breakup.

In short, conscious uncoupling offers a positive and much-needed spin to the dissolution of a relationship. In my discussions with clients, they are aware, especially when children are involved, that once you marry someone you marry them for life, even if you are separated. Because of this, it's in both party's best interest to make peace with each other, and most especially with themselves. Conscious uncoupling is a process that invokes the couple to focus on their own healing and well-being, which in turn allows them to come to terms with their soon-to-be-ex, and their relationship.

In an era where divorce is more common than successful marriages, relationships should have an opportunity to end gracefully and with mutual respect. In fact, it's high time that we bring this new term into our cultural lexicon, and I'm grateful that Paltrow took the first step to bring it mainstream.

Unfortunately, the general public is critical of Paltrow. If people had heard of conscious uncoupling from Oprah, Dr. Phil, or maybe even Beyoncé, they would embrace the idea with an open mind. But because the term was brought to light via Paltrow, whom the media often portrays as spoiled and snobbish, the term has received a confused and negative connotation. It's time to clear the confusion and show conscious uncoupling as the positive relationship tool that it is.

A SoulBlazer's Approach to Conscious Uncoupling

When I work with clients through a conscious uncoupling, we begin by helping each person acknowledge their dominant impostor personality. We all have an impostor or two (or three) that controls us. The impostor personality consists of the fears, old beliefs, and habits that prevent people from achieving their highest personal and professional success. I've identified eight distinct Impostor personalities that impede on relationships and prevent people from reaching their true potential for happiness, success, and fulfillment.

With the impostor(s) identified, we can move into the actual conscious uncoupling process, which involves helping the two people communicate with an open heart and be as respectful as possible to each other, especially when children are in the picture. It's about respecting not only the other person, but also the relationship that was, as well as the relationship that will remain in the future.

Remember, just because a couple separates, their past relationship still exists. It doesn't disappear. With conscious uncoupling, you're respecting the love you previously shared with someone while honoring the friendship you will have with them in the future, all while ensuring that the children continue to feel safe and loved. In the process, your social circle remains intact and each individual in the relationship takes care of their own emotional needs in a healthy and positive manner. What can possibly be controversial about that?

Also realize that words have meaning, especially for children. If you're a child of divorce, you know the shame that comes with communicating to your friends that your parents are getting "divorced" or "separated." Conscious uncoupling allows parents to ease their children into the change that lies before them as the adults are altering the way they relate to each other. Conscious uncoupling is a terrific tool that promotes a sense of stability in a time of potential upheaval.

Conscious Uncoupling and Conscious Living

While I'm sad that Paltrow and Martin are no longer a couple, I'm happy that they are embarking on the path of conscious uncoupling rather than the typical hate-filled divorce process. I'm also grateful that they went public with their decision, showing that despite Paltrow's public persona of being a "goody two shoes" (which she's not, by the way), even her relationship can end. And she's dealing with her breakup in a more mature and positive way than most people ever would.

Having Paltrow bring the term conscious uncoupling into our cultural language is definitely a good thing! Paltrow-haters need to look at themselves and wonder why seeing a beautiful, intelligent, physically fit, and self-care conscious woman who's worked hard her whole life should be maligned. Let's all give Paltrow some credit for bringing to the forefront this positive terminology for ending relationships and for showing us how to deal with a sad situation in such a graceful manner.