We’re Missing the Point About ‘Conscious Uncoupling’

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Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are getting divorced. We heard all about it straight from her GOOP website with a statement from the couple that began with “It is with hearts full of sadness …” and went on to say “We have been working hard for well over a year … and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. … We are parents first and foremost … consciously uncouple and coparent ….”

The journal entry was called “Conscious Uncoupling.” And I will admit that my first thought went to the opposite — unconscious coupling, which makes me think of someone having blackout drunk sex. And then I felt sad for Gwyneth. Not about the opposite, but about the reality. Going through divorce when you have two kids. For once in my life, I am experiencing the same thing Gwyneth is experiencing. Divorce, no matter how it comes to be, is a painful and difficult experience filled with self-doubt, confusion, and conflicting emotions. Yet there are so many of us picking apart Gwyneth and Chris’s choice to call their separation “conscious uncoupling.” That is the focus. The phrasing. The neatness of it. The Gwyneth-ing of divorce. Goopified. Perhaps, tidy.

It’s not tidy. It’s a mess. It’s more goopy than Goop. Because that’s what divorce is.

Still, do we even know what conscious uncoupling is? How many people read the journal entry beyond Gwyneth and Chris’ statement? When I finally did, I was enlightened. I related. I was moved to tears. And I learned quite a few things, not just about divorce, but about love, being in love, and having a solid, healthy relationship.

The fact is that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. And Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami — the experts who added to the Goop post — shared that this divorce rate isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom of a bigger issue — how we are in relationships.

Maybe we aren’t meant to be with some people for the ever and evermore. Some are and can and do amazing when coupled forever. Sometimes, though, it’s time to move on. Time to get going … what lies ahead I have no way of knowing. (Sorry, got caught up in a Tom Petty song.)

As the doctors say: “Everyone enters into a marriage with the good intention to go all the way, but this sort of longevity is the exception, rather than the rule. It’s important to remember too, that just because someone is still married doesn’t mean they’re happy or that the relationship is fulfilling. To that end, living happily ever after for the length of a 21st century lifetime should not be the yardstick by which we define a successful intimate relationship: This is an important consideration as we reform the concept of divorce.”

When it’s over. It’s over.

But to make it in a marriage, we have to remember that ‘honeymoon phase.’ When it ends, “we stop projecting positive things onto our partners and begin to project our negative issue onto them instead.” Now how crappy is that? We do it, though. Negative. Negative. Negative. I’ve learned so much about this negative nonsense that I work on it every single day. For me, I try never to meet anger with anger. We’re all going to get angry sometimes. We are human. And sometimes we immediately want to get mad at the person mad at us. Not a good idea. How does that solve anything. Oh yeah? I’m mad at you because you’re mad at me. Take that? No thanks. It’s during those times we have to channel the calm — ohm it out for a second — and find out why the other person is mad. Calm that. Work on that. Understand that.

Arguments don’t need to escalate if you don’t want them to.

I love this quote: “We’ve put on our armor and we’re ready to do battle. What we don’t realize is that while a full body shield may offer a level of self-protection, it’s also a form of self-imprisonment that locks us inside a life that repeats the same mistakes over and over again.”

I used to have a hard external shield. It’s gone. Mostly. I’m a highly sensitive and emotional person. I’m okay with being vulnerable. I want to give love fully and I’m willing to risk it all. Because the reward is the best there is. “When we learn to find our emotional and spiritual support from inside ourselves, nothing that changes our environment or relationships can unsettle us.” I’m not going to imprison myself with the bad things that have happened. I’m not going to dwell in negative energy and resentment.

We have today. This we know. Which is why today we need to love. To follow our heart. If you are in a situation that is unhealthy for you — emotionally and/or physically — that needs to change. If you are in a relationship that makes your heart explode with happy, breathe that in, experience it, consciously live it to the fullest.

“The idea of being married to one person for life is too much pressure for anyone. In fact, it would be interesting to see how much easier couples might commit to each other by thinking of their relationship in terms of daily renewal instead of a lifetime investment. This is probably the reason why so many people say their long-term relationships changed overnight, once they got married. The people didn’t change, but the expectation did.”

Daily renewal. Look, I believe in the lifetime investment. I do. But I also believe in the daily renewal. This is how relationships last.

Check out the doctors’ explanation of conscious uncoupling: “A conscious uncoupling is the ability to understand that every irritation and argument was a signal to look inside ourselves and identify a negative internal object that needed healing. Because present events always trigger pain from a past event, it’s never the current situation that needs the real fixing. It’s just the echo of an older emotional injury. If we can remain conscious of this during our uncoupling, we will understand it’s how we relate to ourselves internally as we go through an experience that’s the real issue, not what’s actually happening.”

Divorce can lead to a healthy, if not healthier, relationship with an ex. It can teach you lessons to make you a better person — we can all learn from it, even the married ones. We have to let go of past triggers, never meet anger with anger, stay conscious in our coupling as well.

That’s the phrase I want to come away with — conscious coupling. Loving fully. Without armor. Living today. Being in the moment. Cherishing life, and love.

A Note About Dying That Other Kind of Death

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I’ve thought about dying. Death. Being gone from this world. It gives me this icy feeling inside my being, my heart lowers, breath is drawn out. I’ve died many times in my lifetime. We all have. This is the other death I think about. Parts of us die — we shed hair, nails, skin. Physical parts of our being leave us. Emotional parts leave us, too. Our hearts break; love dies. And it feels like a part of us dies along with it. It does. We die. Everyday some part of us dies. Some days the death is harder. Other days it’s as simple as a manicure. A nail trim. But then we get a new polish. A new color. A new kind of life.

The French writer Chateaubriand once said something that resonates within me. To paraphrase, he said we have not one life, but many lives stacked end to end. That is the cause of his misery. One life can end, allowing another life to begin. We can face heartbreak and then meet someone who gives us their heart, healing that part of our core we thought was gone. We find passions and see sunsets or newborn babies and our hearts rise, and heal; we take in deep breaths of gratitude and contently exhale. New life. After a death. Our own death. That other kind of death. But that misery part Chateaubriand wrote of, that is up to us. Since death, in this sense, gives us a rebirth, it doesn’t have to cause misery. Or rather, it’s because of that misery that we see how amazing life can be. You cannot have the highs and experience the pleasures without knowing about the lows and feeling the sadness. This other death can lead to a joy you never knew possible.

I’ve died that other kind of death. And now I’m alive, awakened, my heart fuller than it ever was before. I have had not one life, but many lives stacked end to end. I’ve made it the cause of my happiness. I’m wiser. I’ve learned. I’m experiencing life … after death.