Conscious Uncoupling vs. Combative Divorce

Conscious Uncoupling vs. Combative Divorce

Those who didn’t think Gwyneth Paltrow was pretentious before now may change their mind when they hear how she described her split with Coldplay leadsinger as “conscious uncoupling.” But this got many of us wondering, is this a new strategy to gently untangle a relationship and avoid a hostile separation or divorce or is it simply sugar-coating what is often a devastating process.

Conscious uncoupling defined


What do the experts think about conscious uncoupling? It depends on whether or not you’re in the camp that believes marriage and love are a choice that couples commit to for the duration of their lives or whether you think it’s a feel good, convenient man-made construct that only need last for as long as two couple’s are fulfilled. If you’re in this camp it’s likely you consider a relationship successful not by its duration but rather by how meaningful and fulfilling the relationship is for both partners while it lasts.

Others claim conscious uncoupling is simply a decision by the couple to divorce using a non-combative and collaborative process and ensures the parents are dedicated to putting the children’s needs in front of their own to make the transition as healthy as possible for all parties involved.

Psychotherapist M. Gary Neuman, a Florida-based marriage expert and creator of the Neuman Method, he believes that regardless of what it is called, the process of conscious uncoupling is simply acknowledging that the dissemination of the couple will have a “profound, lifelong effect on children, no matter how it’s done.”

“You can’t do better for your child than staying happily married,” Neuman said. “Nonetheless, when people ‘consciously uncouple,’ it means we’re going to have a clear awareness about how this is going to affect the children going forward.”

What will conscious uncoupling mean for Paltrow and Martin?


Although we were not provided much information about the Martin and Paltrow split it sounds like the couple were simply reaffirming their commitment to their children and their willingness to coparent, a move many see as a very mature agreement and one which will help the couple elevate the children’s interest above their own. It also could be a signal that the couple will avoid a combative, adversarial divorce and will instead work towards a collaborative divorce.

What does a collaborative divorce do?


Collaborative divorce is not a new legal process, but it seems to be gaining in popularity. It also is considered a “mature” way to resolve disputes and allows couples to avoid unnecessary conflict, publicity and a prolonged divorce (think Alec Baldwin and Kim Bassinger).

How does conscious uncoupling differ from a collaborative divorce? Although it may not be a legal process, conscious uncoupling may be a public commitment to avoid discussing the relationship publicly as well as bad-mouthing the other spouse in public.

It allows for mutual understanding and respect for the other spouse’s reputation, career and personal well-being. It forces couples to put aside their desire for revenge and deal with their anger and fear in a healthy and mature manner. Assuming that’s what Gwyneth Paltrow plans to do…it doesn’t sound pretentious at all; it sounds healthy.


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