In case you haven’t heard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin called it a day, and then took heat for calling it something other than "divorce."
I have been separated for two years and I’m finalizing my own divorce. And, yes, while "divorce" might be the legal terminology for the process of returning to an unmarried state, I would gladly use the words "conscious uncoupling" to describe my split. Here’s why.
Even prior to our separation, we were working through issues. For months. We cried, we sought help, we read books, we made changes, we tried to deal with crisis. But it didn’t take. Regardless of why, or why not, it just didn’t play out the way either of us had envisioned. We couldn’t go back. And when we finally made the heart-wrenching decision that the marriage was over, it felt like there was a rip in the fabric of time.
Everything stopped. Half the time I remember our conversations flanged by tunnel-like echoes, half the time wrapped in stifling silence. Sometimes every word hurt. Sometimes we wanted to hurt each other. Sometimes ourselves. But we consciously put this aside.
As parents, we managed to connect consistently through the haze of "he said, she said." Baby Girl Above All Else became a mantra. Not a competition, mind you, but a mantra.
We didn’t fight each other to see who knew more about our child, or use tallies to see who did more of what. We stayed conscious in our actions, and we put all our joint effort into co-parenting, and exploring our new lives and testing the bridge that we knew was going to link our lives forever, regardless of our status. As part of that team effort, we realized that we were happy with many aspects of both friendship and parenting, but we wanted different things as a couple. We wanted to keep the good stuff, so all we really had to do was un-couple. Consciously.
Sound cheesy so far? Want to sling mud? Or is my case different and somehow ok because I haven’t graced the cover of People magazine as the world’s most beautiful woman? Because I’m a "regular mom"?
As we all know, heartache, illness, devastation, loss, death . . . these things don’t review bank account statements and celebrity clout to make informed decisions about whom they’re going to pop up for next. And neither should our empathy.
I’ll tell you, I don’t have a multi-million dollar enterprise (yet) or the simultaneous adoration and scorn of the media. But I do know that my separation was emotionally exhausting, and god knows I sometimes think it would have been easier—or at times more satisfying—to just lunge at each other’s throats with law suits, custody battles, and melodramatic fanfare. I’m sure we both fantasized about it at times. Hell, I’m sure even our families felt surges of protective anger and brewed secret nail-them-to-the-wall vendetta day dreams. And that’s ok—it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and work with them or through them. But it’s not ok to stay there. It wasn’t for us, anyway.
Putting your kids first also means putting your pettiness aside, and yes, the only way to do that during separation, and during divorce, is to stay conscious.
For the record, none of that is easy.
Staying conscious through our break up (or uncoupling—yes, I just saw you roll your eyes) was, and still is, about being good parents, about loving and trusting ourselves and our potentials, and trusting each other to hold on to the same morals and values even beyond separation. It’s hard work. And it takes effort, love, acceptance, and continuous dedication, which can try your patience at the best of times.
So, before you slam someone for their use of semantics, remember that "conscious uncoupling" is not a luxury re-brand of divorce, nor is it an advanced yoga pose.
It’s the way that two hearts in pain are breaking apart while still trying to keep all the beauty they created as a family together. And I think that’s commendable.
And if you have a problem with it, I dare you to take it up with Gwynnie’s kids directly, or maybe even mine.
Explain why the world should be black and white.
Explain why we should only use legal terminologies to describe the efforts in our hearts.
Going through a tough divorce? Check out "5 Ways NOT To Fight With Your Ex During A Separation" and "Divorce Doesn't Mean Failure."