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The ending of any marriage is painful. There’s no question about it. There can be a tendency to view the end of a marriage negatively – and that’s understandable. On the other hand, however, the end of a marriage can also be a chance to look forward to new beginnings, and to embrace change and growth – particularly if the marriage was in a difficult place for some time. Instead of viewing the end of a marriage as a failure, it can be viewed as an opportunity. That’s the general idea behind conscious uncoupling – a divorce philosophy that has become increasingly popular in recent years. 

The word “uncoupling” is a term that has been used to describe divorce since the 1940s, but “conscious uncoupling” is certainly a more recently used term. Initially, the term was coined by Katherine Woodward Thomas in 2009 as a five-step process to work toward and support the conscious completion and ending of an intimate relationship. The phrase became particularly popular and more widely used after actress Gwyneth Paltrow used the phrase to describe the divorce process between herself and then-husband Coldplay singer Chris Martin.

In essence, conscious uncoupling is a phrase often used to refer to a relatively amicable divorce. It is a process in which both partners accept responsibility for the separation and look to reclaim their own identity outside of the marriage and to function in an emotionally healthy way in the future. The ultimate goal is to end the relationship with kindness and integrity so that both partners can move on and move forward. 

A Closer Look at the Five-Step Process

When Katherine Woodward Thomas first introduced the term in 2009, it was generally described as a five-step program that would provide a calmer alternative to traditional divorce. Those five steps are as follows:

  • Find emotional freedom: The end of a marriage is emotionally difficult, even in the best of circumstances. There’s no question about it. Sometimes, that pain can cause people to act in uncharacteristic ways, and it takes a conscious effort to choose to face those emotions head-on. Those who choose conscious uncoupling try to identify their emotions, process those feelings thoroughly, and move forward in a healthy way. The ultimate goal is to transform negative emotions into positive ones and to use that positive energy to move forward in a healthy way. 
  • Reclaim your power and your life: During the divorce process, it’s not abnormal to have moments where you feel powerless and discouraged – even if that’s not true in reality. It’s only human to feel exhausted and depleted at times and to wonder where exactly things went wrong, and why. Instead of allowing this to become your default state, however, part of the conscious uncoupling process includes actively seeking to reclaim your power, and control over your thoughts and your life. Don’t allow the divorce process to negatively affect your overall mental health, your relationships with others, or your day-to-day routine. It’s okay to take time to rest and recover and renew yourself – but then you should try to actively move forward and remember the control and power you have over your own life and your happiness.
  • Break the pattern and heal your heart: An important aspect of this step is taking a good look at your relationship and identifying any negative or unhealthy behavior patterns that existed which may have been rooted in your own past fears and traumas.  Understanding the origins of harmful behaviors can be the first step toward breaking those patterns and beginning the healing process. This can encourage self-love and provide hope for future relationships as you begin to move forward.
  • Become a love alchemist: While the first three steps of the conscious uncoupling process focus primarily on healing the self, this step focuses on loving and healing the rift between the two partners. Despite the decision to get divorced, those who choose conscious uncoupling seek to generate a positive future for one another by being generous and offering sincere acts of kindness to restore a feeling of well-being and positivity to the relationship. Making a conscious choice to seek to transform the relationship dynamic from a negative one to a positive one will not only make the divorce process itself go more smoothly – it will also help start a future co-parenting relationship off on the right foot for those couples who have children together.
  • Create Your HappyEver-After Life: In this final step of the process, each partner seeks to make healthy and life-affirming decisions as they begin to move forward toward the next chapter ahead. The goal is to embrace new opportunities and new potential, and to approach those opportunities as a healthy, empowered, and positive individual at peace with the past, and optimistic about the future ahead. Certainly, for those couples who have children together, this includes approaching the future co-parenting relationship with an open mind, and a willingness to cooperate and communicate openly with one another. 

Generally, the uncoupling process is considered complete when both partners have defined themselves, and are also viewed by others as separate and independent of each other. Essentially, then, being partners, or being joined together in a marriage is no longer a major source of identity for either person. 

As you seek to move toward the goal of a more peaceful divorce, however, it’s important to keep in mind that it may not always be easy, and there will likely be a few bumps in the road. If you find yourself struggling and needing a little bit of extra help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Seeking help from family, friends, religious leaders, or trained therapists can be extremely helpful and well worth the effort. Take the necessary steps to move through the process in a way that is manageable and emotionally healthy for you. 

From a more legally oriented perspective, it’s worth noting that those couples who are using the conscious uncoupling process are often less inclined to pursue a traditional divorce in a courtroom in front of a judge. Doing so can often be stressful and antagonistic. Instead, those who choose conscious uncoupling are often drawn toward more cooperative, alternative methods of resolution, like mediation or collaborative divorce. If you find yourself drawn to either of those methods or if you need assistance with any other aspect of the divorce process, at The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we can help.

The Law Office of Dustin McCrary – Here for You

If you and your partner are considering, or are in the midst of, a conscious uncoupling, we are hopeful that the information provided here has been helpful guidance for that process. Wherever you are in the divorce process, at the Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here to help. We understand every step of the divorce process – and we understand how emotional and difficult it can be. Our passion is helping families through this process smoothly and successfully, so they can turn the page and take the first step toward a bright new chapter ahead. We would love to help you do that too. If you’re ready to get started, we’re ready to listen. Call us any time. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

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