What’s Wrong with ‘Conscious Uncoupling’?

Conscious Uncoupling

Until a few weeks ago, we’d never heard the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’. But in our line of work we’ve been hearing it more and more.

Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, as you know, used it to describe the end of her ten-year marriage to rock star Chris Martin of Coldplay.

The phrase was like catnip for commentators. Suddenly, the Interwebs were abuzz with remarks – mostly snarky – about her New Age-y approach to divorce. It created worldwide headlines and flat out ridicule.

The term ‘conscious uncoupling’ is actually attributed to a therapist, Katherine Thomas, who offers a break-up therapy program. She says it’s a kinder term for divorce. She claims it minimizes drama and protects the children.

A man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife,  becoming one flesh — no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.  Matthew 19:5-6

According to Thomas, it’s natural for a committed relationship to run its course. She says that what draws us to another person will eventually repel us. That’s why her course is necessary. Oh, and it involves a lot of breathing exercises.

Anyhoo, the philosophy behind ‘conscious uncoupling’ seems to be making more sense to some after the initial badmouthing it received when Paltrow first made the announcement.

Some are already heralding it as the term of 2014. It may be a phrase that’s here to stay.

So what’s wrong with it?

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Well, it undermines marriage. That’s all. It normalizes and rationalizes relationship failure, causing couples to believe that ‘uncoupling’ is about as easy and common as unhooking a clasp on a bracelet.

But divorce is messy. Painful. Brutal. Devastating. You can’t simply undo a marriage. The end of a marriage is like a death. It involves grief – for adults and children.

Let’s be honest. The carnage of broken relationships is widespread. No matter how much we might try to sugarcoat it or re-phrase it, divorce hurts. In fact, it leaves permanent scars. No wonder God hates divorce (Malachi 2:14-16).

And make no mistake, marriage is messy, too. It lays our heart bare, vulnerable to wounds. Even among the most loving of couples you’ll find loneliness, misunderstanding and even rejection. Marriage isn’t for wimps. But like the high and low tide, tough times come and go, making way for happier ones.

So that’s our problem with ‘conscious uncoupling’. It falsely purposes to do away with the inevitable harm that comes in calling it quits on a life-long commitment.

That’s why we propose another phrase for couples who are tempted to buy into the pursuit of personal happiness at the cost of not keeping their promise: Conscious Coupling for Life.

Now, which celebrity couple can we get to toss that phrase into the cultural lexicon this year?

Copyright © 2014 Les and Leslie Parrott, used with permission.

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About Les Parrott

Les ParrottLes Parrott III, Ph.D., is founder of RealRelationships.com and a Professor of Psychology at Seattle Pacific University. He is also co-creator, with his wife Leslie, of eHarmony Marriage. Les is an award-winning author of more than a dozen best-selling books including High-Maintenance Relationships, The Control Freak, 3 Seconds, Becoming Soul Mates, Your Time Starved Marriage and Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.
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