There has been considerable discussion of ‘conscious uncoupling’ in the media over the last few days. Some of it has been earnest, a little has been inspired, and the rest somewhat amused/bemused. This came of course from the announcement from actress Gwyneth Paltrow that her marriage to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin was drawing to a close after 10 years, two children and continued professional success. But there has been little concrete explanation of what a conscious uncoupling actually involves. Is it just a veneer of LA nonsense covering a messy divorce? Or should we all aspire to a positive ownership of our separation process? This is what a conscious uncoupling means to this family lawyer.
Firstly, a marriage is not necessarily a failure because it ends in divorce. That does sound like a contradiction and, yes, the whole ‘death us do part’ thing gives that impression but what about the rest of the contract? To love, honour, comfort and protect are also promises that are no less valuable and I have never met a divorcing couple who have hated each other from their wedding day. Divorce is painful, frightening and often infuriating, but try to remember what the marriage itself created memories, knowledge, creativity, the financial means to keep us safe and the children who are our world. Value what has been, learn from mistakes, move on and be grateful. Seen in this context, divorce is far from being a failure. Repeat it until you believe it.
Secondly, divorce is not the end of a family. It signs off on the marriage but the relationship between two people and their children continues. Learning to co-parent post-separation is a challenge, but if you get off on the right foot, it is one your children (and your ex) will thank you for forever for overcoming. Ensure children know this isn’t their fight and respect their right to love both parents. Keep communicating. Even if email is the only way you can do so civilly for a bit. In most cases, no one else will ever share your passion for your children like your ex. Play the long game and that relationship may be a comfort and even a joy one day. Love lasts forever. Anger doesn’t. And no child has ever measured their parents’ love in how long and hard they fought over them in court.
Thirdly, be present. Show up. Make conscious decisions. Look at the ramifications. Take good advice (legal, financial and emotional). Know when you are reacting out of anger and fear and not from a place of good sense and good intentions. Take time out if you need it. Explore the options if you can’t work everything out at the kitchen table. Mediation and the collaborative law process will support you to keep talking about what is best for your family when you feel least able to do so. Find an expert family lawyer who understands you and what you want for your family. If you keep control of your separation and don’t delegate wholesale to lawyers and the court, the costs (financial and emotional) are massively reduced.
‘Conscious uncoupling’ – in my view is simultaneously being a grown up and giving yourself a break.
Family solicitor, Cardiff