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Is ‘conscious uncoupling’ the new collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce has become popular in recent years as a way for couples to try to end their marriage with minimal conflict. The practice has its pros and cons, since using a less adversarial approach can be easier to manage but could leave one or both parties without an opportunity to fully advocate their point of view.

This week, a new non-adversarial approach to divorce hit the news when actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin announced they were ending their relationship, calling it “conscious uncoupling” rather than divorce.

This phrase sounds a bit wishy-washy to some, since it suggests something other than a breakup, even though it is very much describing a breakup. However, upon further inspection it might contain some interesting ideas that couples divorcing in Massachusetts could benefit from.

For example, one of the ideas behind the phrase is that divorce is not a failure, since spending an entire lifetime with just one person might be an unrealistic goal. Instead people can think of it as this relationship having run its course, whether that is five years or twenty years. Many people will have two or three long committed relationships in their lifetime, due in part perhaps to increased life expectancies. This idea is just one more way that people thinking about getting a divorce can reframe the issue and try to look at it in a positive light, more as a new beginning or a next chapter. This may also be a valuable concept for couples who have children and must maintain a good relationship in order to co-parent.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Is 'conscious uncoupling' a better way to divorce?” Anya Sostek, March 29, 2014

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