“It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate,” began actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s announcement on the “conscious uncoupling” that she and husband Chris Martin had both decided on. “We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents, first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time…”
Wow, something in there resonated so deeply within me. No matter what you think about Paltrow, the statement was well-crafted, bringing about a peaceful ending, sad though it may have been.
Anyone who has ever been through a divorce, separation or annulment will tell you that it is a process you would not want to wish on your worst enemy. It is both gut- and heart-wrenching, and takes so much out of you. To sit in family court and narrate the details of one’s personal and marital history to a roomful of strangers is a very courageous act that requires nerves of steel.
A conscious uncoupling somehow minimizes the negative effects brought about by a divorce or annulment. Rather than placing the blame on the other, one looks internally and looks at the divorce process both as a breaking apart and a coming together of sorts. Easier said than done, of course, because in the majority of cases, one or both of the parties involved are enmeshed or trapped in so much unproductive anger and denial. And sometimes, everything, including the kitchen sink, gets hurled at the other.
I’ve always thought that anger, to some degree, needs to be expressed constructively, or channeled into something positive. Anger becomes problematic when we allow it to entrap us, and it prevents us from moving forward because we are so caught up in the past, and carry all our hurt like medals of valor.
This is where the concept of conscious uncoupling becomes helpful. According to Dr. Habib Sadeghi, from whom Paltrow learned the concept, if we’re able to recognize that our partners in our intimate relationships are our teachers (rather than our nemesis), we can avoid much of the drama and stress that accompany a divorce or an annulment. We also learn to become conscious of what patterns to avoid so that they do not repeat themselves in succeeding relationships, if there are to be any.
Conscious uncoupling, as Sadeghi describes it, is the ability to understand that every irritation and argument is a signal to look inside ourselves and identify a negative internal object that needed healing. “Because present events always trigger pain from a past event, it’s never the current situation that needs the real fixing,” Sadeghi writes. “It’s just the echo of an older emotional injury. If we can remain conscious of this during our uncoupling, we will understand it’s how we relate to ourselves internally as we go through an experience that’s the real issue, not what’s actually happening.”
An annulment is never easy on both parties, more so on the children involved. The easiest course of action would be to continually lay blame and point fingers.
To hold on to anger even when the court’s decision has been handed down is highly unproductive, and causes unnecessary strain on an already fractured family. Rather than accepting the inevitable, and dissolving the animosity to make way for a peaceful coexistence, and possibly a friendship where loving co-parenting can take place, it is the opposite that takes place.
One’s personal growth, though, isn’t conditional on whether or not your spouse chooses to participate in a peaceful uncoupling. If you are strong from within and steadfast in your resolve, you can still receive the lessons taught to you by your ex without being sucked into his or her drama or negativity.
Sadeghi puts it perfectly when he says, “By choosing to handle your uncoupling in a conscious way, regardless of what’s happening with your spouse, you’ll see that although it looks like everything is coming apart, it’s actually all coming back together.”
Personally, I have found three ways to make letting go less of the nightmare that it usually is.
First, change the channel of your thoughts. When I find myself dwelling on the negatives, like a television set I make a conscious effort to switch the channels in my brain and focus on something else. When I feel my anger rising over something that I remember from the past, or find myself slowly slipping into a hole of sadness, I literally get up from where I am, and I either take a long walk or go out and do something that makes me happy. It doesn’t have to be expensive—sometimes, tea and a cupcake do the trick.
Second, change your plans. Just because one person is no longer in your life does not mean that your whole life is over, too.
On the contrary, a whole new world opens up, where you can keep the plans themselves if you’d like—just change who you assumed they’d happen with. Use this as a time to get to know yourself more. I like what the Dalai Lama said: “Every year, go somewhere where you’ve never been.” Have a sense of adventure, coupled, of course, with sensibility. Don’t be afraid to get lost, because sometimes, we all need to get lost in order to find ourselves.
Lastly, rearrange and reinvent yourself. Move if you can afford it. Rearrange your furniture, or repaint your house or your condominium unit.
Change your hairstyle or your hair color, overhaul your wardrobe, but don’t be too drastic that you’ll regret it later on.
Go back to school, or at the very least learn a new skill. Live your life. Don’t stay stuck. Change is always good, and heralds the emergence of a new self after the uncoupling, conscious or otherwise.