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Last year, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chis Martin announced that they would “consciously uncouple” after more than ten years of marriage and two children. Many people rolled their eyes at that characterization of separation and divorce, viewing the terminology and the media coverage as one of Hollywood’s shiny, happy spins on an otherwise terrible situation. Others have difficulty reconciling the concept of conscious uncoupling—if your relationship is strong and you love and respect each other so much, why the separation?
A quick Google search of the term ‘conscious uncoupling’ turns up a YouTube video featuring Katherine Woodward Thomas, a bestselling author, licensed therapist, and creator of Conscious Uncoupling A 5-Week Program to Release the Trauma of a Breakup, Reclaim Your Power & Reinvent your Life. She discusses all manner of artfully worded concepts, such as turning a break up into a ‘breakthrough’, and going from soul-mate to ‘soul-hate’. At first blush, it’s all terribly hokey. But I think she is on to something.
As a divorce attorney, I see families torn apart, and individuals devastated, both emotionally and financially, as they move through the process of separation and divorce. I have read anniversary cards with the most intimate and meaningful hand-written sentiments, only to watch that same couple tear each other apart in court. Even a simple divorce (if there is such a thing) can be gut-wrenching and miserable. More often than not, people act out of mistrust, anger, hurt and fear. Their words and actions are destructive rather than constructive. They blame each other, or perhaps one bears the entire responsibility for the breakup and has to contend with crushing guilt. I cannot imagine any person thinking that this is a good dynamic.
At its heart, conscious uncoupling seems to suggest that there is a way for a person to get through separation and divorce in a manner that is not destructive and provides opportunities for growth and positive experiences. So what can you do to derail the devastation and focus on the breakthrough in the separation and divorce process? While I am no therapist, I have observed firsthand some things that might guide you. First, commit to constructive, rather than destructive actions. More often than not, you can get where you need to go utilizing either approach, but one of those paths leaves carnage, and the other opens up doors to solutions. Second, find professional help to take care of your emotional health. A good counselor can help you wade through the emotions of a separation and divorce and figure out how to choose and implement those constructive actions. Remember, your mental health is as important as the air you breathe. Taking care of your mental health should be a priority at all times, particularly when you are dealing with a life-changing event such as divorce. Third, pick your battles. How can it be at all productive to argue over the $50.00 set of knives, particularly if you’re paying an attorney several hundred dollars and hour to fight about it? Save your energy for the things that matter. Finally, focus on the future and strive to articulate positive goals, and then take action. Lean on your mental health and legal professionals to help you through this process. We should be your objective teammates. It is our job to advocate for your best interests.
When advising a client through separation and divorce, there is no greater reward than seeing that client come through the mess with a happy outlook, with his or her sanity and bank account still intact. So maybe Hollywood’s “conscious uncoupling” isn’t such a bad thing after all. We can even do it here in North Carolina.
Lynn Wilson McNally is a partner in the firm and member of the firm’s Family Law practice group. She is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist and certified Family Financial Settlement Mediator by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission. She represents individuals in matters regarding separation, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, equitable distribution, domestic violence, termination of parental rights, legitimation and other matters pertaining to family law....LEARN MORE