My parents divorced when I was too young to remember much, beyond the tense and toxic emotional residue left festering between them.
Theirs was a pretty unconscious uncoupling. So nasty, in fact, there were two rather brutal custody fights that led to my eventual heart-wrenching alienation from my father at the age of 10. It gave me lots of grist for the mill.
In the decades that followed, I struggled to find my faith in love. Paradoxically, one could say that I owe everything I am today—a bestselling author and relationship expert—to my parents’ ugly divorce.
So when my own husband and I decided to end our union after 10 years of marriage, amid a sea of confusion and soul-searching, I knew one thing for sure: I was not going to do that to our daughter.
Fortunately, I discovered I’d worried in vain. For the transition out of our marriage and into a healthy and mutually supportive co-parenting partnership was more than a peaceful and fair experience. It was an unexpectedly kind and, dare I say…even a loving one; with gestures of friendship, goodwill, and generosity woven throughout.
Somehow, my former husband (whom I now affectionately refer to as my ‘wasband’) and I seemed to have stumbled upon a new kind of happy ending—one I eventually came to call Conscious Uncoupling.This term went on to inspire the peaceful uncoupling of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, along with thousands of my students throughout the world.
Setting Each Other Free
Conscious uncoupling provides a blueprint for ending romantic unions with dignity, goodness, and honor. It is a process that leaves all affected by the break-up whole, healthy, and complete, rather than wounded, walled off, and significantly broken by the experience.
Many don’t believe it’s possible. For you and I both know that hurt people tend to hurt people, and even the most psychologically savvy and sophisticated of us are biologically predisposed to want to lash out at the end of love.
Our relationships are our homes and when they’re threatened, our brains go a little haywire. Yet, here’s the thing: That one rambling ‘tell it like it is’ email or backbiting bit of character assassination may feel good in the moment, but it comes with a serious price.
You’ll have to live with the consequences of every choice you make and every action you take during this trying period of your life. And if, in a huff, you take the bait and reactively plant sour seeds in your backyard, just remember that you’ll be eating the bitter fruits of those seeds—sometimes for many years to come.
The goal of a conscious uncoupling is not necessarily the restoration of justice, the attainment of restitution, or the vindication of being right. The goal of a conscious uncoupling is simply to be free. And there is no more powerful action to turn a difficult situation in a harmonious direction than a generous gesture of authentic loving-kindness.
Something Beautiful from All that was Broken
Rather than falling slave to your biology and attacking the one you’ve loved, you can make the radically wise decision to generate more love between you instead. My wasband was the one who began this practice and set us on the path of our own loving divorce.
Sitting in our mediator’s office, he startled both the mediator and me by declining royalties from a book I’d written while we were married, stating that he wanted me to benefit from the work I had done. Touched by his kindness, I followed suit by unexpectedly offering him the parting gift of the funds to furnish his new apartment.
Little by little, we wove something beautiful from all that was broken and have since come to re-create a wholesome, loving ‘expanded family’ in which to raise our daughter.
The word generous shares the same root as genesis and generate—gen, which means ‘to give birth.’ A generous act initiates new life, giving birth to beautiful new beginnings and liberating us from the cycle of reactivity and retaliation that often characterizes a break-up.
Defusing escalating negativity with a simple act of goodness will foster goodwill. It will help you protect the love that originally brought you two together. It will honor the relationship for all it has meant to you both, as well as the community of family and friends who care for you.