By Douglas J. Manning, Partner, Certified Specialist in Family Law

Being a trendy sort of guy, (and a family law lawyer to boot) I was intrigued in reading about the much publicized recent break up of movie star Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.

They are not calling it a ’separation‘ or a ’divorce‘ however , they are referring to their situation as a “conscious uncoupling”.  Is this just an attempt at rebranding or is it a revolutionary new way of ending a relationship?  Never having heard this phrase before, I was curious, so I decided to ’google‘ and see what came up.  Interesting, very interesting.

Experienced family law lawyers have a variety of skills to assist couples in resolving the legal issues arising from their separation, through the use of negotiations, mediation, arbitration, and litigation (as a last resort).  However lawyers are poorly equipped to assist clients in resolving the emotional, psychological and even spiritual stresses they inevitably deal with during the journey of separation.

This emotional, psychological, and spiritual journey, which I am now calling “conscious uncoupling” (being the trendy guy that I am) would appear to require a much deeper understanding of oneself and the part that each partner plays in the relationship and the reasons why it did not work out.  Each partner is required to undertake an introspective analysis of the role that they played in the dissolution of the relationship.  This seems like a pretty enlightened perspective, seeing most divorcing couples seem to spend a great deal of time and energy in the ’blame game’.

Each of us choose our partners for very different, and often unconscious reasons.  We may be attracted to a person with traits that we lack, or that are opposite to ours.  The regimented individual may be attracted to a spontaneous person who acts capriciously.  Eventually this may wear thin and become a source of conflict during the relationship.  By looking within ourselves we may find more meaningful “truths” that may be uncomfortable for some of us.  Sort of like looking in a mirror that points out the blemishes that we would rather not see.

Apparently the therapist who coined the term “conscious uncoupling” is U.S. therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas who has developed a 5 week program to assist couples who wish to take this more enlightened approach to ending the psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of their relationship.

In my law practice, I often recommend to clients that they seek counselling assistance to support them on the emotional journey they experience in their separation.  The range of emotions can go from denial, to anger,  rage, acceptance and every emotion in between.  This new and seemingly helpful approach of “conscious uncoupling” may become another facet of support I suggest to clients.