Conscious uncoupling – Late in life divorce – Part Two


divorced coupleThere has been a lot of talk in the tabloids about conscious uncoupling after Hollywood celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow used the term to describe the way she and her husband were ending their marriage. The term was actually created by therapist and author Katherine Woodward. Conscious uncoupling can be put in to motion once the decision to split is out in the open. It is a process that works to sidestep blame and seeks to avoid some of the negative consequences of a bitter divorce. Once the decision to split has been made, the idea of conscious uncoupling is that the couple can separate in a state of awareness that is respectful and recognizes that not all relationships are meant to last. The former couple can go on to have a civil relationship focused on their joint outstanding commitments and even possibly have a friendship of some kind. This would mean leaving behind past hurts, possibly honouring some of the past, and still caring for each other.

Sounds difficult? It is a compelling idea because quite often marital separation triggers many negative emotions that when acted out can have damaging influence on the process as well as on all those impacted. In the case of couples with adult children they may forget that even they feel the negative impacts of their parents separating. Family holidays and gatherings with grandchildren and extended family members will never be the same. This may shake their adult children’s belief in marriage at a time when they were considering making this commitment themselves. They may have assumed that their parents had a good marriage and they were aspiring for the same.

Each partner in the divorce needs to find a way to move on with their lives in a positive way and negotiate a redefinition of their role within their families and network of friends. Katherine Woodward explains that this is a process that needs to be done in a consciously thoughtful way so that everyone in their circle of influence can find acceptance and peace regarding the change that has unfolded. This may not be an entirely unique idea and there are many positive approaches to help guide separating couples towards hope and healing.

Here are some ideas to think about.

  • Work to overcome guilt, blame, anger and bitterness.
  • Acknowledge your ambivalence about change regardless of who initiated the change.
  • Identify strategies for the care of yourself and those who are important to you.
  • Identifying common concerns and goals to maintain respectful communication.
  • Honour the past and focus on the positives aspects of your time together.
  • Remember that lasting extended bonds exist when you share children.
  • Cultivate appreciation for the good that is in your life.

To speak to a couple’s counsellor, call 1 866 833-7690 or visit for the services and programs we offer.

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