Is 'Conscious Uncoupling' Really the Path to Self-Fulfillment?

Courtesy AP Images

Courtesy AP Images

The woman who coined the term “conscious uncoupling” is publishing a book, Conscious Uncoupling, this week.

She coined the term years ago during her own divorce as a phrase to replace the “good divorce,” which society knew was tarnishing from exposure long before the data showed up.  The phrase became famous about 18 months ago when Gwyneth Paltrow wrote a blog post about her split from husband Chris Martin. Paltrow’s post was titled “Conscious Uncoupling,” and so the phrase entered the lexicon.

Paltrow did not know Katherine Woodward, and claims that a GOOP editor put the title on the piece. Paltrow’s advisors knew of Woodward’s work, however. Their odd comments at the time of the Paltrow-Martin announcement cite Woodward as the woman who originally popularized the term. Now the term is more infamous than famous, making it a perfect time — from a publisher’s perspective — to publish a book about it.

Although the term is rather “California dreamin'” about a topic of great consequence, I am interested to read further. In general, society would be far better if parents who cannot be swayed from divorce could find a way to do so amicably, without attacking each other, especially in regards to their children. Yet I can’t help but note that the main difference between the fault divorce schemes of old and no-fault divorce today is how many more divorces we have in a no-fault system.

The typical rap against conscious uncoupling is that if a couple can manage to get along well for the good of their children, then why, really, can’t they put that effort into their marriage? Current notions of romance and self-fulfillment beat marriage these days and no-fault schemes feed that myth by encouraging us to think short term: what works here and now.

Occasionally a sweet article about a golden couple will go viral. There was one yesterday about an old man serenading his wife of many decades on her deathbed. The commentary on these stories often suggests that people think these were made-for-each-other romances in which everything was roses and rainbows for 50, 60, 70 years, until death parted them. I suspect that they would remember it differently.

Today, we encourage the young to do things that fulfill them, complete them; somewhere we forget that many of the things that make us who we are did not seem very fulfilling at the time.