“Conscious Uncoupling”

If you spend any amount of time online, you may be aware that there is a new trend in divorce called “conscious uncoupling.” Gwyneth Paltrow coined the term when she announced her split from her husband of ten years, Chris Martin. Her message stank of superiority. She concocted an image to appear as if this decision came after long discussions over eco-friendly glasses of red wine. Forget the passé divorces with hostility and hurt feelings, this is just a mutual decision to no longer exclusively be with one another. Just this morning, Jewel echoed this sentiment with the, “tender undoing,” of her own marriage. I take great offense to this new wave of happy dissolutions, and I am worried that there are not more people outraged by this. My problem is not that I don’t believe that they are telling the truth either–it’s that I believe they are.

What does it mean if we can now leave a marriage, not when we have hit rock bottom, but when we are bored? Both of these highlighted instances shine a light on an epidemic in our culture that we no longer believe anything worth having is worth fighting for. We now have admiration for couples who say, “It wasn’t that bad, we are still good friends and will continue to be in each others’ lives. We are simply choosing not to protect the one thing we took vows to protect.” Poof, it’s over. And what message does that send to their children? It says to me and most likely others who hear it that there is nothing sacred about marriage anymore. It says that when things are hard, don’t do them. What was once entered into after consideration, is now the reverse. We have unconscious coupling because there is no consequence to the exit. I am not anti-divorce, but I am anti-not trying. I often tell the couples I work with that my bias is for the marriage. I have yet to see a problem insurmountable, as long as each individual is willing to take responsibility for his or her own role in the problems. If you are still civil enough to “remain best friends,” (a quote from Hilary Duff’s press release regarding her divorce), why can you not be civil enough to look inward and find a way to consciously stay together for better or for worse?

Dear Jacqueline,

Dear Jacqueline,

As the holiday is fast approaching I have a question concerning my 12 year old son.  Long and short of it is he has been estranged from his father now for 1 1/2 years and the holidays are a hard time for him.  He doesn’t hear from him for months (mind you he lives 2 miles away) except on holidays he gets a text message saying ” Happy Holiday Love and miss you”.  My son will always respond the same but knows he then will not hear from him until the next holiday, which makes him sad and angry.  I have thought about taking his phone on the holiday, blocking his dad’s number, etc.  Any advice would be appreciated. 

Thanks,

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

            It sounds like this is not only hard on your son, but you as well. I imagine that as a mother you are left feeling pretty helpless in this situation, and wanting to protect your son from feeling hurt. I am also imagining that for your son the text message feels like a beacon of hope, which leaves him feeling even more disappointed when he realizes his dad is returning to old patterns.

            At his age (at any age in childhood actually), he is likely placing blame on himself for his relationship with his father. The best thing you can do is validate his feelings (“I know it hurts when he lets you down.” “I’m sorry he is not being the father you need.”) and assure him that while it might not feel like it, that it is not his fault, and the outcome of the relationship with his dad is not a reflection of him not being a good enough son. This is a big weight that he is likely carrying, and knowing that you understand him and are there for him will be a great support. If he is not already, I would also suggest counseling so he has an extra outlet for these emotions. And the fact that you are willing to reach out sets a good example for him that it is ok.

            Good luck with the holidays, and I hope everything goes well.

~Jacqueline

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