published Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Baumgardner: ‘Conscious uncoupling’ is still just a divorce

By Julie Baumgardner

Gwyneth Paltrow created shockwaves when she made this announcement on her website:

“It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner. Love, Gwyneth & Chris.”

Apparently conscious uncoupling, developed by a therapist, is designed to help couples divorce without drama.

“How many couples do you know who have ‘good divorces’? Even those with the best of intentions often find themselves struggling as time passes,” says Michele Weiner Davis, founder of the Colorado-based Divorce Busting Center, a marriage counseling group and website.

“No matter how you slice it, divorce is not an easy process. In fact, in most divorces that happen in our country, one person wants it and the other desperately does not. Quite frankly, it is hard to imagine a heartbroken person being a willing participant in a program that supposedly honors the marriage and destroys it at the same time.”

With the exception of extremely dysfunctional marriages where there is violence, chronic affairs and/or substance abuse, research indicates that, regardless of whether the parents are better off after the divorce, children do not fare better. In her blog post, Paltrow states that, even though they are going through the uncoupling process, they will always be a family and, first and foremost, they are the parents of two incredibly wonderful children.

“Many couples believe if they divorce well they will still be a family,” says Weiner-Davis. “Based on many years of experience working with couples, I can tell you flat out that is the exception to the rule. Divorce ends marriages and dissolves families. Life will never be the same for your children no matter how hard you try. They will know that you and their dad are not together. Over time other adults will enter the picture, which can’t help but make life more complicated for the kids.”

If you are considering conscious uncoupling, divorce or separation, take a moment to consider the long-term impact on you and your family. Research indicates that 70 percent of marriages that end in divorce are perfectly good marriages that could get back on track and thrive. Are you making a long-term decision based on a short-term problem?

Julie Baumgardner is the president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org

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