Conscious Uncoupling

by | Apr 11, 2014 | Collaborative Divorce

 From, March 25th:

Conscious Uncoupling

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 coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.

Love, Gwyneth & Chris

While the Internet lit up with the announcement that celebrity couple Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are “consciously uncoupling,” a.k.a. divorcing, and the New York Times scrambled to trace the phrase to psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, I hate to burst the bubble. It’s not a new idea.

Conscious Uncoupling – the term Paltrow made famous last month and which Thomas lays claim to – sounds very much like what we try to do through the Collaborative Divorce process. For like-minded attorneys, really, we regularly consciously decide to take the collaborative approach for our clients’ divorce.

Collaborative divorce is not a new idea. But ideas certainly seem hotter and sexier when celebrities are involved.

Collaborative divorce is a more peaceful approach to divorce. It is a team approach to divorce. Your team consists of each spouse’s attorney who, like me, has made a commitment to be specially trained as a collaborative practitioner. We work with clients, and mental health professionals, also specially trained in collaborative divorce, who act as divorce coaches or child specialists, and use their expertise to handle and support each spouse emotionally.

Importantly, the divorcing couple and their attorneys sign a commitment that they will work together to reach a settlement without going to court.

Our team may also use collaboratively trained financial specialists. The Collaborative Divorce process focuses on maintaining the health and dignity of the parties and importantly, their children.

(More detailed information can be found on my website or on and

I don’t know if conscious uncoupling has a process. Are divorce lawyers going to be doing conscious uncoupling now, or will this remain the territory of therapists like Thomas?

Is it a state of mind that we want people to use when going into divorce because it is better?
Let’s put all the famous people aside and look at the phrase objectively. You know, divorce doesn’t have to be all about fighting and battling and if we are more conscious about what we’re doing, then perhaps the outcome will be more peaceful.

However, we have to take it back quite a big step to look at this concept of being conscious. Are we conscious when we “couple”? (I’m going to say, too often, not really.)

If we were “consciously coupling up,” then perhaps during marriage we’d be more conscious of our behavior and our words, and then there wouldn’t be much work for people like me, right?

Don’t save conscious behavior for your divorce when you decide to uncouple. I like the idea of it, I like the idea of having a term that people will use – but I’ll like it better if this term can actually penetrate into the consciousness of all involved – divorcing spouses, lawyers, judges, and more.

The truth is, if we were so conscious at the beginning of a relationship, we probably wouldn’t be ending it.

In mediation and in divorce, when separating spouses argue over who will make the car payment, who will pay for braces, or who will keep the house, there are usually strong emotions underlying the arguing. It’s not necessarily about the concrete subject on the table. It’s about hurt feelings and fear and sadness over the story ending when it wasn’t supposed to end.

And of course the truth is that we’re never really conscious of those emotions. We react, we respond, our ego is in the driver’s seat. Not very conscious at all.

I’d love to propose that we all approach this field of relationships from a conscious place. It’s a brilliant idea! If only we can put the human frailty aside for a moment or two.

Read more Collaborative Divorce posts