What Is Conscious Uncoupling?

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Usually when celebrity couples announce they’re divorcing, everyone gossips about potential reasons behind the split. Not in the case of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. They've described their split as “conscious uncoupling” instead of divorce—and have had Facebook feeds and gossip columnists alike buzzing, wondering what exactly this term means. [Tweet this news!]

On Gwyneth's GOOP website, the concept is broadly outlined as a way for individuals to separate while still appreciating and honoring their partner and the relationship they shared together. And while experts say the phrase itself is new, they agree it’s indicative of the way many couples now approach divorce. Instead of lengthy court battles and name calling, both partners strive to be as cordial and communicative as possible during and beyond the split.

“In the past several decades, there’s been a societal trend where people really frown on a nasty divorce,” explains Constance Ahrons, Ph.D., psychologis, and author of The Good Divorce“Although I haven’t heard the concept phrased in these words before, it’s likely they both thought about and arrived at the decision together."

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Paltrow is getting a lot of flack for her choice of wording, namely blogs parodying the term, but experts agree the idea is likely in the best interest of the Paltrow/Martin family. “Deliberate and conscious dismantling of relationships isn’t uncommon, especially when both parties have important things on the line such as children, business ventures, or, in the case of celebrities, personal brands they need to protect,” explains Talia Wagner, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles. “While in many cases separation can come about due to circumstantial situations, such as evidence of cheating, in many other cases, the ending has been coming for a long time. In those cases, there likely aren’t as many heated and reactive emotions, so each individual can part in the best of ways,” she explains.

In this sense, maybe “conscious uncoupling” is a bright light at the end of a breakup—and if that's the case, it's one “trend” that we certainly hope will take off for other couples facing the same sad situation.

What do you think of the term? Would use it to describe a breakup? Tell us in the comments or tweet us at @Shape_Magazine.

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