It’s conscious uncoupling that prevents families from being broken by divorce and creates expanded families that continue to function in a healthy way outside of traditional marriage.
Before we unpack Conscious Uncoupling and how it effects our view of marriage and divorce, we have to look at our perspective. You are likely in one of more of these scenarios, (but not limited to):
1. You are a child of divorce in some stage of healing and processing.
2. You are considering marriage and asking yourself What is marriage?
3. You are married and both of your are working damn hard to keep divorce out of the equation.
4. You are married and considering divorce yourself.
5. You are married and your spouse is considering divorce.
6. You are divorced and your spouse quit on you and know that wounds never heal fully.
7. You are divorced because you quit and you may or may not see it that way.
8. You are in an emotional, physical, and/or sexually abusive relationship and divorce is a necessary topic.
Depending on which perspective you have when reading about Conscious Uncoupling, you will have a different response. Let’s be clear from the beginning. If you are are #8, Insightc2 (Matt and I) will always encourage safety for you and any children involved first, and divorce may be part of that process. If you are considering divorce, we also encourage separation before an individual follows through a divorce to gain wise counsel and support before a divorce is finalized. Matt and I together stand for marriage, the covenant, lifelong relationship with one person. It is not easy. In fact, it is the hardest damn thing we will ever do. But it is intended to be the most rewarding, more than any career or amount of success we will ever accumulate.
If you are not #3, it is hard to understand the visceral reaction this group of couples felt when Conscious Uncoupling came out. As a couple who is #3 and mental health professionals that work with all of the above perspectives on a daily basis, it is important for me (Corie) to make a statement about this theory/movement and the harm it can do to every one of those perspectives (1-8).
This is not about the details in a celebrity’s life and why they are choosing to divorce, but it is about the platform they have to influence others.
What is “Conscious Uncoupling”?
Here is a link to read the full article:
Dr. Habib Sadeghi & Dr. Sherry Sami are the ones who have coined term “Conscious Uncoupling” and are trying to suggest that we need to redefine divorce. They claim that divorce is not the problem, it is more likely the fact that we are living longer lives and being with one person is just not realistic. They are encouraging three things.
1. Lifelong marriage is no longer something that is realistic since we are living longer than our ancestors and we are biologically/psychologically more likely to spend our lives in several long term relationships, therefore the belief structure/expectation/measuring stick of marriage should be lowered to what is easier or what commonly seen in America.
2. In order to make divorce less painful, we must shift our beliefs about divorce as well. Divorce brings with it shame, feelings of failure, and deep hurt, causing us to lashing out in resentment and anger. Feeling like a personal failure can be prevented if we resolve that the pressure of “till death do us part” in our vows was too high of a standard to commit to.
3. By setting boundaries with people and taking ownership for our own internal reactions, we can be vulnerable and yet unaffected by other people’s behavior. By realizing our conflict with the other person is triggering our own issues, we can resist the urge to add fuel to the fire and instead regulate our own behavior.
I don’t completely disagree with Sami and Sadeghi. The one thing I appreciate is their attempt to encourage healthy boundaries. Nearly every session I have with clients involve boundaries and toxic people. On some level we must learn to take care of our own internal response to people (i.e. you can’t make me angry, I choose to be angry). I agree that there are times that we must find the strength within ourselves to see our own worth and respond with firm boundaries when someone else is destroying our relationship with selfishness. In fact, if you are #1 and a child of divorce, you likely loved this theory because it tends to your pain of having parents who made a decision that changed your life and you either are thankful that they successfully co-parented, or read this and wish this theory could have helped. You (and I) are hearing it from a child’s perspective in light of our own pain of people that chose to hurt each other without regard to others around them. Yet, redefining marriage doesn’t quite sit right either because you will always, deep down inside as a child, wish that your parent(s) would have chosen selflessness and achieved the “crown” of lifelong partnership that is now the “exception to the rule.”
If you are #8, in an abusive relationship, then this doesn’t work either. Although setting boundaries is necessary (and extremely difficult) and finding the inner strength is necessary to set them, uncoupling is not an option. There are and should be deep consequences to the offending spouse, possibly including having little to no choice on your role in parenting and access to the spouse you hurt. In these scenarios, taking internal ownership of what is happening in conflict is the opposite direction we would want. The other person is selfishly destroying you, and that is not your fault, nor does it have to do entirely with your past. It has everything to do with your spouse selfishly harming those around him/her. Marriage is not the problem, divorce is not the problem- you made a bad choice in who you chose to marry and they are just a bad person. Period.
If you are married (#3, 4, or 5), you know that marriage is the hardest thing ever. There are ups and downs and during your worst moments, it takes maturity and selflessness to not throw the “d” word out. Conscious Uncoupling is offensive because you participated in your vows on your wedding day, and they meant something to you. Even more, you hope they meant something to your spouse. You have likely learned that original vows are a one time commitment in front of others who witness them but they are a daily choice as well. Spouses who are both fighting for their marriage (or those who are trying but their spouses aren’t) see Uncoupling as a cop out for something they fight for daily. The standard of “till death do us part” is sometimes the only thing that gets them through the worst moments where they can say on the other side, I’m so glad I held on to that commitment. Uncoupling only gives a spouse the “permission” to change their mind and give up, saying Oh well, it was never meant to be (especially when your spouse is not doing the work already). It is weak, selfish, and destructive to whose heart you promised to standby “in sickness and in health, for rich or poor”. I say, if you said “I do” you are accountable to that and there are consequences when you don’t. Some of those include the generation beneath you that you committed to providing stability for at conception whether or not you feel like it.
Speaking of the next generation, if you are #2 and considering marriage, this definitely affects you. Hitching to this bandwagon, especially because some celebrity endorsed it, is ignorant, naive, and headed towards a disaster fueled by entitlement. Do your future spouse a favor and change your vows to “I might”, then they have the opportunity to rethink whether you are seriously into this and they can back out before having their heart broken by someone who is only half in, half meaning only considering his/herself.
Marriage is designed to have friction. Under the covenant relationship of “lifelong commitment” there will be intense differences. It is the friction that causes movement towards betterment. Two people should not even enter into it unless they have proven as much as possible their ability to receive accountability and actually make changes, rather then just think on potential. They also need to show they have the guts to hold you accountable when there is something your need to change. In other words, marriage takes confidence, humility, and a willingness to improve- even when you can’t see it as clearly as your spouse can. That’s why having a God in the mix of all of this is crucial. We are all human and flawed and it takes a God who is not, paired with the wisdom of community around you who also believe in this God to help you see when to be confident, when to humble yourself, and when to do the hard work.
Finally, lets talk about #6 and 7. If you are divorced and someone left you (#6), there is no amount of your ex finally deciding to be an adult that will make the pain of that marriage failing go away. Although self regulating and boundaries can lead to healthier communication post divorce, reframing marriage and divorce is not going to take the sting away. It is jsut as difficult to see a family split up because one or both were acting like children only to act like adults once the family is torn. For some people, suddenly choosing to Consciously Uncouple is a slap in the face of those who were hurt. It is saying, I will now get along with you for the sake of others by managing my own feelings, now that less is required of you. I’m not saying you still shouldn’t try, maturity is always best, but you will still not be able to escape accountability.
If you are #7 and you initiated the divorce, you may have ended it because you tried and the other didn’t and you had to set a boundary. In that case, you are really #6 and have every right to still be processing your feelings for having to make that decision. I’m more so talking to the ones who emotionally left their spouse even before the marriage. The ones who just gave up, had affairs and left, and are still experiencing the consequences of their actions. For you, Conscious Uncoupling validates what you’ve been needing to hear the whole time. That marriage is too hard and it is completely acceptable to end things early. That divorce shouldn’t have feelings of guilt attached to it if we just say that this is the norm in America. To you (although you won’t hear it) I will say that you are fooling yourself, and so are Sami and Sadeghi.
There is no escaping guilt, unless you are a sociopath and maybe that is who Conscious Uncoupling is for. Guilt is the productive feeling in our gut that says we are or have done something wrong. It is what moves us to change our selves and be better. Without it, a marriage would never survive. Get rid of that, and there will be no marriage at all. If someone hurt you by leaving when you were still trying, then guilt is not the usual feeling- it is the pain of rejection mixed with relief- neither of which I would minimize by saying marriage was just too hard. For them, it was torture.
So I contend, marriage is not the problem, divorce is not the problem, selfishness is always the problem. It is the root of sin and is what makes us human, which is why we need a God.