I am normally not a “star Gazer”, in the sense of following the personal lives of movie stars. My attention was grabbed however, by the story of how Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin ended their “10 plus “ year relationship. This famous couple has made their breakup, which they refer to as a process of “Conscious Uncoupling”, very public. They give credit to the relationship expert, Katherine Woodward, for guiding them through a thoughtful and heartfelt five-step process of saying goodbye to one another. The five steps are worth checking out, I think, as they offer hope that it is possible to end a relationship with a feeling of goodwill and respect between the parties. This benefits not only the parties themselves, but everyone else associated with the parties…such as children and other extended family and friends.
Step One…. Get A Handle On Hot Emotions
There can be no doubt that going through a breakup causes a volcano of strong emotions to erupt within the individuals involved. All of the most basic emotions are triggered in such a situation…including grief, fear, and anger. Added to this, there is often the shock of something that seems to come “out of left field” and turn the trajectory of life upside down. Two pieces of advice are important here. First one….Its important to allow oneself to feel the emotion all the way through…don’t deny or repress. Secondly, it’s important to have a “vent buddy”. You don’t want to “act” on emotions while in a heightened emotional state as you may do or say something that causes you more grief later on. You do want to express the emotions, though, to a trusted friend or therapist who will hold your confidentiality.
Step Two…Don’t Wait For Time To Heal Your Broken Heart…. Be Proactive
In Conscious Uncoupling, the concept of actively and proactively grieving is stressed. Research has shown that the brain chemistry of “loss” is exactly the same for relationship breakup as it is if you had experienced the death of a loved one. In both cases, stress hormones bring about feelings of extreme depression and anxiety. Really, we should get bereavement leave for separation and divorce, but the society pretty much minimizes these life events. So…how do you “actively grieve?” In the Conscious Uncoupling” process, it is suggested that setting a conscious intention from the very beginning to make something meaningful and even beautiful out of your personal trauma can mitigate prolonged grief. You may not believe it in the beginning, but you can set the intention anyway. In the mystic spiritual traditions, it is recognized that personal suffering, breaks the heart open for personal growth. Start to embrace this concept.
Step Three…. Don’t Get Stuck In Blame And Shame
The extreme position of being a Victim of grievous wrongdoing in a “breakup” situation can feel initially righteous and justified. It may very well be quite justified. The problem comes with “holding on” to the victim story. Growth is impeded at this point. It’s equally important to let go of any shame that may be either self imposed, or imposed by the society. Society employs the word “broken family” when separation and divorce occurs…but this is actually inaccurate when looking at things from a longer view. In today’s world, families can be seen as “expanded” and “changed” rather than permanently “broken”. Languaging can be important.
Steps Four and Five…Learning Communication Techniques and aligning your community. It’s Important in cases where children are involved
How to proceed with steps four and five, depends on how well the parties in the relationship are able to communicate, and how necessary ongoing communication is. Admittedly, many relationships break up in ways which involve extreme forms of betrayal (affairs) and/or domestic violence. In such cases, it may be that true communication can’t happen without a third party to mediate. According to “conscious uncoupling” paradigm, though, even if you can’t communicate directly with your “ex”, you can find ways to ask for what you want clearly and “non violently”. You can do this especially well if you have moved beyond blame and shame. Classes and/or coaching in “non violent” communication can be very helpful. Mutually agreeable solutions can be reached.
“Aligning” your community refers to the importance of talking to family and friends about your decision to refrain from engaging in negative language and blame regarding your “ex” and his/her present partner (if there is one) This may be the hardest thing of all to do, and may not reflect your true feelings. In such cases, you may still need your “vent buddy”, but publicly, you are making it smoother for your children and all of your friends…past and present… if you can adopt the “no blame” stance.
So there you have the five steps of the “conscious Uncoupling” process. It feels like an ideal to me…a work in progress that is way easier said than done.
Let me know what you think
By Leslie Kays MFT