The culture around divorces has evolved significantly over the past few decades. Where ending a marriage was once considered taboo, it has now become a fact of life. This is healthier because it allows many couples to end their relationships amicably rather than remaining trapped in unhappy marriages.
That’s where the concept of conscious uncoupling comes from. It is one of the most well-known ways to end a long-term relationship, such as a marriage, without unnecessary animosity. But what does conscious uncoupling actually mean?
What Is Conscious Uncoupling?
The roots of conscious uncoupling stretch back to 1976, when sociologist Diane Vaughan published her “uncoupling” theory. She hypothesized that failing relationships often linger longer than they should because one party holds on long after consciously or unconsciously realizing it was ending. As a result, this person delays mourning for the relationship, potentially causing them to lash out when the other party breaks things off.
This was expanded in the early 2010s, as Katherine Woodward Thomas introduced a defined five-step program intended to help couples end marriages with less conflict. Thomas’ view was that people who hold onto strong emotions about the end of a relationship are only harming themselves and each other. Her program was intended to help people move beyond these emotions to make better decisions. It focused on tasks like:
- Noticing and naming your emotions as they occur
- Identifying and redirecting negative patterns
- Acknowledging your own role in the end of the relationship
- Setting healthy boundaries with your ex-partner
- Setting new goals unrelated to the relationship
Today, the term has been popularized as an alternative to “amicable divorce” after actress Gwyneth Paltrow used it to describe her split in 2014. While the full five-step program is no longer popular, the strategies involved in conscious uncoupling remain valuable for amicable divorces.
Why Choose an Amicable Divorce?
But why is an amicable split so important? Certainly, not every couple can or should remain friends after ending their marriage. If your spouse is abusive, you have no obligation to stay on good terms with them.
However, as divorces have become more accepted, it has become increasingly common for people to end marriages just because they’re unhappy. In these circumstances, an amicable divorce can be worthwhile. Some of the biggest benefits of cooperative splits include:
- Saving Time: When you’re on speaking terms, navigating issues like the division of assets is much easier. You’re less likely to waste time scheduling unnecessary hearings when you can negotiate or attend mediation meetings instead.
- Saving Money: In court, time is money. When you’re saving time by not fighting over everything, you’re also reducing the cost of your split.
- Reducing Stress: Being angry is stressful. So is arguing over every detail of your split. A collaborative approach makes the process significantly less stressful in the long run.
- Supporting Children: Kids never want to watch their parents fight. Even if you don’t want to stay friends with your spouse after your divorce, an amicable split will be less hard on your children.
In short, amicable divorces are simpler, less costly, and less stressful for everyone.
How to Consciously Uncouple in California
It’s one thing to say that an amicable divorce is preferable. It’s another thing entirely to stay friendly (or at least professional) when going through the process. That’s where conscious uncoupling techniques come into play.
Acknowledge Your Emotions
You can be upset your marriage is ending. You can be mad, even furious, with your spouse. You can be worried about the future, sad about what you’re losing, and hopeful about your new life, all at the same time.
Don’t try to hide these emotions. Let yourself feel them somewhere safe, away from your partner. Vent to friends and family if you need to, or consider writing a journal. Then, once you’ve experienced everything these emotions bring, let them go. You’ll find it much easier to negotiate with your spouse when you’re not trying to ignore everything you feel.
Stop Focusing on Blame
The blame game can be tempting, but steer clear. The person who “caused” your divorce doesn’t matter under California’s no-fault divorce laws. Even if your spouse violated your trust, assigning blame turns divorces into a fight you want to win. Instead, focus on finding the most equitable outcome to begin your new life sooner.
Set Unrelated Goals
A divorce can take over your life. If you have nothing else to capture your attention, it’s easy to let your emotions spiral and cause conflict.
Setting goals completely unrelated to your marriage can help you avoid this. Find something new you want to accomplish, like learning a language or becoming more physically fit. Having something else to think about can help you be more emotionally resilient and remain amicable during your split.
Work With Experts
Divorces are hard. You don’t need to handle yours on your own. One of the most effective elements of the original conscious uncoupling was encouraging couples to work with a counselor during their divorce. That outside expert can make all the difference.
There are many experts you can work with during your split. While you may not want to go to couples counseling, you may consider attending mediation to help you negotiate with your spouse.
More importantly, you should always work with an experienced divorce attorney. An attorney with a background in collaborative law and other alternative dispute resolution methods can be invaluable for achieving a truly amicable divorce. They can help keep negotiations on track, maintain a professional environment, and guide you in developing your final settlement. At CC LawGroup, A Professional Corporation in Newark, California, we are dedicated to helping our clients achieve more equitable divorces. We are prepared to represent you and your family as you consciously uncouple. Get in touch to learn more about how our experienced attorneys can support you by scheduling your consultation today.