Divorce is dirty and messy. But can calling it by another term make the split less painful?
I HAVE a friend who likes to send me WhatsApp messages about the latest news at all times of the day and night.
That was how I found out that American actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, singer in the British band Coldplay, are splitting up.
“Cold turn,” read my friend’s message which woke me up early that Wednesday.
“They call it ‘conscious uncoupling’.”
Yup, what ordinary folk term “divorce”, Paltrow is describing as “conscious uncoupling”.
That was the headline she used in a blog post announcing her 11-year marriage had ended.
She said that she and Martin have tried to make it work but have concluded that “while we love each other very much we will remain separate”.
“We hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner,” she added.
Now, news of couples divorcing is sad (even celebrity couples), especially when there are children involved (they have two.)
It is also understandable that they would want to keep their divorce as civil as possible, especially for the sake of the children.
But to label divorce “conscious uncoupling” is bound to get you ridiculed – which it did.
My WhatsApp friend came up with other permutations:
Unconscious coupling: Sex when two people are drunk.
Subconscious coupling: Making a connection when meditating.
Unconscious uncoupling: Divorce which makes you faint.
Concierge uncoupling: Quarrelling with the guy at hotel reception.
Conscience uncoupling: Freeing oneself from any responsibility.
There were other spoofs:
Consciously uncouple is what I do with my boobs after a hot day, read a tweet.
I would like to consciously uncouple from my “fat pants” but that means I’d have to stop my conscious coupling with cake, said another.
#GwynethPaltrow makes me want to #consciouslyuncouple my dinner from my stomach, said a third.
A fourth opined that every teardrop is a conscious uncoupling.
To be fair to Paltrow, she didn’t make up the phrase.
Attached to her blog entry is a lengthy essay by two doctors, Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami, in which they expound about “wholeness in separation”.
They argue that the institution of marriage hasn’t kept up with people’s “skyrocketing life expectancy”.
We live much longer than our Stone Age ancestors, but our “biology and psychology aren’t set up to be with one person for four, five, or six decades”, they say.
In fact, the idea of being married to one person forever is too much pressure for anyone. In other words, we should regard divorce as a way of life.
But if we view our partners as “teachers” helping us evolve our “internal, spiritual support structure”, we can avoid the drama of divorce and experience “a conscious uncoupling”.
They go on about creating an “internal cathedral” filled with self-love, self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.
At that point, however, my brain consciously uncoupled from all that feel-good twaddle. I couldn’t bear to finish their article.
They aren’t the only advocates of conscious uncoupling.
A Google search reveals that the term was apparently coined by American psychotherapist and author Katherine Woodward Thomas.
She offers a five-week programme called just that. It promises to help you not turn your “soul-mate to soul-hate”.
I hope the Paltrow-Martin divorce will be as amiable as the spin they have put on it, but seriously, from what I’ve seen, divorce is almost always messy, bitter and ugly.
Take H’s divorce.
It was finalised five years ago with both sides deciding to be civilised because of their daughter. But once in a while, dark clouds still surface and the scene is not pretty.
Time might heal but when a marriage disintegrates, ill will, old hurts and suspicions simmer for an awfully long time.
A British survey of 4,000 divorcees found that it takes an average of 17 months and 26 days after a divorce is finalised for a person to feel ready to move on.
The poll, done in 2009 by a dating website, also found that 43% felt relieved when the decree nisi came through, but a substantial 31% were sad it was all over.
It’s been the same for me.
I’ve had my share of break-ups and almost all ended on a sour note.
Some were outright nasty, as in both sides yelling “I hate you, I don’t want to ever see you again, goodbye”.
Actually, these were the good break-ups.
It’s clear the love has fizzled out and that we’re better off out of each other’s lives. The chapter is closed, we move on, with pleasure.
The more painful break-ups are the silent or the long-drawn, wistful and regretful ones.
I’ve been in relationships where he didn’t have the guts to tell me to my face that he had gone off me.
I was left hanging, waiting, wondering, suspecting, then finally realising after several wasted years what a fool I had been. Pure humiliation.
The regretful break-ups are equally tortuous.
It happens when you sort of want to break free but aren’t completely sure because you either don’t want to hurt his feelings or are too afraid to lose what is already there.
You try permutations like “let’s be best friends” and you stay in touch. But it’s draining to keep up the pretence when the love, or lust, is gone. Enough already. Move on.
Call it conscious uncoupling, splitsville, divorce, whatever.
Breaking up is hard to do and these Coldplay lyrics from The Scientist say it all:
“Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh take me back to the start.” — The Sunday Times/Asia News Network