We've all heard about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's decision to go their own separate ways by 'conscious uncoupling' and the media backlash that it sparked. I've read many articles dripping with disdain for the use of a term that is widely misunderstood.
Well unlike many people, the term was not new to me. Having studied relationships with some of the top experts around the world, it's a phrase that is very much a part of my vocabulary.
The question that many people have been asking is "What on earth is conscious uncoupling?"
If you look at the definitions of the word conscious, you begin to get some clues: 'Aware of and responding to one's surroundings', 'deliberate and intentional'.
So often in relationships we end up as slaves to our emotions. When someone hurts us, we don't think, we just react. Someone stands on our toes by mistake and we stomp on theirs because it hurts. We don't consider what's happening or why, we behave like animals reacting to our base level instincts.
It's part of the reason that a split after a long-term relationship can be such a gut-wrenching experience. We feel hurt, we feel wronged, and our first instinct is to lash out at the person who we see as the source of the pain.
Our reaction hurts them, and they lash out in return.
...and so the chain reaction builds and grows leading to the inevitable conclusion of mutual annihilation. Maybe not physically, but certainly emotionally.
We end up standing in the wreckage of our former relationship looking around us at the fall out (in terms of our hearts, our friends, family and in the worst cases children), wondering how the person who was once our closest ally in life became our worst enemy.
We take this experience and internalise it, becoming bitter, creating ideas and beliefs about an entire sex and relationships based on our experiences with one or two people. It changes us, and more often than not it's not for the better.
So the concept of conscious uncoupling is about choosing to deliberately and intentionally disentangle yourself emotionally from another person, doing it with consciousness and awareness, with the desired outcome being to heal the emotional wounds, take the lessons and the learnings, and move forward having grown in a positive way from the experience.
It's about moving forward cleanly rather than taking the baggage from one relationship and dumping it on the next. It's about making conscious choices that support the life you want to create for yourself, rather than emotional reactions that will simply leave you with consequences.
Is it all sunshine and roses? No.
Is it painful? Yes.
Does it negate the experience of separating or the time spent together? Definitely not.
It's about learning from the experiences you've had and understanding how you can move forward in the best way possible for everyone involved.
As a woman who has spent the vast majority of her life learning about relationships the hard way, and taking the long (often very painful way around) to get to the obvious conclusion, I wish I'd learned about conscious uncoupling a long time ago.
Whether you do it together, or whether you do it alone, conscious uncoupling can be the key to releasing the bitterness and regret from your past relationships and to healing from the experience.
Maybe if more people gave it a try it could reduce some of the pain of divorce and separation, and some of the emotional impact on both the people involved and any children they have?
So conscious uncoupling gets a big 'thumbs up' in my book...but what I'm more interested in is 'conscious coupling'.
You see, it's not just at the end of our relationships that we can be a slave to our emotions. Quite often when we meet someone for the first time, we can get swept away with the moment, caught up in the rush of attraction, blinded by chemistry.
Now chemistry is great, as long as it's built on a solid foundation.
The challenge that many people have is that they aren't being conscious when they're dating.
They go out into the world of dating without any real awareness of what they really want, not just in their ideal person but also in the kind of relationship that they're looking for.
They go out, they meet someone, they feel the zing of chemistry pumping through their veins and before they know it, they're in a relationship.
Some of these people don't even want a relationship, but sure enough they wake up one day with the label 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' and wonder what on earth happened!
So what makes for a solid foundation in relationships? At it's simplest level it's about having similar values, beliefs and desires for life. It doesn't tend to matter too much what the values, beliefs and desires for life are, as long as they can happily co-exist.
So for example, if one of your highest values is 'honesty' but you end up in a relationship with someone who lies all the time because they don't value honesty in the same way, the chances are it's not going to make for a happy ending.
Likewise if all you want is 2.4 children and a picket fence, and you're dating someone who is interested in adventure, experience and sharing that experience with as many 'special someones' as possible, it's probably not going to lead to a happy marriage.
So conscious coupling is about being conscious about whether you want a relationship, what are the important values for your ideal partner to have and what kind of relationship are you looking for? Are you just interested in something casual? Do you want a long-term partnership? Do you want marriage, kids, the whole enchilada?! Which values are most important to you?
Because ultimately the best way to create a great relationship is when you get two people, who have similar values, beliefs and desires, who are interested in a similar kind of relationship and who are genuinely attracted to each other.
So how do you do that?
- Get really clear on what you want, both in a partner and in a relationship
- Consider who you need to be in order to both attract that kind of partner and create that kind of relationship
- Do not compromise your highest values for ANYTHING in a relationship. It might work for the short term, but it is likely to cost you in the long run.
The challenge that a lot of people face is that they aren't aware of what they really want, because they've either never thought about it (or don't believe it's possible) and when they go out dating they don't consciously choose people who are a good fit for them (and avoid those that aren't!)
...and more often than not it can be months or years before they realise and consciously acknowledge that a fundamental incompatibility exists between them and it can make for a difficult and often messy separation.
Now taking the conscious coupling approach is no guarantee that things will work out, but it definitely gives you a better chance than unconsciously coupling.
Maybe if we practiced more 'conscious coupling' then there wouldn't be so much 'conscious uncoupling' required.
I'd love to hear from you now. What are your experiences of conscious uncoupling? What do you think about the idea of conscious coupling and being more conscious of the choices we make when looking for love? What questions do you have about conscious uncoupling and conscious coupling. Leave your questions and comments below...
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Wishing You Love,