A conscious uncoupling or a plain old divorce?

Here at PFL, we’re not sure that the general public feel that sympathetic when a celebrity couple separate. So when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their split last week, we noticed that social media, online news sites, and other law-focused bloggers were all of a flurry; but it wasn’t top of the conversation topics amongst the clients in our office.

In reality, the highs and lows of our personal relationships are something of a leveller. They make a seemingly perfect actress-chef-writer and a cool rock music dude just as ordinary as the rest of us. It doesn’t matter, in the end, how many homes you have, or how many millions there are to divide, separating celebrities climb on board the same emotional rollercoaster as the rest of us, ride the ride, as all of us who find ourselves calling at Divorce Central, do.

Paltrow’s interest in alternative living and Eastern philosophy did influence the way in which the couple announced their separation. They described it, via Gwyneth’s lifestyle blog goop, as a ‘conscious uncoupling’. We found that an intriguing phrase here at PFL so we did a little further research. Underneath the announcement on goop, an essay by Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami, doctors who integrate Eastern and Western medicine appears, the basic gist of which is that humans now lives much longer lives than they have at any previous point in history, and that the marriage-model has not adapted in evolutionary terms. It talks of how we are much more likely to have 2 or 3 life partners during our lifetimes, and thus there is no need to feel sad or defeated by a separation from your present partner. They say, ‘living happily ever after for the length of a 21st century lifetime should not be the yardstick by which we define a successful intimate relationship.’

Western societies have seen a dramatic rise in divorce rates, in cohabitation, and in lone-living in the latter half of the 20th century moving into the 21st. There is some truth in the notion that ‘the times they are a-changing’, and that our options are now much greater than they have ever been. We’ve written before on the historic development of the divorce law, and there is no denying the fact that it now functions in a much more egalitarian way than ever before (although the impact of the withdrawal of legal aid may take the shine off this. But we aren’t entirely sure that the people who come through our doors for help are seeing their experience as something so serene as the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ implies. What we do hope, however, is that we can help them reach a point of peace and relative contentment once the roller coaster has come to a stop.