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Understanding the Meaning and Working of Conscious Uncoupling

Understanding Conscious Uncoupling
Conscious uncoupling is a process of separation that encourages self-reflection. Here, we will understand what the process involves and how one benefits from the same.
Rujuta Borkar
Last Updated: Dec 09, 2017
This concept is said to originate from a psychological phenomenon called 'object relations theory'. This theory was developed by psychoanalyst Melanie Klein and was applied to couples therapy to understand relationships better.
It was in early 2014 that the term conscious uncoupling was used by film star Gwyneth Paltrow to announce the mutual separation with her musician husband, Chris Martin after 10 years of marriage. Since then, the phrase in itself has created quite a buzz on social media sites and other forums because of its novelty.
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There has also been an added (and growing) interest in the term, owing to the fact that it was preferred instead of the more commonly used terms like divorce, separation, and splitting, among others.

What does conscious uncoupling mean and in what way is it different than a normal breakup? Here, we will understand the meaning of this term and the reasons why many are preferring to use it instead of the term 'divorce'.
Conscious uncoupling refers to the conscious and deliberate act of separating or uncoupling from a relationship and in doing so, making a conscious effort of looking inward, rather than playing the blame game.
Divorces, breakups, and separations usually end up being messy affairs owing to the tendency of both partners to find fault in each other and hold the other responsible for the crumbling and eventual downfall of the relationship. Doing which, not only has an effect on the couple itself, but severely affects their children (if any) as well.

What this process chooses to do instead, is separate in such a manner that it spares everyone the added emotional turmoil that is brought about by bitter fighting, arguments, and blaming the ex. While this is a commendable way of looking at the process, there is an even more noteworthy phenomenon that conscious uncoupling carries forth―it encourages the couple to take a reflective stance towards the role that they themselves had to play, which led to the eventual disintegration of the relationship and them as a couple.
Seeing as how it is a rather radical way of thinking, it is not as easy as it seems. The tendency to blame the other and find fault in their actions is common and expected. In such a situation, it requires a phenomenal shift in perspective to be able to look inward, analyze one's rights and wrongs, and at the same time not be bogged down by what one discovers.
According to psychotherapist, Katherine Woodward Thomas, conscious uncoupling should not be looked upon as a failure of a relationship or the inability to carry forth one successfully, it should, instead, be taken as an opportunity at self-improvement.
To analyze that the things that irked us about our partner are not a reflection on them, but rather understand why they affect us the way that they do. When we learn to question these concepts and analyze our own actions and reactions, our thought processes become clearer, and we begin to consciously change. And this makes us equipped at not repeating the same mistakes in the next relationship that we get into. If there are children involved, then conscious uncoupling is the most ideal way to split without causing further stress and trauma. Moreover, because children learn by imitation, they will get an insight into this rather mature way of handling a relationship and a breakup.
While the concept in itself sounds encouraging, it is easier said than done. To be able to overcome the hurt, anger, and bitterness, and focus on the positive, is neither easy, nor always possible. However, with the concept becoming popular, there is always hope that the philosophy it puts forth will encourage couples to take this up.