Let's Give Gwyneth Paltrow And Chris Martin Credit

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By Mandy Walker, Featured Columnist - March 27, 2014

Paltrow.jpgPeople may be poking fun at the divorce announcement from Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin requesting privacy while they “consciously uncouple and coparent,” but anyone who issues a joint statement about the end of their marriage deserves credit and recognition for the hard work that goes into creating such a statement.

For starters, it means that both parties have agreed the marriage is over. Paltrow and Martin state, "We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate."  

Most marriages don’t end suddenly, they unravel over time and usually one spouse comes to the realization that it’s over long before the other spouse. There then can come a period of negotiation and seemingly never-ending discussions trying to convince the other party. Somehow divorce seems more palatable if you can get your spouse to agree without having to be the bad guy by going ahead and filing for divorce to force the issue.

Agreeing on the wording of the statement itself is a major accomplishment. The Paltrow and Martin statement isn’t the briefest of announcements and at some 135 words there’s ample room for disagreement, not just on the content but also on the words themselves. Including the phrase, "consciously uncouple" was probably subject to much debate.

Getting to the point where you’re both comfortable with the announcement requires good communication skills, the ability to see each other’s perspective and a willingness to compromise. All of these are essential skills for negotiating your divorce settlement and for your on-going parenting relationship both of which will likely be far more challenging than crafting a 135 word announcement. Working on the announcement however, is a good warm-up exercise for what’s to come.

Issuing an announcement could also be a positive sign for the divorce negotiations themselves: the greater the commitment to find common ground the less likely it is that the divorce will end up going to trial, a spectacle that most couples, celebrity or not would prefer to avoid. Simply being able to issue a combined statement is an early indicator of a desire by both parties to reduce the conflict in one of life’s most stressful events.

Going public with your divorce is also ideally something that both you and your spouse will coordinate, especially if you have children. No one wants their children to hear of their divorce from an inadvertent comment by a friend, another kid’s parent, their teacher or in Paltrow’s and Martin’s case from the tabloids while waiting in the supermarket checkout line. Your children need to hear this from you directly before they hear any rumors and ideally from both parents at the same time.

Issuing a divorce statement is evidence that Paltrow and Martin are carefully thinking through how to separate their lives, controlling who needs to know what and when, and avoiding knee-jerk reactions that are common and understandable in breakups.

The term ‘consciously uncouple’ may be too new agey or progressive for many to adopt but as a divorce coach and mediator, it’s an approach I wish more divorcing couples would embrace.

Mandy Walker is a divorce coach and a mediator. She’s the creator of the affordable, self-paced, online divorce coaching program, My Divorce Pal which offers practical guidance on all aspects of divorce. She has a number of divorce publications available including free audio programs on deciding on divorce and preparing for divorce. Follow her Facebook page for more updates.

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