Thanks to celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s public “conscious uncoupling,” we have an expected way to divorce and co-parent, which has now been heralded as the best way to do this breakup thing.
While I’m not sure of Gwyn and Chris’ specific divorce reasons and I do believe people evolve out of certain relationships and exit as friends, now that this “conscious uncoupling” standard is out there, it is undoubtedly misunderstood and usurped by abusers as evidence that you are not on the same level your enlightened ex.
It’s another manipulation tactic that puts the impetus on the survivor to “prove” their healing, using this enlightened co-parent argument to pathologize us. They use this example to encourage the implication that there’s something wrong with you – usually in terms of your psychological well-being while at the same time elevating themselves.
This more intentional way to part ways has now become the external marker for others to determine if we are healed and healthy. Abusers use it as another form of triangulation. They position you and your lack of healing against outsiders who can judge you as a way to demean you and bully you into submission, which highlights how much they are superior to you. “Look even others think you are still crazy and not over this yet!”
These are slightly more camouflaged attacks against your mental health and just another way to keep you off-center.
Don’t get hooked. The more power you let them have over your emotions, the less likely you will trust your own reality and the truth about the abuser.
I was surprised I had internalized the pathology around this because we fall back on the narrative that yes, if I were truly healed, their shit wouldn’t still bother me or that I would be over this by now. No.
Healing is not linear or happens on a certain timeline.
Validate Your Own Feelings
Let’s make sure we determine the metrics for our own healing. These might include: Do I listen to myself more? Do I validate my own feelings? Am I getting stronger in my sense of self? Do I sit with my feelings without condemning them? Do I know what real love and support looks like?
Don’t let this co-opted story of the enlightened divorce pervade your sense of clarity.
The beauty that goes missing in this story is that both Gywn and Chris probably did some serious work on themselves and met each other where they were in their healing. But you can only meet a person where they have met themselves. Unfortunately, several of us are divorced/divorcing from someone who hasn’t done their work and projects that onto us as a way to shield themselves.
So I encourage you, don’t accept this bullshit. Strive for your own emotional healing. Keep clear on why you divorced in the first place.
There is probably a history of inconspicuous emotional abuse with your ex that you are finally seeing clearly now. Don’t get disillusioned by the hope that the person you divorced is now some conscious co-parent and you are still stuck in the past.
If that were true, your ex wouldn’t be shaming, demanding, or pressuring you with a “how to heal appropriately story,” as if their perspective is the only correct way to look at things.
No one holds the keys to healing but you. Remember this. This is the path to enlightenment.
Emily, I was certain with your title that you were writing a satire piece. I was wrong. I too am unfamiliar with the intimate details of G and C’s uncoupling. Of course, GooP is not the best influencer of healing, health, or sexuality. She’s a bit of a monster actually. And Mr. Coldplay is now moved into a 15 million dollar mansion with who? I get it, “conscious uncoupling” can be used as a weapon. And, as you suggest, in an abusive relationship, it could be weaponized. Is that what you see happening?
I would hope people take the conscious part of uncoupling seriously. Regardless of either spouses mental health or acquity, we need to focus on the health of our kids rather than the enlightenment of ourselves or lack thereof of our exes. I think we should be having a different conversation. I think G and C did us a favor initially. Then GooP did her thing, Chris did his thing. And here we are.
I would love to imagine my enlightened ex. Unfortunately, I cannot. I assume it’s rare for most of us to find balance inside the most painful of maelstroms we may ever experience, divorce.
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Thank you, also, for your fellowship on this crazy ride.
“Putting our children first” in the divorce, while admirable, is unrealistic. It is yet another form of what this article is talking about – having the “best” way to do divorce that can be used as a false measuring stick.
We heal, our kids heal. We aren’t superheroes, nor should we burden our children with that ideal.
While yes, we have to parent even during crisis and not languish in our pain, we do our children a disservice if they ONLY see us as “a strong parent.”
We are human, and our kids need to see how we handle pain, sadness, disappointment. They need to see how we set boundaries so they learn how to as well. They need to see what tools we access in order to heal. I am not advocating our children become our personal therapists.
We need to develop an age-appropriate awareness of what we allow our children to witness, of course, but showing all sides of our humanity with honesty while being a strong leader for them is the ideal I am striving for.
I think this is a much more realistic and beautifully nuanced definition of “putting our kids first.”
Sending love and peace to you and your family.
(also huge fan of Dr. Shefali’s work)