Conscious Uncoupling: What Is It Exactly?

rs_560x415-130724130535-560.martin.cm.72613A lot has been made about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin deciding to consciously uncouple, after more than 10 years of marriage. Many people are unsure of what exactly conscious uncoupling is and figure that it’s just a new age, more amiable way to say divorce, but is it?

The couple stressed in a statement that “in many ways we are closer than we have ever been”, they have come to the conclusion that “while we love each other very much we will remain separate”.

Conscious uncoupling is a great and healthy way to  to end a relationship, while remaining complete as a person. It’s basically when, in an ideal situation, a couple comes to an agreement that their romantic relationship isn’t working for them and that they should end that part of their relationship, leaving room for friendship or at least parting ways without bad feelings.

It sounds very Pollyannaish, but why do breakups, divorces and the end of relationships have to be so painful, heartbreaking and dramatic?

Part of it is because that is what is taught and modeled to us by society, our families and the media. We are taught breakups are supposed to be destructive and negatively impact our lives, but they don’t have to be.

Imagine if when one person realizes that the relationship isn’t working for him or her, that they were able to talk to their partner and have a conversation where they both agreed to consciously uncouple. There would be less pain, less negativity and less destruction in those two peoples lives.

They wouldn’t carry the baggage from their past relationship (at least not as much) into the rest of their lives and into their new relationships. They would be overall more mentally and emotionally healthy individuals.

Sadly, many of us aren’t rational enough to do conscious uncoupling. Most of us are naturally irrational and neurotic when it comes to love and our feelings for each other. Most of us, even when we know a relationship isn’t working out, stay anyway.

Much of the time we stay in relationships out of fear; fear of being alone, fear of hurting the other person, fear of what the future without that person will look like it. We all have our reasons for why we stay in relationships we really want out of.

We stay and become bitter, or stay and cheat either physically or emotionally. We stay and withdraw love, affection and sex to punish the other person. We stay until the other person does something that makes us leave, something which usually ends up hurting us and thus we usually leave relationships wounded and go into our new lives damaged with a greater risk of entering into a new relationship baring scars from old relationships.

I wish I had the rationale and guts to at least try conscious uncoupling in my previous relationships. It would have saved them and myself much pain, heartache, regret and sorrow, but I didn’t out of fear.

Conscious uncoupling takes audacity, a healthy overall sense of self, and I think for it to work successfully for both people, it takes two people who already have not only a healthy sense of who they are as individuals, but also have an overall healthy relationship with great communication to start with.

You may be thinking, if they had  a healthy relationship and great communication, then what was the problem? The problem could be anything. We don’t have to be in bad relationships to decide that it should end. We don’t have to be in good relationships and then consciously or unconsciously make them bad so that we have a reason to leave. We can practice conscious uncoupling as a healthy way to end a relationship while keeping us whole.

For more detailed information, and if you have 50 minutes, you can watch psychotherapist and author Katherine Woodward Thomas discuss conscious uncoupling. She specializes in “the art of completion” which she says is  “a proven process for lovingly completing a relationship that will leave you feeling whole and healed and at peace”

From experience I know that it hurts when relationships ends, but conscious uncoupling reminds me that it doesn’t necessarily have to.

Absent Fathers Can Lead To Depression In Teenage Girls

0e1380145_istock000002757055mFather’s Day is coming up and I recently read a study out of the United Kingdom published in the journal Psychological Medicine that suggests that young girls who grow up without their fathers turn into depressed teenagers later in life.

It’s well known that depression tends to effect teenage girls much more than teenage boys and that trend stays the same throughout adulthood. New research is suggesting that when young girls  grow up without their fathers, the risk of depression increases with 23% of teenage girls showing signs of tiredness or sadness if they’re separated from their father before the age of five.

According to the study, it also makes them 50% more likely to develop other mental health problems compared to girls whose fathers remained in their lives.

Preschoolers are especially vulnerable with dealing with divorce and separation poorly because they generally do not have a support system of peers or family members.

I took a quick survey of five teenage girls I am working with who have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, bulimia  and substance abuse and four out of five of them were abandoned by or separated from their father at an early age. Some through death, others through divorce or separation.

Many of the teenage girls I work with are suffering from “daddy issues” and are dealing with them in unhealthy ways. Some through self-hatred, others through drugs and alcohol or being extremely promiscuous and unstable in terms of dating and relationships.

Boys tend to handle absent fathers better according to the study, but I would like to suggest that they just express themselves differently and may not show signs of depression we typically look for. Instead boys may be angry, “troubled kids”, or become more withdrawn and reckless. I also think boys have more outlets to let out their frustrations through rough housing, sports and other physical activities.

Both older boys and girls tend to handle separation and divorce better with less instances of depression later in their teenage years, but working with teenagers I have no doubt that the effects of growing up without an attentive and active father are powerful and far reaching.

This is not to say that separation from their father at an early age definitely leads to depression in teenage girls. There are too many other factors such as economic  and social factors that also need to be taken into consideration. Also, girls tend to be more susceptible to personal negative events than boys which can lead to episodes of depression.

I think the take away from this research is not to stay in unhealthy or undesired relationships for the sake of the children because that can also have detrimental effects, but I think it suggests that we need to pay closer attention to young girls who have been separated from their fathers as parents and as those who work with children.

Fathers should stick around and be active in their daughters lives, even if the relationship with the mother has failed. A lot of time men think that they don’t have to be as involved with their daughters, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Mothers on the other hand shouldn’t gloss over the fact that their young girl is growing up without a father and should start looking for signs of emotional or behavioral stress or changes that may warrant attention such as individual, family or group counseling.

The most erratic and unstable young women I work with tend to be the ones who grew up without their fathers and I can only wonder that if they still had good relationships with an active and supportive father, if they wouldn’t be more stable and focused.