Much ado was made last week about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s announcement regarding their separation, which appeared on Paltrow’s GOOP website on March 25 under the unfortunate header of “Conscious Uncoupling.”
I admit, I bristled at the title. No married pair “accidentally” uncouples, or “unwittingly” uncouples, or “unconsciously” uncouples. They get divorced. Let’s call a spade a spade, folks.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve watched an increasing number of friends and acquaintances get divorced. Most of them start out with similar announcements – we’re still best friends, we still love each other very much, nothing HAPPENED, we’re just….. not together any more. But we’re going to do it right! We’re not going to be like other divorced couples! We’re going to be the Valedictorians of Uncoupling!
Because obviously, my inner horned devil whispers, “other” divorced couples set out to mortally wound each other, destroy their children, and spend a small fortune in the process. Of course.
A few months pass. One of the exes discovers that former friends have been socializing with the other ex. Or that it’s not possible to divide the family pets 50-50. Or that the ex is dating someone (hard) and your child seems to like him or her (harder). You suddenly NEED that crock-pot your ex took from the marital kitchen. You discover that your child has been eating chicken nuggets at your ex’s house. Every night. For a week.
And suddenly something snaps, and your good intentions crumble, and it’s TOTAL WAR, SALT THE EARTH. This is the moment when the “real” divorce happens, when you realize this is no longer your best friend, and maybe you don’t still love each other very much, after all.
And that’s okay.
In fact, after I got over the smug title, I applauded Gwyneth Paltrow for having good intentions. Getting divorced is like having a baby – nothing can prepare you for it, and the best laid plans tend to fall by the wayside. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to have lofty aspirations. Look at wedding vows!
Besides, what’s the alternative? “Hey, guys. We can’t stand to be in the same room, but are going to suck it up for the kids until we can’t any more, and one of us will probably develop a drinking problem and/or start dressing inappropriately for our age. Cheers!”
I believe it’s better to aim high and fall short than to set the bar low and slide by.
I think we need a new way to phrase the commitments we make during the process of separation and divorce. Stop using statements like “we are closer than we have ever been.” Because srsly, if it takes divorce to bring you closer as a couple, you’re possibly doing it wrong.
Maybe we should have divorce vows.
We are separating.
We will strive to be unfailingly polite to each other in all our interactions.
We will fulfill our parental duties to the best of our ability, and trust that our ex-spouse is doing the best they can, too.
We will not hold information or tangible items hostage, nor will we hold grudges over material possessions.
We will recognize that our friends and families are not ours to control.
We promise to be respectful, and to think long and hard before posting that nasty Facebook status, because that sh*t is permanent.
We will try to dismantle our life together with grace and good humor, and we appreciate your support during this transition.
Call it conscious uncoupling, call it divorcing like an adult, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Do I fulfill these divorce vows perfectly? Bleep no. But I aspire to. Just like in a marriage, every single day I am given a fresh opportunity to do it better than the day before.