Conscious uncoupling? What? Are we talking about train cars here?
Apparently not. Apparently ‘conscious uncoupling’ is a gentle, lovely term for an often chaotic, unlovely life situation. Divorce. But if we use unemotional words, maybe we can convince ourselves that this is an unemotional event, nobody will get hurt, and all will live happily ever after as the (obviously) unaffected children have a new reality.
I don’t know Gwyneth Paltrow. I don’t know what her life is like or what, if any, pain she may be in during a difficult time. All I know is I don’t like the public spin that divorce is simply two people making new life choices – no drama, no trauma, no pain. This isn’t about Gwyneth Paltrow and her choice to get a divorce. It’s about a high-profile celebrity using carefully crafted language to minimize the seriousness of divorce – making divorce seem hep or enlightened.
Using terms like ‘conscious uncoupling’ desensitizes us to the reality of what the event entails, and what damage it causes. These were not random words tossed out. By the time one does a press release, the language is carefully crafted to project the image that the ‘speaker’ intends. And using psychotherapist Katherine Woodard Thomas’ term ‘conscious uncoupling’ is intended to say: “No big deal.”
When I started practicing Family Law in Oklahoma over twenty years ago, a Plaintiff would file a Petition for Divorce and their spouse, the Defendant, would file a Response. Some years back, somebody decided that was too adversarial. The laws were actually changed so that now a Petitioner files a Dissolution of Marriage and the other spouse simply responds – thus is called the Respondent. There! Problem solved. No more nasty divorces. Now people are simply ‘dissolving’ their current life status. The label changes may alter some people’s perception of the process. Some may now feel it’s not the big deal they once thought ‘divorce’ was. But anybody who’s been through the ‘dissolution’ will tell you the process itself and all the pain and challenges that go with it didn’t get the memo.
Words are powerful tools. How we string them together can have significant impact on those who hear or read them. And when they are used to minimize and understate a very important concept, the impressionable among us who hear or read may be persuaded that a once-important concept is not the big deal they thought it was. Maybe they should lighten up. Or get enlightened. Or just not take things so seriously.
Maybe we could use this whole Hollywood hype to society’s advantage. Maybe we could get a high-profile celebrity to speak about the effects of UNconscious uncoupling. How mates who once swore to love and honor each other, in good times and bad, until death-do-us-part get so caught up in their own lives they stop focusing on the one they love and being half of the couple they created. Maybe if we could get someone important enough to talk about ‘UNconscious uncoupling,’ the topic would be splashed all over the media and talked about for weeks in newscasts and on talk shows. All the wonderful publicity and focus on ‘UNconscious uncoupling’ could very well result in a dramatic decrease in conscious uncoupling.