Last week, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their separation to the world.
But instead of calling it a separation or divorce, they called it a “conscious uncoupling.” What does this mean in the context of conscious living?
Generally divorces are characterised by blame, anger, pain and trauma for all involved. Paltrow and Martin wanted to avoid this experience of separation, particularly because of their two children. So they decided to be conscious about it, which means that they brought awareness and mindfulness to the separation. It is an interesting trend that may weave its way into the wider population.
In a conscious uncoupling, each partner sees the other as a teacher helping them to evolve. Our partners are often just a reflection of our inner worlds. If we are feeling happy and excited, we will project these positive feelings onto our partner. Conversely, if we look at our partner and feel judgemental, angry or betrayed, it is because there are parts of us that are wounded and cause us to feel that way. We project different parts of ourselves onto our partner because it is often easier to observe these things in other people rather than feeling and acknowledging them in ourselves.
While the nature of this ‘conscious uncoupling’ remains to be seen, I wonder whether these types of ‘rich and famous’ marriages are simply fated to end. These types of couples tend to spend a lot of time away from each other, and their lives are based on instant gratification. Both Paltrow and Martin have unique ways of relating in the world: one is a rock star; the other is a movie star. They are accustomed to people becoming overwhelmed, intimidated, and starstruck in their presence. People revere them. They idolise them. This is their day-to-day experience, and then they return to their family life.
The survival and harmony of a relationship and a family relies on ego surrender. For the relationship to thrive, the partners must surrender their egos to the greater good of family life. The partners must stop working for their own benefit, and start to work for the benefit of the relationship. This is the beauty of a family in the cycle of life: the family forces the parents to become ego-less. Suddenly the needs of the parents are secondary to the needs of the relationship, and the needs of the children. This is what it means for people to ‘work on’ a relationship: it means that we must work on surrendering our ego to the family. Being centred and happy in our immediate family can be the most freeing and exciting experience of our lives.
Unfortunately the idea of freedom and excitement in our culture is built around escape: flying off to an exotic location in a plane, getting drunk on the weekend, sexual encounters with forbidden partners, taking drugs to feel better, or working so hard that you forget you even have a family. We supposedly only feel centred and happy when we are ‘doing something for ourselves.’
Funnily enough, when people are approaching the end of their lives, the things that they tend to remember most fondly are the moments with their loved ones. They don’t remember the long hours at work or the hazy nights out: they remember their children as babies or their partners in moments when they were radiantly happy. We didn’t come here to feel pleasure; we came here to love.
I do believe that our cultural model of marriage and family must become more expansive and conscious. I just hope that this longing for consciousness in relationships is not found in their endings.