Is there such a thing as an amicable divorce?

Divorce can be tough. It can be painful, unpredictable and by its very nature, an intense conflict between those involved. But can it ever be…

Divorce can be tough. It can be painful, unpredictable and by its very nature, an intense conflict between those involved. But can it ever be amicable? The short answer is 'yes', but it largely depends on the people involved and the reasons why the marriage came to an end. 

Everyone will remember the famous Paltrow Martin divorce and their "conscious uncoupling" back in 2014, which was a phrase coined by relationship expert and Psychotherapist, Katherine Woodward Thomas after going through her own divorce.

The Martins amicable divorce has hit the news again recently following reports that Paltrow has decided to keep her married surname and that her children, Apple (14) and Moses (12) helped influence her decision. It was reported that Coldplay front man Chris Martin had agreed to give Paltrow away at her wedding to television producer, Brad Falchuk on the 29 September, but work commitments meant he had to perform at the Global Citizen Festival that weekend.

Woodward Thomas says that the idea of a lifelong union is outdated and unrealistic and created years ago when people didn’t have the same life expectancy as we do today or the wide range of choices available to them. Although she acknowledges that people do still enter a partnership with the intention of going the distance.

So what is conscious uncoupling?

In Woodward Thomas' book she sets out five steps to living happily ever after following conscious uncoupling. The first three include harnessing negative emotions - identifying, naming and coming to accept them and taking responsibility for your part in the separation and steps four and five deal with the other person and learning to forgive one another.

Woodward Thomas said that both her and her former husband had experienced their parents' traumatic divorces and neither wanted that for their daughter, so they aligned their intentions and that "kept calling them to rise to be the bigger person, to take the high road at every turn which created a culture between them of generosity and co-operation". She goes on to say that post-divorce people with children often forget that they are still a family, just a different kind and still need to work together on some level.

But is it really that easy for most couples?

Woodward Thomas was fortunate that her marriage did not end as a result of a painful betrayal or infidelity but many couples are dealing with the raw emotion following an acrimonious separation. Woodward Thomas recognises not everyone is as lucky as she is but the most important thing you can do is to learn from the experience which leads to healthier and happier relationships in the future. She disagrees that “time heals all wounds” and that it takes work to get there. She isn't advocating people become the best of friends with a former spouse, but the key she says is not to internalise the hatred for them.

Woodward Thomas goes on to say that "conscious uncoupling is a thing we aspire to. I haven't met one person who has done it perfectly, myself included. It's a roadmap and gives you the tools to navigate your way there".

Gwyneth Paltrow said last year "I want to turn my divorce into a positive and what if I didn't blame the other person for anything and held myself 100 per cent accountable. What if I checked by own s*** at the door and put my children first and reminded myself about the things about my ex-husband that I love and fostered the friendship?" Paltrow went on to say that what she put herself through to get to the other side was the most difficult thing she has ever done in her life.

Paltrow and Martin were ridiculed at the time for being pretentious and Paltrow acknowledges that some people may have interpreted the phrase as the Martins saying "our divorce is better than your divorce", but she later confessed that what she wanted to convey was "we're in a lot of pain, we failed at this; we're going to try and do it in a different way."

Paltrow released a statement following her recent wedding to say "we feel incredibly lucky to have come together at this juncture in our lives when our collective successes and failures can serve as building blocks for a healthy and happy relationship."

Whatever you think about the phrase, "conscious uncoupling" the Paltrow-Martins made every effort at the time and continue to try and minimise the upset caused by their divorce and remain amicable for the sake of their two children and they should be applauded for this not ridiculed.

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