What Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ really means

Story highlights

Actor Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin announced they are splitting up

A notice on Paltrow's Goop website deemed the split a "conscious uncoupling"

Drs. Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami explained the term on Goop

"From this perspective, there are no bad guys, just two people," they say

Elle.com  — 

When the latest Goop newsletter hit my inbox, bearing news that Gwyneth Paltrow is separating from her husband Chris Martin, I had a LOT of questions. And one of the very first ones to come out of my mouth was “What’s ‘Conscious Uncoupling’?” referring to the title of Paltrow’s announcement. I assumed it was just a cute little header she made up to soften the blow—something to fit within her fancy lifestyle brand’s aesthetic, sort of like the way that she calls her “best of” lists the “GP 13.”

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But as I scrolled down, I quickly realized that “conscious uncoupling” is not just a Gwyneth-ism or a Goop-ism. Conscious Uncoupling is very much a thing, one that’s been around for years, though under the radar—well, until now. Leave it to GP to always be the first to introduce any and every new-age lifestyle tip and trick we never knew we needed, even during what must be a painful and tragic time (see: oil pulling, macriobiotic diets, countless juice cleanses, the Tracy Anderson method, agave, and soaked almonds).

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Below her announcement, Gwyneth had doctors Dr. Habib Sadeghi (whom she’s tapped for numerous Goop newsletters) and his wife, Dr. Sherry Sami, explain the Conscious Uncoupling concept at length. At a lot of length.

A “conscious uncoupling is the ability to understand that every irritation and argument [within a marriage] was a signal to look inside ourselves and identify a negative internal object that needed healing,” they write. “From this perspective, there are no bad guys, just two people,” they say, expanding on the blame-free, “it’s about people as individuals, not just the relationship” theory.

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That makes sense to me, the mutual responsibility, no-pointing-fingers aspect—though not all of the super-lengthy explanation does. Err, far from it. I’ve read the thing over half a dozen times, and yet I still can’t seem to process these parts:

“Life is a spiritual exercise in evolving from an exoskeleton for support and survival to an endoskeleton. Think about it.” I am. I don’t get it.

“There’s a scientific theory by Russian esotericist, Peter Ouspensky, that the creation of insects was a failed attempt by nature to evolve a higher form of consciousness.” I think we’re getting off topic?

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“Conscious uncoupling brings wholeness to the spirits of both people who choose to recognize each other as their teacher…If we can allow ourselves this gift, our exoskeleton of protection and imprisonment will fall away and offer us the opportunity to begin constructing an endoskeleton, an internal cathedral, with spiritual trace minerals like self-love, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness.” Huh?

“The misunderstandings involved in divorce also have much to do with the lack of intercourse between our own internal masculine and feminine energies.” But what about the lack of just…intercourse?

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    So I called up Jeanne Byrd, a coach in the Conscious Uncoupling method, for a little more clarification. Apparently the method can be traced back to one woman, Katherine Woodward Thomas, who developed it in 2010. (She’s currently writing a book about it, which is certainly good timing for her.)

    Conscious Uncoupling, Byrd tells me, is a five-week course, though it takes some couples and individuals longer to complete it, naturally. (“Some couples get stuck on week one for three weeks,” she says, like she’s all too familiar.) The method upholds that there are three “power bases,” which are your relationship with yourself, with others, and with life, and that you need to understand all of them to get to the “deeper truth.” The relationship with yourself is often trickiest for people to pin down, but it’s central to how Conscious Uncoupling relates to divorces and separations. “It’s not the fault of one person,” says Byrd, or even as simple as any overt betrayals and injuries from one person to another.

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    Instead, in a relationship, “Each party has brought to the dynamic a set of patterns that they’ve been living inside of for years,” she says, and those things contribute to the downfall whether they realize it at first or not. The Conscious Uncoupling method, then, involves addressing those things and their impact on a relationship. “Like, say, someone had been cheated on. It’s not as simple as black and white. The other party would want to address if they had done anything to contribute to that. If they had been withdrawing,” Byrd offers.

    That’s how Conscious Uncoupling approaches everything, with a “we both did this, we’re both responsible” outlook, which should, in theory, keep things amicable between two parties in a divorce or separation, since they both feel guilty.

    And how does that relate to Gwyneth? Why might she have chosen the method for her own separation?

    “Well, children really get the benefit from a Conscious Uncoupling,” Byrd ventures, vaguely referencing Apple and Moses, Paltrow’s two children with Martin, and “Conscious Uncoupling is really growing amongst parents,” she says. “Oh my God, it’s so exciting how quickly it’s growing everywhere,” she adds.

    And surely, after all this exposure, this is just the beginning.