Conscious Uncoupling

Could Your Ex Be Your Greatest Teacher?

If your marriage is over, is that really “bad”? Could there be “good” in divorce? Before you pass a judgment on yourself and your relationship, holistic healers, Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami, encourage taking another look at what divorce can teach us. In their article, Conscious Uncoupling, they advocate considering break-ups as a means to a (happy) end.

“If we can recognize that our partners in our intimate relationships are our teachers, helping us evolve our internal, spiritual support structure, we can avoid the drama of divorce and experience what we call a conscious uncoupling,” write Sadeghi and Sami. “For our purposes, conscious uncoupling is the ability to understand that every irritation and argument within a relationship was a signal to look inside ourselves and identify a negative internal object that needed healing. Because present events always trigger pain from a past event, it’s never the current situation that needs the real fixing.”

Sadeghi and Sami contend that problems in a relationship are an “echo of an older emotional injury.” Divorce can provide an opportunity to examine that wound in a new way with the goal of healing it and letting it go. The key is to objectively take responsibility for your part of what went wrong in the marriage, without casting judgment on yourself or your ex. That’s right. Blame and shame have no place in conscious uncoupling. This is particularly beneficial when the uncoupling includes your children.

“There are no bad guys, just two people, each playing teacher and student respectively,” Sadeghi and Sami say. “Under these circumstances loving co-parenting can happen. It’s conscious uncoupling that prevents families from being broken by divorce and creates expanded families that continue to function in a healthy way outside of traditional marriage.”

The concept of conscious uncoupling was popularized in 2011 by marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas. Her five-step process (based on her own experience and insights after going through a mindfully amicable divorce from her husband) is detailed in her book, Conscious Uncoupling: Five Steps to Living Happily Even After.

Could conscious uncoupling work in your divorce? Although for this concept to truly succeed, both parties must be willing to follow Thomas’ steps, even if your ex is not on the same page, you can still benefit from following Thomas’ model. “You can still receive the lessons he or she has to give you, resist being baited into dramatic arguments, and stand firm in your internal, spiritual support system,” Sadeghi and Sami say. “By choosing to handle your uncoupling in a conscious way, regardless of what’s happening with your spouse, you’ll see that although it looks like everything is coming apart; it’s actually all coming back together.”