Conscious Uncoupling

When “We’re calling it quits’’ is just too crass

It’s all good.
It’s all good. –Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Conscious Uncoupling.

It’s a term that’s been on nearly everyone’s minds since Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced they would separate after ten years of marriage via the actress’s lifestyle newsletter Goop. The letter read: “We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.’’

The subject line of the post on Goop bared the same phrasing: Conscious Uncoupling.

Clearly — this is meant to be a thing.

While the couple made it clear that they will be separating (rather, plan to “remain separate,’’ as the letter specified), there is no specific mention of the couple legally filing for divorce. Instead, conscious uncoupling sounds like such a simple decision toward embetterment that we can’t help but think — maybe I should be consciously uncoupling, too!


This is the Gwyneth Paltrow effect, which is probably what makes her such a polarizing person in Hollywood. ELLE asked Twitter: Will Gwyneth do for #ConsciousUncoupling what she did for kale?

And that’s just it. #ConsciousUncoupling has been trending since Goop went out yesterday, and while her decision to release the announcement via her own newsletter (which subsequently led to her site’s presumably only crash due to traffic influx) raised the eyebrows of media who claimed Paltrow was attempting to control the conversation, we have to admit that it worked.

Other Goop editions have featured the aspirational lifestyle likes of how to shop at flea markets, Tracy Anderson’s 15-minute workout, and a step-by-step guide to making a New England-style lobster roll — all peppered with the underlying sense that you should be doing this because it will make you a more fulfilled person — plus, it’s so easy!

And that’s just it — should Paltrow be presenting the decision to end her marriage, that has produced two young children, after ten years in the same manner she instructs her readers to create detox smoothies?

Paltrow launched Goop in 2008 as a lifestyle newsletter, featuring the simple recipes she liked to feed her family (usually provided by a fabulous “friend’’ like Mario Batali) and highlighting some of her favorite shops, restaurants, and hotels around the world — she is an Academy Award-winning actress, after all. Each began with a letter from the actress explaining what the newsletter was about and was signed “Love, gp.’’ Like, girlfriends. Presumptuous? Maybe. Pretentious? Kind of. But the concept still straddled a fine line of attainable and aspirational that made it quickly popular.


It has since grown from just a weekly publication (that now notes is “curated’’ by the actress, not necessarily that she’s sitting behind MailChimp plugging in the words herself) to a lifestyle brand that has extended her reach to the New York Times bestsellers list and an accompanying e-commerce extension, featuring exclusive fashion collaborations with Stella McCartney and Michael Kors and $1,298 monogrammable gold pinky rings. In 2013, Paltrow boasted more than one million subscribers with a series of city-specific apps in development.

Paltrow’s Conscious Uncoupling letter was accompanied by a photo of the couple in happier times and explainer by Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami, who in a nearly 2,000-word essay define divorce and all that comes with it, compare our emotional endurance to the exoskeleton of insects, and dedicate a subsection to the feeling of “wholeness’’ that can be achieved through separation. They write:

Conscious uncoupling brings wholeness to the spirits of both people who choose to recognize each other as their teacher. If they do, the gift they receive from their time together will neutralize their negative internal object that was the real cause of their pain in the relationship. 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.

Conscious Uncoupling is not exactly a new concept. No, it was not cooked up in the labs of Goop with Gwyneth, Drs. Sami and Sadeghi, and a bucket of chia seeds. But this is probably the first you’re hearing of it.

ELLE traced it back to 2010 when author Katherine Woodward Thomas, MA, MFT, developed Conscious Uncoupling as “a 5-week program to release the trauma of a breakup, reclaim your power, and reinvent your life.’’ They reached out to “transformative coach’’ Jeanne Byrd Romero, who specializes in Thomas’s method, to explain what exactly makes this concept so different from others. “It’s not the fault of one person,’’ she emphasized. Conscious uncoupling places a heavy focus on self and the relationships you hold, romantic and otherwise.


Romero’s method of Conscious Uncoupling coaching — which is available over the phone or Skype, or in person upon request — appears to begin after the point of a split (“Have you recently experienced the trauma of a breakup and are feeling overwhelmed, numb or completely devastated?’’ her website asks) and aims to guide users to “a healthy sense of closure so that you leave feeling whole, empowered and free to move on and recreate your life’’ — with or without the participation of your ex. The process goes for about five weeks, but Romero’s website notes that it varies from client to client since “the goal of the course is to liberate you from the patterns that caused the suffering to begin with, and to prepare you for a joyful future filled with possibilities.’’

And that brings us back to our point: Should Paltrow be spinning her New Age approach to divorce to her readers in the same manner as she presents her other content? Is her embracing of Conscious Uncoupling a contrived attempt to turn a sad and unfortunate situation into one with brand consistency? Or is Paltrow’s introduction to the term a much-needed movement for a society where nearly half of all marriages end in divorce?

A completely streamlined, rational approach to finding a better sense of self through a breakup — sounds like the recipe for an emotional detox, and that sounds a whole lot more like Goop, more conscious than not.

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