Around this time last year, I tuned into celebrity gossip for a brief moment when I heard about Gwyneth Paltrow’s grave announcement that she and her husband were divorcing—or to put it more Gwyneth-ly, “consciously uncoupling.” She released a statement about this, along with an explanation of conscious uncoupling from a guru, on her website Goop. This was put alongside equally realistic Goop items, like her exploration of the healing powers of “moon juice” and “spirit truffles.” (Surely those aren’t included in the “food stamp challenge” she recently attempted. Hey, at least we're talking about it... But, I digress.)
By the end of the day I received phone calls and emails from, literally, dozens of my friends and family members asking if I had heard about this “new” way of divorcing. It was difficult to suppress the combination yawn/gag inspired by Ms. Paltrow’s missive.
I’ve devoted my life’s work to helping couples, eh, “uncouple,” so absolutely no judgment from me on that front. Divorces for everyone! You will get no complaints from me. Though I did have to raise an eyebrow at the statement “We have always conducted our relationship privately”; indeed, so privately that Goop.com got so much traffic after this was posted that it crashed! Well played, Gwyneth P.
In all seriousness, I’m sure Gwyneth Paltrow is a perfectly likable person in real life, and probably even a regular human woman, rather than a floating ethereal aura. Her brand has done well, and maybe she really has brought happiness to many, through her outreach via expensive candles. And if renaming divorce makes us feel better, then so be it. (I should possibly add a “Conscious Uncoupling” section to my website.)
The idea of a ‘friendly divorce’ has been around for a long time. My firm gets a lot of press for our “take no prisoners” aggressive approach when the situation requires it - but we resolve countless divorces each year by simple discussions and friendly negotiations. I love a good fight (what can I say - it’s a side effect of being good at fighting) but I love a happy client more. That’s why I, and all good divorce lawyers, will always work hard to give you a divorce that looks more like a “conscious uncoupling” than a “War of the Roses”. We’ve been doing that for years. There’s nothing “new” about being friendly to someone you’re going to have to see at your children’s weddings someday. This is simply a new term for a very old concept (and GP didn’t come up with it - a therapist named Katherine Woodward Thomas did - a bunch of years earlier).
I feel I need to say, though, that one of the things I have learned in my particular line of work is that uncoupling is not generally done while anyone is unconscious. For legal reasons I think it’s important for everyone to understand this--you can’t divorce anyone who is unconscious so congratulations - You, too, have reached the G.P. level of sophistication we all previously thought was impossible.
James J. Sexton