Conscious uncoupling

Hollywood gossip is awash with the news that after 10 years of marriage Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are separating. In a joint statement they said “After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce, We go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time. This will be our only comment on this private, family matter. Thank you for understanding.”

This is sad news and there is plenty of gossip and rumour with regards to the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. However, what has caught our attention is the way in which the couple are managing the break-up

This joint statement very much seems to reflect the sentiment and ideology of Conscious Uncoupling, a phrase propelled into the blogosphere by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin when they released a joint statement describing the breakdown of their matrimonial relationship as Conscious Uncoupling on Gwyneth’s blogsite ‘GOOP’ following the breakdown of their marriage.

However, in addition to this statement which ‘talks the talk’, it would seem that they are also prepared to ‘walk the walk’ and it is reported that the couple are in no rush to divorce, have employed a mediator to help them agree matters between them and are continuing to live together having moved with their children into a property in Atlanta whilst Jennifer is filming her current project and plan to rent another property together when they return to LA whilst their own property is undergoing significant renovations. Those renovations are understood to include building a separate annex to the property which will allow the couple to live together but apart in order to co-parent their children. In the week following the announcement they also went away on a family vacation.

The proponents of conscious uncoupling are saying it is ‘a proven process for lovingly completing a relationship that will leave you feeling whole and healed and at peace… a breakup that is characterized by goodwill, by generosity and by respect…it leaves both parties feeling valued and appreciated for all that is shared…striving to reduce the damage to themselves (and their children, if there are children involved).’

The sceptics among us would be quick to point out that apart from problems with the name (it seems to assume non conforming breakdowns are unconscious!) and Paltrowian flower power aside if someone has behaved unreasonably or committed adultery there will be some of us that simply cannot forgive on principle and naturally adopt a hostile rather than a conciliatory approach in subsequent dealings with the other half – there is a fine line between love and hate!

Continuing to live together is definitely not going to be for everyone and for many is simply not practical. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are fortunate in that they have the ability to alter the family home in such a way to give them a chance of peaceful co-existence.

Even if you are not going to continue to live together, the essence of conscious uncoupling imparts important guiding principles to help a separating couple frame their mindsets for how to deal with everything going forward. You could for example seek to make arrangements for the children which involve you all continuing to spend time together or a financial outcome which allows you both to live within a close vicinity of each other and allows the children to move freely between homes and to see their parents and for your both as parents to take an active role in the children’s upbringing and care.

We consider that one of the most important aspects of a conscious uncoupling is for parties to ‘communicate in a non-confrontational and constructive manner to preserve dignity and encourage agreement’ and in this respect processes for resolving disputes such as negotiation, mediation or the collaborative law process can prove invaluable.

Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited are one of the few firms that offer all forms of alternatives to divorce; Mediation, Private Negotiation, Collaborative Law and Family Law Arbitration to enable you to find a “different way to reach an agreement”.




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