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A Letter to Gwyneth From a Divorced Mom

I get that you want to be special. We all want to be special. I remember wailing to a friend in the middle of my divorce "I don't want to be a statistic!" But here's the thing -- we're all in this together.
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Dear Gwyneth,

I'm writing to congratulate you on going through all of the hard work and emotional pain of deciding to get a divorce. It's awful, that in-between phase when you know something's wrong and you want to fix it but that deep secret part of you knows it can't be fixed. Making the decision is a big deal and cause to celebrate.

But I have to tell you that this "Conscious Uncoupling" business you're spreading is crap. It's crap because it's insulting and hurtful to everyone who's gone through the grueling, heartrending, gutpunching process of divorce. It implies that all of us who've lain awake at night for months in a row wondering how we can tear apart our children's homes, how we can possibly make lives for ourselves, how we can still be members of society if we admit the failure of our marriages, did this without thinking. If your divorce is "conscious," then you're saying that all the rest of us are "unconscious."

Let me assure you that my divorce was 100 percent conscious. It was chewing my leg off to get out of a trap. And I hear stories of divorce from people every day, stories of desperation and pain, of years of depression and trying and counseling and trying again and of wishing there was anything else they could do. Not one of those people did this without thinking. In fact, the reason so many people delay getting themselves and their kids out of bad marriages is because they think too much. They hope that they can outthink it and fix things. As you've discovered, sometimes you can't.

So please stop insulting us. And please stop pretending you made up the term "uncoupling." I'm sure you've read Diane Vaughan's fantastic book Uncoupling, which was published in 1986 but remains the best book I've ever read about how relationships unravel. (If you haven't read it, please please do -- it's the first thing I tell anyone in the process of divorce or separation to read because it gives such an excellent timeline without making judgments.)

I get that you want to be special. We all want to be special. I remember wailing to a friend in the middle of my divorce "I don't want to be a statistic!" But here's the thing -- we're all in this together. Part of being human is having common experiences. So many of us have done this and come out the other end happy and whole. There's a lot of support out here for people going through the divorce process. And, later, for navigating being a single parent and helping your kids get good things out of the divorce instead of bad things . (Divorce doesn't fix any problem except being married to the wrong person. But if you're willing to work through it, you can use divorce as a springboard to start solving your other problems. That helps your kids more than you know.)

But you can't get any support if you don't understand that you're one of us. And you are. When you get the finalized documents from the judge they're not going to say "conscious uncoupling," they're going to say "divorce." That means you really are one of us, albeit with jeans that cost more than my car did.

If you are interested in exploring this, of figuring out where the unique you intersects with the common us, my friend Deesha and I run an online writing workshop called Writing Through Your Divorce, that gives you the chance to explore in writing as you go through the process. The next round starts April 28, and we'd love to have you. It would be a great place for you to say what you feel without publishing publicly and offending people. We also publish a fantastic blog with pieces from others who've gone through divorce before you, and reading their excellent work might help you, too.

If you're not into writing, maybe the next time I'm in New York we can go karaoke together. I'll sing "Before He Cheats" and you can sing "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and then we can sing "Enough is Enough (No More Tears)" together (I'll sing the Barbra part and you can sing the Donna Summer part). First we'll get Korean Fried Chicken and drink way too much soju. Wear flats.

I want to leave you with something a friend told me when I was getting divorced and was overthinking it. He told me that I didn't have to be perfect anymore. That it's easier for the light to shine through a cracked pot. I'm hoping that you use your divorce as a chance to embrace yourself and know that being perfect doesn't get you anywhere except living a life you don't really want. Being ok with yourself is the first step to living a life that's aligned and joyful.

Reach out. Everyone else who's gone through the exact same thing you're going through right now, we're all right here.

Magda Pecsenye is thankful every day that she went through the horrible but totally-survivable experience of divorce. She writes about being a parent and a person at and writes a blog about co-parenting with her ex-husband at When The Flames Go Up. She co-teaches Writing Through Your Divorce and co-edits the WTYD blog with Deesha Philyaw.

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