As you have probably heard by now, a well-known, influential, iconic figure is trying to rebrand divorce. Well, more accurately, she's trying to rebrand divorce to fit her brand, and while I'm no Gwyneth hater (in fact, I quite like and respect her), I do think this is taking things too far.
Like it or not, because Ms. Paltrow is a celebrity, her experience with divorce might be seen as more relevant than the experiences of non-celebrity divorcees. So, everyone will pay attention to how Gwyneth does it and how she frames it. The good news is she will hopefully put her kids' needs first and maintain a good co-parenting relationship with her ex. But it's iffy in this case because, with this rather fluffy label of "conscious uncoupling," she seems to be sugar-coating a really difficult situation. A mindful divorce is a good idea, but for some reason, by having to give her own divorce an entirely new label, she seems to make everyone else look "unconscious" in their uncoupling!
Indeed, when a fellow trend forecaster who I respect, Clare Ramsey of Commune, first mentioned that she thought conscious uncoupling was just a way to rebrand divorce, Ramsey pondered what was next up. Single parenting? Perhaps it would lead to the MIM: the Modern Independent Mother. Alone, not because she has to be, but because she wants to be. After all, one-night stands have already gotten the more palatable "hookups," so everything seems fair game these days.
"Conscious uncoupling" evokes a desire to make divorce seem positive, proactive and even somewhat glamorous. But, divorce is none of these things. It's painful, scary, uncomfortable, embarrassing and unpleasant. Even in the best of situations, it's never easy. Of course, there are couples who shouldn't be together; I am not against divorce at all. I am simply saying that trying to make it sound like it's a positive and a good thing is a spin it may not deserve.
Many of my friends who have gotten divorced said that simply telling people was one of the hardest parts. They would do anything to avoid saying the word -- feeling embarrassed, ashamed and guilty. I don't think they should or need to feel those things, but they did. It is sad and hard when a couple separates, and it's hard to deal with the stigma that society places on couples who separate or divorce (still). As friends of those getting divorced, we should support them during a difficult time. I've seen people shy away because it makes them feel vulnerable, or because, it makes their own marriage feel vulnerable! Divorce is not like chicken pox; it's not contagious.
But the answer is not in rebranding it to make it sound better or cooler. The answer is in us all addressing our fears, guilt or insecurities that create our reactions.
I'm lucky. I'm still married. My parents got divorced (bitterly) when I was 5. I hope to stay married, and if I ever separated, I hope that I could handle it as gracefully as Paltrow and Martin have. I respect their relationship and the way they are going to parent their children and respect each other. And should it come to it, I hope they will both be proud to say they are divorced.