The estranged couple spent a family vacation in the Bahamas with their two young children. Photographs published in the media showed them laughing and chatting together as they dined out with friends.
The joint statement they released claimed they were, in many ways, ‘closer than we’ve ever been’. They loved each other very much, would always be a family and intended to co-parent daughter Apple and son Moses. However, they would ‘consciously uncouple’ and ‘remain separate’.
Much media hilarity greeted the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ because it sounded like trendy mumbo-jumbo. But I think it’s quite apt, because to me it describes a deliberate, clear-headed decision taken after much soul-searching and consideration of the likely consequences and ramifications. Paltrow and Martin’s statement bears this out: they had spent the past year trying to save their marriage, they said.
Too many couples break up amid high feeling, as a result of a knee-jerk reaction to something their partner said or did. It may sound surprising, but we see clients who look surprised when we ask how long they’ve been trying to get their marriage back on track. ‘Once I discovered his affair, staying together was never on the cards; I immediately decided to leave,’ one woman told me.
Paltrow and Martin, in seems to me, have tried to restore their relationship, failed, and then worked out – amicably – how to continue being a family even though they are no longer a couple. In other words, they have put their children’s needs first – something many divorcing parents fail to do.
Because they have carefully – and ‘consciously’ – gone about their separation in this mature way, they have been able to retain enough of their once-happy relationship to allow them to go on holiday together, as a family. I wouldn’t be surprised if this arrangement continues in the coming years.
Children are much more likely to cope with their parents’ separation if those parents are able to keep in place some of the main family structures.
A cautionary note, however: Holidaying and getting on brilliantly with your ex may confuse the children. If parents are acting as if they are still a couple, the children are likely to hope – even, perhaps, expect – that they will get back together. Older children may question why, if they are so pally-pally, they couldn’t have remained together for their sake.
Getting the ‘tone’ of a divorce right to protect and reassure children while at the same time changing the landscape is most certainly not an easy task. That is why ‘conscious uncoupling’ really is the best way to go.