Conscious Uncoupling: A Nice and Flowery Term for Something God Hates

by - 7:19 PM

Conscious uncoupling.

It's become the catchphrase of the month, thanks to actress Gwyneth Paltrow's use of the term to define the dissolving of her 9-year marriage to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. But what is it, exactly? Why use the term "conscious uncoupling" rather than separation or divorce?

According to a recent Huffington Post article on the matter, the phrase is "ridiculous," "New Age-y, pretentious, [and] righteous." Of course, what the writers probably meant by that last descriptor was self-righteous, because the dissolution of a marriage - Christian or not - is never a "righteous" act. In fact, God clearly states that He hates divorce in Malachi 2:16.

Upon conducting my own research on the idea of "conscious uncoupling," I found an interesting 5-week program at the heart of the matter: The Art of Conscious Uncoupling, which has been lauded as a nonjudgmental way to pursue the "closure" of a relationship. The website's tagline seemed innocent enough..."how to heal the 3 breakup mistakes that cause suffering, steal joy, and prevent future love." But I would counter that the actual mistake in any breakup is not the breakup itself but one (or more) of three earlier missteps: 1) not doing enough research up-front, 2) committing to someone unworthy of your commitment, and 3) not properly committing at all!

A article stated that Paltrow and Martin released a 2,000-word summary of the term by which they have labeled their split. Included in that description of "conscious uncoupling" attributed to husband/wife team Dr. Habiib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami were such gems [insert sarcasm here] as these:

"Our biology and psychology aren't set up to be with one person for four, five, or six decades."

"The idea of being married to one person for life is too much pressure for anyone."

Egads, people.

Paltrow and Martin also cited the author of the website I located earlier, The Art of Conscious Uncoupling - psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas. She had some fine treasures [ahem!] in her descriptions as well: 

"You must break the pattern that is the source of the suffering in your life...instead of allowing that pattern to break your heart" (speaking of painful relationship splits).

"There are no bad guys, just two people."

Now, if her comments referred to kindly breakups prior to marriage...I could almost buy it. But much of this curriculum seems to be directed at married couples  looking to eradicate the pain and guilt involved in terminating what God created as a covenantal bond. There is a reason why the collapse of a marriage includes pain and guilt. The marriage covenant was never designed to be broken.

So, what is so special about a covenant?

One of the most powerful displays of covenant in the Old Testament is the one that God makes with Abram. In order to solidify that covenant, the Lord has Abram sacrifice several animals by cutting them in half (Genesis 15:9-11). His Spirit (as a smoking firepot and a flaming torch) later passes between the pieces in order to symbolize what is later alluded to in Ruth 1:17, "May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." Biblical covenants were written with blood and sealed unto death. In the same way, even our modern-day marital covenants should be written with sacrifice and sealed until our passing.

So how is the Christian to respond to the idea of "conscious uncoupling" (i.e. separation, divorce, etc.)? 

For the single, avoid the missteps I spoke of earlier:
1) Do your research. Don't enter into a marriage - or even a dating relationship - without knowing who the other party truly is.
2) Don't commit to someone unworthy of your commitment. Granted, we are all sinners...but if someone is living in habitual sin that would lead them to drop their end of the covenantal bond of marriage, they are not worth your time and effort.
3) When you commit, do it biblically. Remember that marriage is a covenant unto death. It can also be described as a "threefold cord [which] is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12). This means that God is one of the parties entering into covenant here. As long as we are submitting our marriage to Him, He is strong enough to help us uphold the commitment. Yes, there are some situations in which the Bible condones divorce, but those conditions occur fairly rarely and come with many more stipulations than most are willing to realize or abide by.  

For the married, the correct context of Philippians 4:13 can be applied here:
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

I mention context because this verse does not apply in every circumstance that people wish it did. In this portion of the chapter (vv. 10-20), Paul is speaking of being content in every circumstance...even those involving pain and suffering (abounding, brought low, plenty, hunger, abundance, need). Most marriages will reflect these times of trial at some point or another. When in such dire straights, we must cling to the One who has delivered us and continues to deliver us still - not from the marriage entirely, but from the sin and strife that we sometimes incur within it.

Conscious uncoupling: it's a nice and flowery term for something God hates. 

Don't be misled. Love God fiercely, and "hold fast" (Genesis 2:24) to your spouse. Seek to "rejoice in the wife [or husband] of your youth" (Proverbs 5:18).

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  1. Leah-Thanks so much for this post. I had never heard this term "conscious uncoupling," but I'm sure it will be popping up now in conversations among many. Jacqui


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