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A Better Breakup

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Senior editor Courtney Helgoe offers a little background on “conscious uncoupling.”

“Conscious uncoupling” is the term Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin chose to describe their recent decision to end their marriage. Their use of the term unleashed a tidal wave of snark, particularly on the web. Critics find it entirely too precious. They seem certain that beneath it must lurk simmering resentments and insincerity.

Still, I have to wonder, what’s so wrong about choosing one’s words carefully at a time when it has to be tempting to sling mud? Couldn’t there be anger and disappointment and a sincere effort to take the high road, especially when you’re talking about your breakup to other people? (In this couple’s case, about 7 billion other people?) And what is so offensive about trying to break up … well, nicely?

A little digging also reveals that the term “conscious uncoupling” is not something the couple made up. It was originally coined by a psychotherapist named Katherine Woodward Thomas, who teaches the skills in a free online course. Her goal is to help people end relationships in a way that doesn’t turn them into the walking wounded for the next five years. For my money (or not, since the course is free), that sounds better than the alternative, and worth the risk of a little Internet scorn.

TELL US: What do you think about conscious uncoupling? Have you seen it happen? (Perhaps by another name?) We’d love to hear your stories below.

Courtney Helgoe is an Experience Life senior editor. 

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