Reassessing Divorce – Part 1

arguing couple

A couple of weeks we published Rick’s latest book, ‘How to have a happy separation or divorce: A Three Phase Approach to Conscious Uncoupling’.

Here, we can read what the new book is all about.


On 25th March 2014 the film star Gwyneth Paltrow used the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ to refer to the process of what you and I might call ‘splitting up’, from her celebrity musician husband Chris Martin.  The reaction to the phrase was very interesting and much of it was extremely negative, especially in the UK. In the press Gwyneth was referred to as a pretentious ‘luvvie’ using psychobabble to describe a very painful and difficult life-event.

Conscious uncoupling is a term that was first used by a successful American relationship therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas (1). The fact that the phrase emanates from a female American therapist may be the reason why so many people in the British press took a dislike to it. The phrase does not seem to resonate with most people’s experience of separation and divorce which evokes painful emotions such as sadness, anger and bitterness. For many people separation and divorce involve the practicalities of financial anxiety, an unstable home life and an uncertain future. So, when a very wealthy, highly successful A-list celebrity couple separate it is perhaps understandable that in the UK, a nation known for its stiff upper lip, there would be some scorn and derision for a phrase such as ‘conscious uncoupling’.

However, if we can see past the phrase and think about the concept, it actually makes good sense to try to carefully pick apart a relationship that has broken down. Ripping up a relationship damages everyone involved in the relationship: the couple themselves, children, parents, siblings and even the couple’s friends. It also makes it much more difficult to consider a possible reconciliation.

As my dad used to tell me “Doing the ‘right thing’ almost always requires an effort.” But with sadness, anger, bitterness and anxiety forming the backdrop to a separation or an impending divorce it’s often very hard to ‘do the right thing’. However, if we make that huge effort to pick apart the relationship in a calm, kind and dignified manner (CKD), then everyone benefits; and should we decide at any point to give the relationship a second chance it is much easier to try to put the pieces back together again.

I am not an advocate of divorce. Some years ago I was interviewed on an Irish radio station and the woman who was presenting the programme wanted to know where I stood on the subject of divorce when the relationship had become acrimonious, particularly in terms of the potential damage to children brought up in such an environment. My response was that there are only four options. From the best option to the worst option they are:

  1. A generally happy marriage
  2. A generally happy divorce
  3. A generally unhappy marriage
  4. A generally unhappy divorce

So, if you can’t have a happy marriage (which is much the best option!) you might as well have a happy divorce.


About this book

This book is a very simple guide that features three phases in the course of a separation or divorce (when using the word ‘divorce’ I am also applying it to the dissolution of a civil partnership, which is a bit of a mouthful to keep repeating!). Each phase will focus on a variety of subjects included under three headings: emotional issues; practical issues; and financial issues that most people encounter within each of the phases:

  • Phase One covers the period of approximately 1 to 3 months after a couple have realised that their relationship appears to have come to an end.
  • Phase Two incorporates a period of between 3 to 12 months; a temporary period of readjustment.
  • Phase Three encompasses a time frame of roughly 12 to 24 months where both individuals move on and rebuild their lives.

The time frames are not set in stone. Some people move on more swiftly, others more slowly; balance is the key, moving on too quickly may result in regrets. Whereas, moving on too slowly may not allow the emotional wounds to heal.

It doesn’t matter whether you are in a gay or straight relationship; whether you are married or not; whether you have children together, from a previous relationship or none at all – following the steps in this book will have a huge, positive impact on your life if you are contemplating separation or divorce.

In each phase the book focuses on three headings: emotional, practical and financial. The time spent examining emotional issues in each phase will allow you to work through your feelings. The subject areas for consideration under the practical and financial headings will hopefully allow for more rational and reasonable thought processes to develop.

I’ve spent many years as a psychologist counselling numerous people to help them come to terms with separation and divorce. Some of their stories are recorded here; although the stories are true, I’ve changed the details to protect their identities. I have found with many of my clients that in Phase One, emotional issues seem to dominate; as we move into Phase Two then practical issues often come to the fore; in Phase Three financial issues are frequently the main concern. But it is important to address all three areas in each phase, so we can take a balanced approach to separating as painlessly as possible.

Moving Forward

If you would like a copy of the book, simply click HERE. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below.

All the best.

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