Split­ting im­age

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

RE­MEM­BER THE time when Gwyneth Pal­trow and Chris Martin is­sued a joint state­ment on Pal­trow’s web­site, Goop, to say that they were ‘con­sciously un­cou­pling’? Oh, how we laughed! ‘Con­scious un­cou­pling’? Se­ri­ously? Which asi­nine psy­chi­a­trist came up with this par­tic­u­lar bit of psy­chob­a­b­ble? And what on earth did it mean?

Well, in the ‘un­cou­ple’s’ own words it meant that though “in many ways we are closer than we have ever been” they had come to the con­clu­sion that “while we love each other very much we will re­main sep­a­rate”. And so while they would still co-par­ent their two chil­dren and re­main a fam­ily, they had de­cided to end their ro­man­tic (and sex­ual) re­la­tion­ship.

At the time Pal­trow did not know the orig­i­na­tor of the phrase, Amer­i­can psy­chother­a­pist, Kather­ine Wood­ward Thomas, who would go on write a book with the same topic ( Con­scious Un­cou­pling: 5 Steps To Liv­ing Hap­pily Even After), telling the world about her “proven process for lov­ingly com­plet­ing a re­la­tion­ship that will leave you feel­ing whole and healed and at peace”. Ac­cord­ing to Thomas, a di­vorce doesn’t need to be a painful, bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence. In­stead, we should treat it as an op­por­tu­nity to turn our pain into “a cat­a­lyst for mak­ing a break­through in the way you show up in your life… and in your next re­la­tion­ship”.

Nev­er­the­less, Pal­trow and Martin in­cor­po­rated th­ese les­sons into their pre and post-di­vorce deal­ings. And as a re­sult, they – and their chil­dren – have come through on the other side rel­a­tively un­scathed. They still hol­i­day as a fam­ily, they in­tro­duce each other to their new part­ners, hell, they even go to­gether to award nights (Pal­trow used one such oc­ca­sion to praise Martin as the best dad ever).

So, guess who’s laugh­ing now?

I was re­minded of this as the car crash that is the An­gelina Jolie-Brad Pitt breakup un­folded in front of a fas­ci­nated world. It was as if the two of them had taken cog­nizance of the prin­ci­ples of ‘con­scious un­cou­pling’ and de­cided to be­have in the

An­gelina Jolie and Brad Pitt pro­vide us with the per­fect ex­am­ple of how not to con­duct a di­vorce

child abuse, con­fi­dent that he would be cleared. Once that hap­pened, he would fight for joint cus­tody.

Mean­while Jolie moved out of the mar­i­tal home with all six kids into rented digs (which, it turned out, she had ar­ranged long be­fore the plane in­ci­dent) and cut off all con­tact with

Brad, block­ing all his phone num­bers and deny­ing him ac­cess to their chil­dren. Amidst all this, there were sug­ges­tions tossed into the me­dia that Pitt had cheated on Jolie with co-star Mar­ion Cotil­lard (de­nied by all par­ties) and that An­gelina her­self was be­ing ‘con­soled’ by Johnny Depp.

And be­fore you could say ‘pre-nup’, the Jolie-Pitt di­vorce had turned into the stuff of tabloid dreams, a pub­lic spec­ta­cle that left the whole world gaw­ping and gasp­ing.

Need­less to say, break-ups of lesser be­ings like us would not un­duly trou­ble the world like this one did. But nonethe­less, we can learn some les­sons from the Jolie-Pitt di­vorce from hell:

Keep pri­vate stuff pri­vate: When you are an­gry and hurt, you want to lash out at your part­ner. You want to tell the whole world how ter­ri­ble he/she was and how mis­er­able you were in the mar­riage. Well, take a deep breath and don’t. If you can’t do that, then keep your moan­ing within a cir­cle of trust. The en­tire uni­verse doesn’t need to know your busi­ness.

Don’t use the chil­dren as pawns: No mat­ter how much you loathe your spouse, don’t let that hate per­co­late down to the kids. They need both par­ents in their life; they need to be able to love both their mother and fa­ther. Be sen­si­tive to their needs. And never ever al­low them to be­lieve (as Mad­dox prob­a­bly does) that the di­vorce is some­how their fault. They are prob­a­bly blam­ing them­selves any­way. Don’t make it worse.

Don’t cut off all lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion: If you can’t bear to talk di­rectly, then com­mu­ni­cate via a go-be­tween whom both of you trust. Be­cause just as you got into this mar­riage to­gether, you have to ne­go­ti­ate the choppy wa­ters of di­vorce to­gether as well. And a mod­icum of ci­vil­ity will en­sure that you come out whole on the other side.

Take a leaf out of Pal­trow and Martin’s book and give ‘con­scious un­cou­pling’ a chance. It’s re­ally not as daft as it sounds.

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