I was shocked to hear the website “GOOP “ crashed after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their divorce. It signaled to me that many women are facing conflicts in their marriage and were disheartened, shocked and looking for answers on how celebrity marriages that do not have financial issues or concerns of lack of physical interest ( many celebrities attain fame through their looks) could fail. Women were thinking “What does this say about us? Why am I trying?” I also was shocked to see such a long explanation for the separation on their website and womens’ confusion about understanding it. With divorce being at such a high rate in the United States, it is always interesting to analyze how couple resolves their conflicts pre and post divorce. Celebrity or not, it is emotionally draining and messy.
We understand our culture loves celebrity but I do not want to contribute to gossip. So I wanted to share some pragmatic perspective. For all of you who want real people speak for what is “conscience uncoupling” and want to get a common sense angle on how to digest the news as well as how to resolve conflicts in their own relationships, here it is
As an attorney and a mediator, I have had the pleasure of mediating different type of conflicts including divorces of women who are striving for an alternative to the phenomenon of a chaotic, highly intense divorce proceeding. Thus, I help women and couples lay out their differences, feelings and goals so they can work together in getting an amicable divorce or a healthier marriage. I do not give marriage counseling. Instead, I advocate for true feelings and perspectives of both parties, and when necessary, detach from the emotion a little and practice tough love. Yes, I say pragmatically and with sensitivity what the couple cannot say to or see in each other.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION TIPS:
1) I HAVE NEVER USED FANCY TERMS
I am not sure why fancy words such as exoskeleton and uncoupling give legitimacy to common sense approaches to resolving conflict. My first word of advice – don’t get hung up on labels. If you do you will start comparing your marriage and your approach to resolving conflict to others and will want to place yourself in a category. If that category is bad, then yes you will feel ashamed unnecessarily. Instead focus on your goals – for yourself and your partner. One approach does not fit all.
2) “CONCIENCE” MEANS BEING AWARE- THAT IS IT.
This is a word I do use. According to the statement on “GOOP” conscience uncoupling refers to the idea that both parties are aware of other people’s feelings. That is the common sense approach I advise to my clients – being aware of the person by listening. Not just to your partner’s voice but also to his or her body language towards things you say or do. In a nutshell it means paying attention.
I give this advice to not just divorcing clients that come to me for mediation but anyone wanting to resolve a conflict. Each party wants to be heard. This is true when you are
separating and deciding child custody concerns or when you are speaking to an employer who has treated your unfairly. We all just need to be conscience of what the other person is feeling – they may not be hearing what you are saying in a manner you think they do.
3) “CONCIENCE” also means understanding another person’s framework of thought. We all come with a history, a set of circumstances that has led us to act in a certain way and led us to hold certain beliefs. Without acknowledgement of this history, one cannot ever give legitimacy to another perspective or forgive flaws. In one of my sessions a woman was complaining that his her husband was too controlling and far too loyal to his mother and she could not take it anymore. Instead of letting the husband respond, I drew a chart that listed his major life stages since he was 15. The chart included an early divorce of his parents, financial responsibility of his family at a very young age and a mother who raised three sons on her own. This undeniably led him to grow up to be a doer in his life personally and become emotionally scarred and understandably devoted to his mother. Without recognition of these facts, I felt both husband and wife were missing the opportunity to resolve their conflicts in a much more introspective, honest and valuable way.
4) CHILDREN SEE PARENTS AS ONE UNIT –This could not be more true. Absent domestic abuse and violence in the home, kids do not want to take sides. Too many times I have seen parents speak ill and blame the other spouse for issues in the marriage. Temporarily, children do get emotionally involved and many times scarred by hearing such words. In the end, however they rather just you forgive and move on. In one of my cases, I actually had the children of a gentleman taking part in infidelity address their father and their feelings about the infidelity in the mediation session itself. I wanted the husband to look at the conflict not just as a husband, but as a father. I wanted him to come to terms with the fact that once you are married and have children your actions do not just effect the messages your spouse gets, but also the messages your children get. They are looking for guidance on how to resolve issues so they may follow your approach in the future. They do not want to protect a parent in a conflict, they want the parents to protect them – ALWAYS. This dynamic between a parent and child never changes, whether you are 4 or 40. In this specific session what he heard from his young adult sons is not blame, but more just hurt and a request for him to stop causing pain in the family. Kids are very astute to conflicts and can show you how your actions are impacting others if you pay attention. Do not be afraid of their emotional intelligence. Use this as a motivation, not an obstacle to resolve your conflicts amicably.
5) DIGNITY – THAT IS WHAT ALL ONE IS AFTER – From discrimination cases, divorce to regular employee- employer relations; there is only one dominant factor that seals the deal towards a resolution – the maintaining of dignity. In any situation every human being, even when they have fallen want to be remembered as a person who is standing strong. This is an undeniable truth to human nature true to every person. Who does not want to be remembered when they were the best of themselves and wished they could ERASE when they were their weakest, least wisest, and least composed? If we all understand this in ourselves we should be able to give that opportunity to our opposing party or spouse so you may receive it for yourself. In the discrimination conflicts I have mediated, resolution has never come due to a monetary settlement or official sanction. These things are nice. But ultimately what leads to handshake, agreement signature, or hug is always due to the fact that both parties maintain a level of dignity and respect towards the other. Once a party knows they are leaving with their head up high, the sooner they want to cooperate towards a resolution.