Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin recently announced they were splitting up, or rather consciously uncoupling. The concept is based in the idea (and I’m really, really paraphrasing here) that it’s unrealistic to expect couples to stay together their whole lives and that, if things aren’t working, the best thing they can do for each other and their children is to realize where hurts and angers are really coming from and to work together as mutual teacher and student, learning what they can about each other as they part!
It all sounds very “airy fairy” and terribly civilized but somewhat logical too, I have to admit. If Paltrow and Martin can manage to pull off that kind of peaceful splitting, more power to ‘em. And if more people had that philosophy of “hey, we’ve had a good run and taught each other all we can about life and love so let’s just part,” there would be far fewer nasty divorces and devastated families.
I do believe there are countless things we are supposed to teach each other and learn from each other, from everyone we encounter. We learn the impact of kind versus harsh words. We learn the difference between consequences that come from good choices versus bad. We learn how to make someone else happier. So many lessons, every day. If you think about it too much, you’ll get bogged down in the responsibility to teach and be taught. That doesn’t help anyone. Instead, I think we should go with the flow of life, keeping in mind that it’s all a lesson, teaching us how to be better people who are “happy, healthy and functioning in life” which is my general life and parenting goal. (I swear someday I’m going to embroider that on a pillow).
So in terms of a marriage, it would be really lovely to be able part amicably (if you want to part at all), satisfied that you worked as hard as you could, got and gave what you could but that now it’s time to move on. But the key is to have spent the time you were together with purpose and intention to learn what you could, whether it was over the course of years or merely weeks (in the case of Kim Kardashian). If not, then we’re never really learning our (life) lesson.
I wonder if this Hollywood Power Couple’s vows included “With this ring, I thee couple” and “I pledge my all to thee, at least until I have outgrown you and need to uncouple!”?
What works for one person, couple or family may not work for another. The concept of coupling/uncoupling may work for many people. Whoever chooses this path, however, had better be clear about this from the very beginning so there is minimal damage if one “outgrows” the other faster.
I believe that couples should go to “Couple School” before advancing toward marriage. If Courtney and I had done so when we were younger, it would have made our marriage stronger from the start. Instead, we lived the “school of hard knocks” and made many mistakes. Somehow we survived it all. Commitment has made a big difference in our relationship.
A committed relationship between any two people is very challenging, even in the best of circumstances. Personalities, values, needs all differ so much between people. It is a minor miracle when any two people find each other and want to commit! Add in life’s vagaries, children, health, careers, finances, extended families, and the chances for long-term relationship success look dismal. Yet it does happen. I think of my own extended family and find inspiration. Among the many divorces, there are committed relationships that have survived the outrageous ups and downs of the universe. When we age and grow infirm, having made a commitment to “stick it out” is a gift to ourselves and our families.