What if it doesn’t work out? Many of us can recall our parents’ messy divorces. We can recall bitter words shot back and forth across a formerly peaceful dinner table and heavy conversations that hit us like a train. Some of us can even recall being called into court as children over custody battles. It’s no surprise, then, that a landmark 1967 study found that divorce was the second-most emotionally-taxing event that could occur in one’s lifetime after the death of a loved one (Harel, 2017). However, as divorce has become more commonplace, today it is also slowly becoming more amicable as people come around to the idea that the happily-ever-after notion of one blissful lifelong partnership was invented hundreds of years ago, when 40 was considered a ripe old age (Harel, 2017). That isn’t to say that you can’t have a wonderful, fulfilling lifelong partnership–many couples can and do, and that’s fantastic. However, there are many couples who can’t and don’t, and that’s ok, too.
The idea of amicable, happy breakups has gained steam in recent years, in part because much of the millennial generation has witnessed their parents’ not-so-amicable breakups. There are now a number of happy-breakup trends which encourage more peaceful and graceful parting.
Perhaps the first term which sparked happy breakup trends on a large scale was “conscious uncoupling”. When Gwenyth Paltrow split from her then-husband Chris Martin in 2014, she popularized the term “conscious uncoupling” (which she had heard from a therapist) by using it in her iconic breakup announcement. Although much of the public initially reacted to the term with disgust and derision (Sarkisian, 2020), eight years later it has become a common way to describe a deliberate, reflective end to a romantic partnership in which exes focus on dissolving a union in a kinder, gentler way than one might assume upon hearing the term “breakup” or “divorce”.
The trend has taken off on social media; you may have seen friends posting about their own conscious uncouplings, with some of them going so far as to design and stage breakup rituals in service of gracefully honoring the connection they shared.
In an essay reflecting on the term, Dr.’s Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami frame the idea of conscious uncoupling as it relates to shifting expectations of relationships. They point out that our expectations regarding marriage and partnership rest on a system formed at a very different time in history. Just 100 years ago, life expectancy was 46 years for men and 48 years for women (Sadeghi & Sami, N.D.). With such short lifespans, the idea of partnering with one person for a lifetime was very realistic. Today, however, divorce rates have skyrocketed along with life expectancy, hovering around 50% (Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, 2022). (These statistics also fail to account for the people who remain unhappily married.)
We’re living almost twice as long as before, and research suggests that most people will actually have two or three long, significant relationships over the course of their lives. Therefore, in order to better adapt marriage to our modern context, Sadeghi and Sami advocate for a reframing of marriage as a daily renewal of commitment rather than a lifetime commitment made only once. Many couples, they argue, assume that everything will remain the same, frozen in time from their moment at the altar. As a result, they neglect to engage in the work of making a marriage last. Daily renewal, therefore, can be more likely to encourage couples to continue putting in the work to make their marriages last.
While many couples will indeed manage to stay happily together “until death do us part”, around 50% of couples will inevitably find sooner or later that they are growing in separate directions (Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, 2022). Sadeghi, Sami, and a multitude of millennial and Gen-Z couples believe that this state of affairs need not end in ill will. Rather, separation can be treated with all the sanctity afforded to the formative stages of a relationship. Enter: Conscious Uncoupling.
Proponents of conscious uncoupling see the end of a relationship not as a time for arguments and power struggles, but as a time for self-reflection and personal growth. Partners are encouraged to view their dynamic not as ‘good guy’ versus ‘bad guy’, but as a fruitful and potent learning experience(Sadeghi and Sami, N.D.). Viewed in this light, animosity may dissipate more easily.
Today, “Conscious uncoupling” trends are many and varied. Simply put, couples feel the need for a good breakup. There are a number of new services and experiences that have popped up in the wake of people’s need for breakups that leave them rejuvenated and wiser rather than emotionally drained and lost. Below we detail a few of these trends.
For starters, there are now many divorce hotels popping up, aiming to give divorcing couples “a positive new start” (Divorce Hotel, N.D.). Couples can check into a hotel in which they negotiate with skilled divorce mediators whose aim is to help them part amicably in a low-stress setting with plenty of comfort and amenities to help them focus on the matter at hand without having to worry about the tasks of everyday life. They settle their divorce over the weekend and check out no longer married and (hopefully) with some renewed feelings of goodwill towards one another.
Many divorcees are now opting to go on “divorcemoons”, or vacations aimed at celebrating new beginnings, processing difficult events, and coming back refreshed and ready to step into the world of singledom anew. These types of holidays are becoming so popular that hotels and resorts are catching on and taking advantage of the trend by offering special divorce packages and promotions. CasaVelas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for example, hosts farewell cocktail parties complete with a coffin for wedding rings, and Sedona has become the place to go for healing and forgiveness-oriented getaways (Leo, 2011). Types of divorcemoons can range from beach holidays or guided tours in a group to eat-pray-love-style holidays in exotic, far-flung locations and anything else one can dream up. The point is to use the novelty of travel to insert a pause between past and present, enabling divorcees to make a smooth and healthy transition.
Wevorce is a company which has sprung up in the wake of unhappy couples’ need for a good divorce. They’re an online platform specializing in helping couples un-tie the knot outside of the courthouse in a simple and kind-hearted way. With “skip the courthouse, keep the kindness” as their motto, their system guides couples through a questionnaire, resulting in a parenting plan and a marital settlement agreement. Couples are then linked to a private judge associated with the platform. Instead of meeting with polarizing lawyers who often egg couples on in their ill feelings towards one another, Wevorce helps couples to get along and heal as a family so that they can move on to the next chapter with civility and peace.
A new app designed for couples in the separation process allows them to “stay focused on loving their kids, rather than hating their ex” (Verk, 2019). It helps parents to document, manage, and organize their co-parenting relationship in a seamless way that reduces tension. Within the app, co-parenting activities are verified and time-stamped and one can make and manage requests related to common co-parenting situations, like weekend swaps, shared expenses, and extracurricular activities. There’s also a “get help” function which co-parents can use to connect with experienced mediators to help them sort through disputes in a fair and amicable way.
For Goodness’ Sake, Get a Prenup
There are a multitude of reasons why you should consider a prenup. Although it’s easier to just shake one’s head and say “my relationship is different”, the statistics don’t lie: divorce is a very common end result of relationships today. Writing a prenup not only enables couples to devise fair arrangements for how things will be divided if they do divorce, it also helps them to make carefully thought-out financial plans and arrangements for their marriages themselves. This increases the likelihood that they’ll stay together by opening up communication and preventing some potential future conflicts through expectation-setting and working out important details prior to getting married.
A prenup needn’t only deal with financial matters; many couples are also choosing to include lifestyle clauses in their prenups, which outline expectations for other areas of their married life together. Couples may even choose to draft “conscious uncoupling” lifestyle clauses that outline how they plan to split amicably should it ever be necessary. We hope it won’t, but just as you buy car insurance to lessen the blow of any possible future accident, a prenup helps you do the same for your marriage while also helping you solidify your union through open communication and planning.
If you’re interested in getting a prenup but you’re worried about the cost, fear not–HelloPrenup’s service is nearly 4x cheaper than the lowest cost estimates for getting a prenup through an attorney. Click here to check out how it works. Don’t know much about prenups? Here are the basics. If you’re worried about what your partner will say, here’s how to bring up a prenup without upsetting your partner. Ultimately, you’re stacking the odds for relationship success by doing so. Do your relationship a favor.
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Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected]
Divorce Hotel. N. D. I would like to settle my divorce over a weekend. Retrieved from: https://www.divorcehotel.co.uk/settle-divorce-over-a-weekend/
Harel, M. C. 2017. Why Millennials are Embracing the “Happy Divorce”. Retrieved from: https://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/a26291/millennial-women-conscious-uncoupling/
Leo, J. 2011. Demi and Ashton Divorce-Moon Suggestions. Retrieved from: https://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2011-11-21/demi-and-ashton-divorce-moon-suggestions
Sadeghi, H. & Sami, S. N.D. Conscious Uncoupling. Retrieved from: https://goop.com/wellness/relationships/conscious-uncoupling-2/
Sarkisian, J. 2020. Gwyneth Paltrow explained the origins of ‘conscious uncoupling’ in an essay about the end of her marriage to Chris Martin. Retrieved from: https://www.insider.com/gwyneth-paltrow-origins-conscious-uncoupling-chirs-martin-marriage-2020-8
Verk, K. 2019. Rewriting the Rules of Conscious Uncoupling. Retrieved from: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/rewriting-the-rules-of-conscious-uncoupling/
Wilkinson & Finkbeiner. 2022. Divorce Statistics: Over 115 Studies, Facts, and Rates for 2022. Retrieved from: https://www.wf-lawyers.com/divorce-statistics-and-facts/#:~:text=Almost%2050%20percent%20of%20all,end%20in%20divorce%20or%20separation.