So Gwyneth Paltrow is going through a conscious uncoupling. Great idea, if you live in Disney World. I consciously uncoupled from a boyfriend of 11 years. My parents consciously uncoupled after 30 years of marriage. Both were wretched, hurtful experiences. Back then we called them breakups. If only I’d known that calling the dissolution a “conscious uncoupling” would have eliminated my pain with the ease of a laxative. If only I’d known that conscious uncoupling was the tony thing to do or the remedy for infidelity’s hurt feelings. Is it possible that shellacking a wart with fancy words can trick us into thinking that a breakup is anything short of miserable?
Then, I began to wonder; am I being too hard on Gwyneth? Maybe euphemisms can make bad things tolerable? Maybe euphemisms can make good things great? If this linguistic sleight of tongue is the trick to get Gwyneth’s family through a hard time, who am I to judge?
I decided to give Gwyneth’s knotty phrase a whirl. It’s hard to question the wisdom of a celebrity who was married (and since uncoupled) to a hot rock star and has cute kids named Apple and Moses. The way I see it, conscious uncoupling can have applications beyond the average D-I-V-O-R-C-E. And why can’t conscious uncoupling be temporary? From time to time, a brief uncoupling may be in order.
For most women, wives, and mothers, there are many high points and some stressful days. The other night, I was annoyed with my daughter, husband, and just about everyone I know. It was the perfect moment to consciously uncouple from my life, the laundry, and my family. Don’t get me wrong — I love my life. But a few days’ hiatus would be a welcomed change. I would love to slip into a robe in a tropical spa for a deep-tissue uncoupling massage followed by a conscious coupling with my favorite chardonnay. Then, cleansed of my sour attitude, I would consciously recouple with my family.
The uncouple and recouple opportunities are endless. On occasion, my spouse pesters me with requests for amorous affection when all I really want to do is watch True Detective on HBO. Would it be so bad to consciously uncouple, for a short term, some of my body parts from marital duties? Aren’t there days when you don’t want to couple with anyone, even George Clooney?
And what about familial obligations? Can I consciously uncouple from my mother-in-law for, say, a few years? For 20 years, I’ve been the picture of perfection as a daughter-in-law, so how about a five-year break? In 2019, I will reappear and assume my role as the dutiful daughter-in-law.
My family might stay unconsciously coupled longer if we could occasionally consciously uncouple. If a timeout is good in sports, which often serves as a metaphor for life, then an uncoupling timeout should be good, maybe even therapeutic, for my version of Days of Our Lives, right? The only way to know for sure is to give it a try. I’ve decided to consciously uncouple this summer, for the sake of my family. I’m going to start small: a girls’ trip to Cabo.
Thank you, Gwyneth.
Michele Valdez is a slightly compulsive, mildly angry feminist, a past attorney, and a present volunteer. She lives with her demanding kids and husband.