When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin made the shock announcement that they were splitting up, the couple — who have been married for ten years and have two children together — referred to their separation as 'conscious uncoupling'.
In light of their split, HELLO! Online has spoken to relationship expert and life coach Sloan Sheridan-Williams about her take on 'unconscious coupling', the secret to a stress-free divorce and the impact Hollywood has on marriages.
Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth and Chris have said they are going to 'uncouple'. What do you understand as 'conscious uncoupling'?
"The term 'conscious uncoupling', coined by Dr Habib Sadeghi and Dr Sherry Sami, revolves around society's idea that marriage is forever. They suggest that humans have failed to adapt to the fact that nowadays we live longer. One needs to look inside oneself and identify emotional scars from their past. These scars can push a person to feel anger and resent, which can lead to bitter separation.
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"I agree with the idea of 'uncoupling' but the terminology is perhaps not one I would choose. Changing the perception of divorce is beneficial for everyone and one that I would love to see implemented over the next few years.
"What I do not buy into is that this has anything to do with 'mating for life'. I agree marriage brings up issues but one can choose to work through these together or separately. Surely hiding behind any terminology even 'unconscious coupling' is just another label and allowing a couple to hide a deep rooted unhelpful belief about divorce."
Gwyneth and Chris at the Haiti Gala in January
As a Hollywood couple, Gwyneth and Chris' marriage of ten years has often been the subject of scrutiny. Do you think celebrity relationships are more likely to be short-lived?
"Statistics suggests that divorce rates in Hollywood are characteristically high. No one can live up to such scrutiny and so the success of celebrity marriages often revolves around coping strategies in dealing with what is uncovered. For people not in the public eye, we get away with much more innocent and not so innocent activities, but a celebrity couple does not have such a luxury.
Gwyneth and Chris attend the Golden Globes
"Any good relationship is based on foundations of trust, loyalty and respect. Even if loyalty and respect are present, trust is tested more in a Hollywood relationship and it therefore comes down to the individuals and their personality types.
"For every short-lived marriage there are also marriages that have lasted for fifty years or more, such as Paul Newman, Alan Alda, Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. People, celebrities or otherwise are still individuals. Celebrities just allow us a peek in to the human condition."
Gwyneth and Chris' family home
Gwyneth and Chris have said they will continue to 'coparent'. We don't know what their living situation will be like in the future, but do you think separated couples can live under the same roof?
"With the right approach and right perception it is possible, however in my professional opinion — and each case is individual — I would suggest this may be confusing for a child, the couple themselves, their friends and families. Boundaries will need to be set for this to work and these need to be flexible enough to allow change but strict enough to ensure no-one gets hurt.
"There is always one person in a relationship who wants more out of such an arrangement and there is always one person that moves on first. Being in such close proximity— even if there is no chance of rekindled love — can still raise negative emotions."
Life coach Sloan Sheridan-Williams
What advice would you give couples on how to have a happy divorce?
"My divorce coaching program is based on my fundamental approach to the human condition which I refer to as the Sloan S.E.C.R.E.T. A few of the principles I use in this are below:
— Realise that each party had a part to play in the divorce. The only person one can ever truly change in this world is oneself. When clients see divorce as a chance to make new choices, their brain focuses away from loss and towards gain.
— Educate oneself to the facts of the divorce. If you can understand why you were left or why you left your spouse, it is better to be honest and put all the facts on the table, leaving hurtful comments or accusations at the door. Having answers provides the power to stop reliving the who, what, and why of a situation. Holding on to the past is a recipe for unhappiness. For those who do not find it easy to let go, there are many forms of therapy and life coaching available.
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"— Tell a different story — one that does not include hardship, betrayal or loss and that focuses on the new and exciting chapter of one's life. Often clients falter at this point and there are many techniques one can use to help them eradicate their old story. The new version of events needs to focus on the positive aspects of the person and that they are enough as they are.
— Keep connected to others. In losing your connection to your partner, you may lose some perceived significance so I often remind my clients to allow themselves to seek support from their friends and family without over indulging in any negative stories about their divorce."
To hear more from Sloan visit her official website www.sloansw.com or follow her on Twitter at @SloanSW_London.