What’s the Problem with Conscious Uncoupling?

What’s the Problem with Conscious Uncoupling?

It is far easier to meet a series of strangers and think we have relationships than build and grow a relationship with one individual or a family of individuals over time.

So you meet someone for the first time in a place you like to go, a place of habit you frequently find yourself visiting, or a place that has made you miserable… and you know what they say, “misery loves company”. All of these venues build consensus. You find yourself in a conversation that is filled with affirmation, discovery, and curiosity. Perhaps this curiosity leads you to a second conversation, a third conversation, maybe an actual date with another who has caught your eye. For months you find your paths seem to collide, or perhaps it’s just your matching worldviews that are discovered over texts, phone calls, Facebook, twitter, and the Internet. The affirmation can be intoxicating. The frenzy of the discovery can help you to overlook any actual differences that might lead to deeper telltale discussions about what it is to be human and how complicated this might be for everyone… such as the two of you in this new mirroring relationship.

Our nature is to avoid the messy, the uncomfortable, the sad and unexplainable stories or situations in our lives. Tragedy is for others until we find ourselves swimming in it. According to society, pain is only to be measured by lawyers and judges in courts of law for financial compensation. But pain really has no monetary value: it just exists. Pain is ubiquitous; it is everywhere when we take time to look for it. But society has conditioned us to look away or take it to court because it doesn’t belong. So, we avoid talking about these painful periods of growth and development in our lives. It is a taboo subject until we find ourselves wallowing in it once again. But when this happens, society tells us to “get over it”, to “leave it alone”, or to “pull our man parts or woman parts up and move on”. This is the type of grist for the weak, and surely not something to share with someone we want to impress.

So when tragedy, uncertainty, or a bump in the road hitchhikes its way into our freshly minted and comfortable relationship, it becomes an unfamiliar and very unwelcome guest. We begin to avoid each other physically or we avoid discussing the offending topic because we may not have learned how to trust and feel safe in these uncharted and troubling waters. We become defensive and argue over behaviors that represent only the tip of the iceberg when compared to the deeper misunderstanding of human need. This need is locked and frozen underneath the behaviorally choppy and rough waters displayed on our surface. We talk about the tip of the iceberg because we have trained ourselves to look only there for answers; look only there because that is how our first conversations began when we did not understand and did not know where else to look. We were just “finding out” about this promising new relationship that seemed to resonate and bring only pleasure to each other. There was no need to enter the deeper world under the display. We were intoxicated by the promise that there was somebody out there just like us!

Now (weeks, months, years later), we “consciously uncouple” in an attempt to invalidate that first story we told ourselves about our beloved. We clamor for the ready-made excuses that the modern, efficient and streamlined world offers as a balm to soothe our tired souls: “we just grew apart, we were too young, we didn’t really know what we wanted, my beloved changed”. Maybe we find other ways to divert our attention from the uncomfortable conversations that need to be had in order to achieve intimacy. We become addicted to drugs, gambling, sex, pornography, shopping, hobbies, work, and/or our children. We struggle with the notion of how much is too much and how much is not enough in our personal pursuits because we are suffering from lack of connection. My beloved and I have lost our way back to each other to discover why we are suffering at the same time… yet choosing to suffer quite separately. “Going it alone” or finding another who “gets us” seems like the best solution; and we “consciously uncouple”. Just the sound of this lukewarm jumble of words offers all of us a deceptive balm of taking the higher road towards self-actualization. This helps us avoid doing the harder work of looking inward to see where we lost our connection to each other. It is easier to look outward for the solution (and preferably some magic bullet in our expeditious society). We can run from too much inner turmoil because we have so little experience learning how to manage the suffering effectively in order to grow. Suffering is not a valued commodity in this hurried and efficient world. Suffering demands that we slow down and take time to heal. Suffering has no timetable in the school of experiential learning. What the world does not know, is that effectively experiencing and managing personal suffering is precisely the most efficacious and expeditious way out into a world filled with highly sensitive and moral individuals who seem to recognize what is right and how to achieve it.

Virginia Satir once said that families are the crucible of building individuals. With all this “conscious uncoupling” we might be missing out on teaching individuals what it means to overcome and sometimes live with pain and suffering. A laboratory where “conscious uncoupling” appears to be the best option, does not represent the inevitable balance that is present in every human life between suffering and the pursuit of happiness. Joy and happiness need to take up space in our life experiences, but they were never meant to gain permanent residency status. We are neurologically wired to feel pain, loss and sadness. Each of these states only sharpens the experience of the others. We need to steep and work through all of our experiences in order to live a life of wholeheartedness. Somewhere in the history of humanity, with have devalued the more difficult emotions, the value of intact and uncomplicated families, and the promises to each other in marriage. The easy thing to do might be to “consciously uncouple”, the harder thing to do is to seek help if we can’t sit with our humanity in all of our humanity’s completeness. We must learn to value wholeheartedness in ourselves and in each other. We must turn “conscious uncoupling” to a “conscious coupling” with relationships that hold promise of mattering to us down the line. Emotionally Focused Therapy can begin the process of total acceptance, building trust, and healing each other from hurts that prevent us from the noble goal of living authentically and wholeheartedly. EFT will not promise a life where there are no missed cries for help or no possibility of further betrayal, but it will offer a way back for a couple to recommit, find acceptance, and create a real authentic and working love.