Actress Gwyneth Paltrow seems to be a fairly polarizing public figure, as evidenced by both the praise and condemnation she regularly receives in media tabloids and on talk shows.

Paltrow’s recent announcement of her divorce with rock star Chris Martin rather proves the point, with a particular phrase she used to describe the couple’s split drawing both criticism and laudatory comments in the press.

The phrase dropped by Paltrow on her lifestyle website was “conscious uncoupling,” a divorce delineation that prompted reactions ranging from pure scorn to outright praise.

One central reaction voiced by a number of readers was, understandably, confusion.

What the heck is conscious uncoupling?

Some Paltrow lambasters say the phrase is pure nonsense and reeks of Hollywood new-ageism and pretension.

Other commentators, though, including some parenting experts and family therapists, say otherwise. They state that Paltrow has essentially rendered a public service by using a term that at its core seeks to define divorce as a conciliatory growth process that tries to promote the mutual well-being of the parties divorcing and any children who are involved.

Two essayists who have written on conscious uncoupling say that it embodies a marriage-ending perspective that emphasizes the potential for no-blame growth rather than the personal failings of a divorcing couple.

In that sense, conscious uncoupling might reasonably be viewed as being somewhat akin to the thought process that is purposefully cultivated in so-called collaborative divorces, including mediated divorce. The central focus for many couples eschewing the traditional divorce process is on avoiding adversarialism through litigation and on retaining civility following marital dissolution.

One author on parenting says that Paltrow has done “a good thing” to use her celebrity in raising awareness that divorce can often be marked by calmness and the search for growth than by contentiousness and acrimony.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Is ‘conscious uncoupling’ a better way to divorce?” Anya Sostek, March 29, 2014