What Is Conscious Uncoupling?

Quarrelling Couple

"Conscious uncoupling" may sound like another new-age, made-up term to describe something intended to make the couple look more mature than other people. However, the idea of conscious uncoupling has actually been around for quite a while and the theory of it is quite fantastic.

What Is Conscious Uncoupling?

Conscious uncoupling is a way to break up a relationship that focuses on self-reflection and taking responsibility rather than blame and anger. It is a learning and growing process, rather than a hurtful, destructive process. Although it is best done by both people, it can be done by only one person, if the other person doesn't want to cooperate.

Uncoupling was first discussed by author and sociologist Diane Vaughn in her 1986 book Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships. The term was popularized by author and therapist Katherine Woodrow Thomas in 2011, through her book Calling in 'The One. Thomas followed up her book with training and seminars in conscious uncoupling.

Why Conscious Uncoupling?

Breaking up can be traumatic. The pain is overwhelming. For some, the amount of time that it takes to heal from these break-ups can be long-term. The goal of conscious uncoupling is to decrease the trauma for everyone involved: you, your partner, and your children.

According to Thomas, there are three basic relationship mistakes that couples make:

  • Starting to hate the person you once loved
  • Failing to take responsibility for your part in the relationship ending
  • Believing that, without effort, time will heal all wounds

These mistakes are the source of the pain and trauma experienced during and after a break-up. Thomas' online course helps you to learn to not make these mistakes or to fix them if you have already made them. You will only be able to heal from your breakup through:

  • Learning to use the energy from strong emotions as a source of change, rather than hate
  • Consciously looking for, and dealing with, the root cause of past emotional pain
  • Taking responsibility for your part of the relationship dynamics
  • Learning to change your habits so you don't repeat the pattern

What Are the Results of Conscious Uncoupling?

The results of conscious uncoupling tend to be positive. For you, the results include:

  • Learning to support yourself emotionally by letting go of shame and self-blame
  • Taking back your power by figuring out all the ways that you've given it away in relationships (e.g. over giving, giving up your needs for others' needs, etc.)
  • Healing your hurts through dealing with your original pain from your relationship with parents or past relationships
  • Healing your hurts from your current relationship so that you can move on with no baggage
  • Renegotiating your relationships with others based on your new, healthier behavior patterns

For your partner, the results include:

  • A better relationship with you
  • A better relationship with your children
  • All the same results that you experience

For you children and family, the results include:

  • Less trauma, as they experience less negativity
  • Two parents who are positive toward each other
  • Parents whose next relationship will be healthier than their last
  • Parents who think of their children's needs before their own

Differences Between Conscious Uncoupling and Divorce

The end result of both a traditional divorce and a conscious uncoupling are the same - a couple splits up and the relationship ends. However, the process is different and consequently the emotional and relational outcomes are very different in a conscious uncoupling than in a traditional divorce. In a conscious uncoupling, both people are concerned with navigating the break-up in a way that leaves themselves and their partners whole and healthy, so that both may be able to have successful future relationships.


Society teaches you that you are supposed to hate, or at the very least, dislike your ex. You are supposed to see them as unworthy and undeserving of you. Your friends are supposed to tell you how bad the ex is and how you can do so much better. They are supposed to remind you of how much you were hurt in the relationship and how bad the relationship was for you. In a divorce, you are supposed to see your ex-partner as the enemy. Everything that your partner gets in the divorce is your loss. These things help to break the bond that you had with that person.

However, this hatred can be confusing. Furthermore, reminding yourself and being reminded of the hurt you experienced does nothing but victimize you. This hatred and self-victimization ultimately damages everyone involved.

Conscious Uncoupling

Conscious uncoupling is more positive than divorce, with the focus being on everyone's needs, rather than just the individual's. There is no hatred. Both people can be both student and teacher to each other, helping each other through the process. It took two people to create the dynamics in the relationship; it will take two people to fully understand what went wrong. Conscious uncoupling can be a mutual process, where both people work together to help each other break the bond between them in a way that makes both stronger and more healthy. There is no residual hatred and no victimization. Both parties can walk away from the relationship whole and healthy.

A philosophy of conscious uncoupling believes that:

  • Break-ups are natural. People average two-three serious relationships in their lifetimes. The break-up of a single relationship is normal.
  • Just because a relationship ends doesn't mean it's a failure. Some relationships have outgrown their purpose and their ending is the only way that two people can continue to spiritually grow.
  • If a break-up is done with honor and integrity, it doesn't have to be traumatic.
  • The longevity of a relationship doesn't determine its validity. Short-relationships can be just as serious as longer ones.
  • Two people can actually help teach each other through the conscious uncoupling process to become healthier and happier.
  • Conscious uncoupling doesn't mean that everything is ruined. Sometimes it means that everything is coming together.
  • Conscious uncoupling involves redefining yourself as a separate person from your partner. It doesn't involve losing yourself, it involves finding yourself.

Self-Reflection Is the Key

Conscious uncoupling isn't an easy process. The main idea of conscious uncoupling is self-reflection. You have to take a good, hard, honest look at yourself, your pain, and why you do what you do. That isn't simple. It can be painful, confusing, and frustrating. However, to figure out the reasons behind your behavior, to deal with past hurt once and for all, and to prime yourself for a future open, happy, healthy relationship is worth every difficult moment. You will be happier, your partner will be happier, and your children will be happier.

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