Conscious uncoupling

here's how to actually break up in a healthy way

written by
last updated
January 24, 2023
mins read

It’s no secret that mainstream media can install certain ideas in our minds that we then get unconsciously internalize and consider our own. Within the context of this article, there are two main assumptions that I consider to be quite relevant to how some of us might perceive romantic relationships and break-ups. These assumptions are very prominent in most popular movies, series, music, books, etc. and reinforce an unfortunate approach to ending relationships. 

The first and most important one can be seen in movies where the protagonist is madly in love with their best friend but is unable to confess because: if it goes bad, they’re not only losing a lover but a friend. This portrays the death of a romantic relationship as the obvious loss of the human within that relationship. The second assumption is that the way popular media handles break-ups leads to their catastrophization by the young and malleable brains who start to see them as extremely painful, dramatic, and war-like events. The fall-out from these events usually leads to the characters either never meeting or talking to each other again or only meeting later on to rekindle their relationship in a tear-jerking kiss before the story is over.  

Through this, the ideas of yearning and fighting for your love are romanticised and exploited to create a melancholic and destiny-like feel to the story and appeal to the “right person, wrong time” ideology that leads a lot of people to fall back into yo-yoing with previous partners despite the relationships continuing to be dysfunctional–in hopes of finding that right time that might never come. And while it might all seem harmless at first glance, these combinations can lead to romantic love being seen as an all or nothing ordeal, creating a cycle of letting relationships reach their full toxic potential before daring to end them because we start to favour trying until communication becomes completely dysfunctional over letting go. Why? Because we were never taught how. Matter of fact, relationships should end way before they reach that point where conversations can no longer happen–way before going no contact is the only solution. 
My case against going no contact eventually comes down to this: building a relationship is a mutual effort, so why should breaking up be an isolated one? 

Blocking each other on social media and avoiding one another like the plague can restrain you from processing your emotions in an intentional and conscious way. No matter how long the relationship was, you tend to build habits around each other (texting every morning, meeting at a certain time, etc.) that can be hard to get over. Going no contact leaves you and your partners to deconstruct those habits and feelings alone, which often leads to insecurities, fear of rejection, and emotional scars that can stem from one-sidedly interpreting actions and words–with no way of correcting them after cutting all lines of communication. 

So, what’s the alternative? you ask. Well, a little concept called “conscious uncoupling” that shot to fame following the highly publicized divorce between Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin after the former used it to describe their amicable separation. Nothing prepared the word for the storm of mockery that followed the use of the term and Gwyneth herself admitted later on that she regretted using it. However, while its beginnings might have been controversial, it’s truly worth looking deeper into it if you’re aiming to make informed decisions and lead your life and relationships as consciously as possible. I consider conscious uncoupling as a collective effort to process the negative, and positive, emotions that come with the realization that your romantic relationship is ending and taking the necessary steps–together- to de-transition from being lovers into something that brings more value into your life rather than harm it. 

However, it’s also important to look deeper into why the concept received such backlash–beyond the desire of some people to simply bully celebrities for their personal lives–and why it was so hard to believe that an amicable separation with uninterrupted communication can be achieved. Well, my friends, we are gathered here today to argue against some of the common myths around romantic relationships and break-ups to help us get closer to understanding and accepting how conscious uncoupling can help us lead healthier and more fulfilling lives and relationships. 

#1 A relationship is not only over when you have no feelings left

There are many reasons why a relationship might transition out of a non-platonic one. Different goals. Remaining in a dysfunctional relationship because of that 25% feeling of love.
it's natural for some relationships to end, no matter how long or deep they were. People grow apart, but it doesn't mean it was your fault, it just means that you're ready to take on new adventures.

#2 Romantic relationships are not superior

It seems that society reinforces an unwritten rule that relationships exist on a hierarchy where non-platonic ways of relating are placed higher and given more importance than platonic ones. This rule made it such that we unintentionally put more value in relationships that involve a sexual or romantic entanglement and see the absence of those elements as "lesser"--cue the infamous "I wanted more than a friendship" and other statements that insinuate this. 

Friendships, partnerships, situationships, marriage, and every other kind of relationship exist for a reason and serve an equally important social need and purpose. All this to say that transitioning into a friendship or a low-contact relationship doesn’t mean that that person is now of lower importance, it just means that they are serving a different purpose in your life and journey. 

#3 Relationships exist on a spectrum

Taking it one step further, it’s also important to acknowledge that relationships exist on a spectrum and it’s often difficult to make a clear-cut distinction between what is purely platonic and what is not–the variety in definitions is also not helpful and often requires a lot of personalization and context. Most relationships will exist in a grey area that can sometimes be difficult to label and that’s OK! Understanding this enables you to build relationships that serve you rather than ones you can neatly put in a box to satisfy a dichotomous way of thinking. Any relationship is a continuous work in progress and can take on different boxes and labels throughout time so try not to be limited by the idea that once you put a name on it, then it cannot be changed unless it ends. Instead, seek to create new boxes that work for your needs. 

#4 A happy ending does exist, it’s just different 

If you’ve seen any typical rom-com or fairytale movie, you’ll be familiar with the notion that a happy ending for any relationship is to find out that they’re your happily ever after; the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with. I believe that this has caused us to treat the end of a relationship of course the disappointment of unfulfilled potential is still going to require mourning and will be sad. That’s a version of yourself you’ll never get back and it’s valid to mourn it. However, to reframe the idea, a happy ending would not be a forever person but you coming to the realization that you need to stay true to yourself. For many of you, you’ve already had your happy ending and are now living the happily ever after and for the rest of you, it might be time to work toward that point. 

our take.

Because it needs to be said: this article is not promoting that you need to force a friendship when it’s not needed or when it doesn’t serve you and is definitely not about forgoing no-contact in toxic or abusive relationships, on the contrary, it’s an invite to figure out what’s best for you. The point of consciously parting is to process emotions together and be there in all the decisions that lead to the end of a relationship as it was. Always remember ending any relationship, platonic and non-platonic, that doesn’t serve you is an act of radical self-love.