Gwyneth Paltrow got a lot of flack over her statement announcing the end of her marriage. “Conscious uncoupling” was the phrase she used.
I love that expression.
I immediately imagined two entangled octopuses — arms everywhere, wrapped around each other, knotted in some places, in every way intertwined. The octopuses represent a couple.
Even when a client comes in to our office saying “we’ve been living two separate lives”, the truth is always that the couple’s lives are intertwined so thoroughly and implicitly, they are not even aware of the ties that bind. Think about the different ways we could separate those octopuses. We could each grab a side and pull, but most likely someone would get hurt. Some knots may loosen, but others will tighten. Someone might even lose an arm.
How the octopuses should be separated is with a careful examination of how each arm is intertwined, an analysis of the best way to make it free, maybe a gentle tug on the arm if necessary to figure out where it is stuck.
This is how I imagine the work we do. A conscious uncoupling. A thoughtful, sensitive, delicate un-entanglement of the octopus’s arms.
Of course it is best if the octopuses work together as well. If one pulls away without thought to the other, little progress will be made. If the two octopuses fight against each other, they will probably become more tightly bound. Both octopuses might be uncomfortable at different moments in the process, but if they work deliberately and collaboratively, they will ultimately get where they want to be.
A conscious uncoupling. A careful disentanglement of the 16 arms. A weaving in and out of the tentacles — over and under and through and around— working gently, and carefully until both octopuses may swim away. That is how divorce lawyers and divorcing couples should work.
This is conscious uncoupling.