The day Gwyneth Paltrow and her then-husband Chris Martin announced their ‘conscious uncoupling’ in 2014, they were on holidays with their children. Together. A year later when their divorce was finalised in a London court they were once again on a family holiday.
For most couples, that level of togetherness while being apart is not realistic or even desirable. But a ‘good divorce’ (especially if there are children’ involved) is a positive goal, even if it doesn’t quite stretch to family vacations.
As part of our Debrief Daily podcast, we spent an episode exploring this idea of a 'good divorce' and in doing so, we managed to unearth the Gwynth Paltrow and Chris Martin of regional Victoria. You can listen to the podcast here. Grant and Kerryn don’t talk about 'unconscious uncoupling' or serve their kids kale but they served them up a good dose of respect, love and a good, kind, compassionate break up eight years ago.
We also gained the insight and experience of Bill Hewlett, a Counsellor from Relationships Australia whose job it is to help couples have the best divorce possible. We’ve summarised their advice below as the keys to unlocking your hearts without releasing recrimination, resentment, antagonism, nastiness and pain.
So with one in three marriages heading for splitsville and defacto relationships just as painful and fraught to end please feel free to pass on their tips and add your own.
1. Be Respectful and have Self Respect.
Bill Hewlett says generally "how you manage life will indicate how you will manage divorce and the more fragile you feel about yourself the more angry you will feel about someone else". He says if you are breaking up, try not to beat yourself up and see the relationship as a failure you regret. At the same time though, he advises that you don’t let someone else take all the responsibility for what went wrong. Allow for self-respect, self-reflection and the opportunity for life insights.
Shelley says keeping her self-respect meant her breakup eventually became an empowering experience. She said while her heart was crushed but she always aimed to keep her dignity.
2. Be Kind.
Shelley was devastated when she and her ex-husband Joel broke up more than a decade ago. They met at college when she was 19 and he was her first love and the second boy she’d ever kissed. However, as they suffered their private pain they never lost sight of being kind to each other. They were thoughtful and mindful about how they spoke and behaved civilly at all times because they wanted their son (then 2 and now nearly 14) to be calm and feel loved. Shelley says her goal is now to inspire other women to be kinder. Do you understand the Dalai Lama connection now? But wait there's more
3. Let go of anger.
Counsellors often say that the couples who show contempt and criticism for each other usually won’t make it and then won’t divorce well. Bill Hewlett says “contempt and eye rolling is dangerous territory." All of the people we talked to on the podcast and those we chatted to for research had one thing in common: they weren’t angry people. Shelley just doesn't do fury and the rest managed to let it go. Rebecca Huntley says she feels her parents parting was amiable because her mother just couldn’t hold a grudge.