Conscious Uncoupling and the benefits for the children 
There is hardly anything worse for children, except death, than having their parents separate. In playgrounds across the country, those words, ‘Mum and Dad are getting a divorce but they say its not my fault’ are heard thousands of times each year, and the teachers know that it is just the beginning of a sad, sad tale which rarely ends well.For children are, and have always been, the victims of divorce. The trouble often starts years before the divorce, because happy couples do not separate. The roots and arguments frequently have their origins long before the children were born, and often the divorce can be the beginning of a far happier period without the arguments and silent tension in the home.

Even parents who agree that ‘the children must not suffer; they are the most important in the story’ agree to have the kids uproot themselves weekly or fortnightly and live in a different house. How would you like it? Friends that you don’t see, living in a house where you have no friends nearby, never knowing where precious items are, the confusion and the loss. (The ideal scenario is for the kids to stay put and the parents to take shifts in living with them – something that very rarely happens.)

So its good to hear that there is an alternative to the ‘Punch and Judy’ scenario of endless bitter arguments and the children being used as pawns.

Conscious Uncoupling came into public awareness earlier this year when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin spoke of it in their separation announcement. But it has been going on for years, particularly by therapists training in the “Imago Relationship Therapy’ approach.

Imago is a methodology for developing open and respectful communications in couples. It was originally developed for couples wanting to re-vitalize their relationship, and it still used around the world for that, very successfully. Conscious Uncoupling uses a similar approach, of a structured dialogue which teaches the participants to really listen to what the other says, validate it and give empathy for how that must make them feel.

In a situation when a couple has decided to separate, a similar approach is used. The Dialogue allows each to understand the frustrations and dominating issues felt by the other. Sometimes, this is the first time that each has actually been able to express themselves and feel heard, and truly listen to what the other says.

Part of the discussion in any separation is what will happen to the children. When will they be told, what will they be told, how much do they need to know. Where will they live, how much access and responsibility does each parent want, and what is best for the children? These are emotive areas of discussion and, left to themselves, parents can find it very hard to come to agreement which is truly in the best interests of the children. Some parents indulge in ‘alienation tactics’ – sowing subtle seeds of prejudice against the other parent which is very hard to counter. If there is open and respectful communication between the parents, alienation is virtually absent.

Conscious Uncoupling really helps couples to talk about the important things that matter not the niggles, in a way that is freer of bitterness and anger. After all, this person was the one that you fell in love with, had kids with and at one time pledged never to leave and to love forever. While complete reconciliation is not the objective (although it does sometimes happen) and we do not aim to have the couple end up as best buddies necessarily, they are able to reach a point where they can discuss things without rancour, and end up sharing joint family events like weddings and grandchildren reasonably amicably.

How much better is this for the children involved? They no longer see their parents being abusive and vicious, no longer have to hear arguments through closed doors when the parents think they cannot be overheard. Children are likely to be less damaged, and everyone is more able to move on healthily to the next stage of their lives. The Conscious Uncoupling dialogue is a skill that the parents use in the future, allowing respectful contact to be maintained.

Conscious Uncoupling typically takes 4 to 6 initial sessions either weekly or fortnightly, and then top-up sessions when necessary. Sessions last 75 minutes. There are several therapists able to provide the service, but in the first instance contact Annie Gurton through

Annie Gurton is a Psychological Therapist & Couples Counsellor based in Sydney.0423 632 657