Apr 242014

CoupleDumb does not like to discuss the relationship issues of others. Recently, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced that they were separating. This caused a not-so-pretty rush of jokes and chuckling at what is a very sad reality of some relationships. The gist of the joke was that Gwyneth’s perfect marriage was now over. And to add fuel to the fire, they were not just breaking up but they were practicing Conscious Uncoupling. People leaped on this newfangled break up and cast it into the same heap as Gwyneth’s love of kale, Cioppino and juice cleanses. However, there is something to be said about conscious uncoupling; some good, some bad. This week we will take a critical look at this idea and is it worth a try.

cuc1 200x300 Conscious Uncoupling

First, the theory: Conscious Uncoupling is a theory developed by psychoanalyst Melanie Klein based on Object Relations Theory. Object Relations Theory is based in Psychodynamics which holds the foundational understanding that behavior and emotions are driven by conscious and unconscious motivations based on early experiences. In Object Relations, it is believed that infants relate to the world in terms of objects and their function. Mothers and fathers are the primary caregivers and the relationship with an infant will determine how the infant relates to other objects/people. So, if the function of the caregiver was to be present, affectionate and loving, the infant will relate to others in that manner as well. However, if the caregiver is inconsistent, cold and cruel, that will determine the means by which the infant will relate to others. These early relationships help individuals predict the behaviors of those around them. These predictions are called phantasy (yes, the “ph” is intentional). We spoke last week of attachment theory and Object Relations is the foundational ideas behind that theory as well.

Unlike the original Freudian idea that we are driven by our pleasure seeking needs, Object Relations is founded on the idea that we seek relationships. In fact, Object Relations therapists conduct their therapy in such a way as to recreate the mother-infant dyad and to uncover the patterns and phantasies created in that relationship.

So, now that you are experts in object relations, what the hell does that have to do with conscious uncoupling? Simply put, that mommy-baby relationship (or other caregiver relationship) will define your relationships and you will ‘couple’ with people who compliment your projections of your deficits or original caretaker issues. In conscious uncoupling, you remember why you chose your partner and how the complimentary personality was a source completion for you. Conscious Uncoupling is really a means by which to take responsibility for your choice and to break up with compassion, knowing you chose this person for a reason. You respect the fact that you learned something from your partner and grew. No need to blame when you accept the fact that you created your phantasy.

So yeah, Gwyneth and Chris’ choice is very adult and responsible. However, as in everything, this cannot be done by reading a couple of posts or a few sessions with a therapist. This is a long process that will require more than dropping a few terms and jargoning the hell out of people.

Jan 292014

This week we have covered what Marriage is and isn’t. Today, we are going to the dark side. Today we are taking bets and making odds. We are channeling Jimmy the Greek and a bit of Paul’s sordid past and telling you how we predict the failure of marriages. We know, this isn’t the usual uplifting fare we provide but you can also see this as things you should avoid. Or better still, if the odds are stacked up against you, cut your losses.

divorce2 219x300 4 Predictors That Divorce Is On The Way

1. If a couple bickers in public

When we see a couple bicker in public, we can just imagine what they do at home. Yes, sometimes things can spill over if you have not resolved an issue. However, public bickering shows another ugly part of your marriage: you don’t have good boundaries. If you are arguing and need to go somewhere, a couple with good boundaries that maintain that their marriage is their priority will cancel their evening and talk it out. If you are not willing to show up to a party wearing only a scarf with all your bits out for display then, why is it OK for you to argue or bicker with your partner in public?

2. If a couple complains about their partner when the partner is not around

When you talk about your spouse to other people, you are sending a message. If you share your issues with someone who is understanding and has good boundaries as a means to receive some good advice then this is healthy. If you are bitching about your husband/wife to someone else so that they can say nasty things about them too, you are breaking the boundaries of your marriage. It is a betrayal and an affront to your union. If you have a problem with your partner, discuss it. If you need outside help, get it from a professional. Complaining about your partner is an ugly habit that many couples get into and needs to stop. What would they say if they could hear what you said? What would you say if you could hear them?

3. If a couple stops having sex

You knew we would go there and here we are. Sex is not everything but it is important. Not having sex because you are unable to due of an illness or condition is one thing. Choosing not to have sex is quite another. If you stopped having sex, why? If you don’t care, why?  If you only have sex on special occasions and the occasional bank holiday, is that enough? If you are resigned to shutting down that part of you, when did you start thinking that happiness and fun were a luxury? Sex is great. Let’s put it this way, if your spouse told you could never read or eat chocolate or eat bacon or watch a movie again, would you be O.K. with that?

4. If a couple does not do anything together

We know this one is a little unfair because we do almost everything together. We work together. We play together. We are each other’s favorite people. We see this as a cool perk of being married! However, if you are married and your only activity together is the occasional boink and meal, why is that?

So, if you do the things we mentioned here, calculate your odds. Any one of these things can ruin a marriage. We hate being right but the odds are on our side.

Jul 082013

Occasionally we get a book to review that has us repeating our values. CoupleDumb is the Relationship blog. We believe that human beings thrive in relationship. However, relationships also have a way of destroying even the strongest of individuals. This is why we support happy relationships. Divorce is not a bad word in our vocabulary and we have counseled many a couple to split up in a healthy manner. Separation, break up and divorce could be a very positive thing because it opens you up to the possibility of having a healthy relationship. However, how do you make sure that your children understand this?

Kids are often the fodder in a break up and tend to get lost in the chaos. Being mindful of their feelings during this time is crucial. A good resource for parents who are divorcing is the lovely children’s book, “This Love is Forever” by Mavis Prall Cohen and Lizzie Prall. It is a heartwarming children’s book for children in the midst of a divorce. It is written to be read to a child and illustrated by a child! The words are powerful and economical. The author covers every emotional aspect of the effects of a divorce on a child and carries through the message that the child is loved from beginning to end.

We also enjoyed the fact that they have extra pages in the end for a child to draw their own family situation. It is not a fairy tale with a happy ending of parents reuniting. It is realistic. Mom and Dad are forever your parents but they are no longer going to be married to each other. The author also explains that happiness is the goal and that is the most important lesson of all.

This is a great book for parents who are divorcing and therapists who work with families going through a break up.

We were given this book and compensated for our review. All opinions are ours and we believe this is a lovely book.

Jun 272012

Real Relationship Advice

divorce 5 ways To Have a Healthy Divorce, Numbers 4 and 5

So, you just got a divorce. According to the new stats that is what we do. You have tried to be civil. You have tried to be rational but let’s face it, if a hole opened in the ground and sucked your ex down into hell where the scum belongs, you would not be crushed. Yes, you still have those fantasies of your ex-spouse dissolving into the aether, never to be seen again. After all, why did you get a divorce if you still have to deal with your heartbreaker? Unfortunately now you share kids or dogs or fish or credit cards or a house or health insurance.

Ask any divorced couple and you will find that one of the biggest myths of divorce is the fallacy that he will go his way and she will go her’s and the two will never see or hear from the other again. This becomes even more obvious if you have children together and shared custody and all of the other crap that serves to remind you that you were married once.

So here are our last two tips on how to have a healthy divorce. Both of these tips are for the couple that has to share something, whether it be children or air. Here is a little clue, both tips have to do with boundaries.

4. Live and let live

You are in a new relationship with your ex and this relationship may have new players. Just because of the failure of marriage number 1 (or 2 or 3…) does not mean that you will not date, fall in love and maybe even marry again. If this happens, the kids are going to have mommy and daddy number two. They may call them Barbara and Sam. They may call them Twoey or mom2. They may call them their favorite or the scumbag.

The fact is that you are going to need to decide right up front how you are going to handle dating. This needs to be done both rationally and compassionately. We are talking about affairs of the heart and affairs of the genitals so your rules need to be open to mistakes, spontaneity, love and jealousy. Sometimes daddy is going to bring home a slut because daddy needs to get his groove on or mommy might need to play a slut because mommy gets to get her groove on too. The children do not need to know about this. But mom or dad might fall in love again with someone that isn’t mom or dad. Talk it out. If you do it right, your kids can grow up with two pair of people that love and protect them. Nothing bad about that.

5. My house is my house.

Every parent has had to have this conversation. ‘Grenalda’s mom doesn’t do it that way.’ What is your response? ‘I’m not Grenalda’s mom.’ If you are sharing custody, this dialogue is mandatory. At some point everyone needs to set the rules. My house, my rules. On a side note, if mom has custody on the weekdays and dad has the weekends, then mom is screwed. You took the hard job because it was best for the kids. Work with that. You are playing the long game. Don’t lose your shit and you will get the reward at the end.

Jun 262012

Real Relationship Advice

divr 300x199 5 ways To Have a Healthy Divorce, Numbers 2 and 3

The prospect of divorce must be daunting. After spending so much energy, time, and emotion in creating a marriage, a divorce is like a kick in the stomach. It is an unraveling of your hard work. It is a harsh grade on your life’s report card. For whatever reason, you and your spouse have decided to call it quits. You have decided that no amount of work, remodeling, emotional healing or forgetting will save your relationship. Some of you come to this conclusion in an adult manner after soul searching and doing everything you can to salvage the love that once was. Some people high tail it when the going gets rough. And there are some of you who are still struggling with the untimely conclusion of something you thought would last forever.

Whatever your situation, a healthy divorce is possible. We must remember that whether you like it or not, you will always be in relationship with your ex. If you have decided to divorce, why does their need to be animosity? Do you really need to act like a 2 year old in a sandbox? Here are the next two steps to making this divorce healthy:

2. If there is a possibility of contention, get a mediator.

Mediation is one of the smartest things created by the legal system. A mediator plays Solomon and really asks the question, ‘Are you willing to cut your baby in half?’ This is needed to put things in perspective when you are charged with anger and the anger of those around you. Staying grounded and negotiating like an adult makes divorce more palatable than a scary war.

3. Decide and commit to creating a new relationship with your ex.

You will always be in relationship. Try as you might to have them removed from the world and all memories scrubbed from the collective unconscious, you can’t. They are a permanent part of your history. They had a hand on making you, you. Sure, you probably should see a therapist and work out all the icky parts of your relationship but ultimately, those lessons create the ‘you’ you are today. You made decisions, beliefs and goals based on your relationship and those are partly because of or despite of who they were to you.

This relationship can begin to be created through the mediation process. Mediation only works when the participants are honest and respectful. With that foundation, any relationship can flourish. We are not advocating that you reunite with your ex but we do strongly believe in having a life free from enemies and journey stopping karma. Clear the decks, the air and forgive. You don’t need the baggage.

Tomorrow we will tackle divorce and child custody issues.