Consciously coupled

NewsdayApril 6, 2014 

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have “conscious uncoupling” as the new theme for their relationship, which is headed toward divorce.

It’s a groovy term, but my wife and I are going to stick to the relationship theme that’s gotten us through the first 14 years of our marriage: “No one here gets out alive.”

That’s it. That’s all. If either of us wants out, we can kill ourselves, kill our spouse, or adopt a grim determination to outlive our beloved. In our worst weeks, I suspect Angela is eating better and kicking up the cardio out of spite, and an awareness of how many spa weekends in Sedona my life insurance policy could provide.

According to the term’s inventor, author and therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, “conscious uncoupling,” describes a divorce without drama or finger-pointing, but with breathing exercises and self-reflection. That’s odd to me, because even a successful day in my marriage includes more finger-pointing than breathing exercises. In an interview with The New York Times, Thomas described her own divorce as “very beautiful.”

Please understand, I love my sweetiekins like a … like a husband whose wife reads his column and would quickly know if he professed anything less than utter devotion. And, most of the time, she holds me in reasonably high regard. But that’s not what’s going to keep us together.

Early on in our marriage we both agreed that “No one here gets out alive” is the only philosophy that will allow a marriage to survive.

Obviously, there are cases where divorce is necessary because one spouse is a lawbreaker, an addict or a regular viewer of “Two Broke Girls.” Oddly, marriages in which both partners are lawbreakers, chemically dependent or prone to terrible entertainment choices seem to have a better chance of surviving.

But if you are married and believe divorce is reasonable, not just when violence or adultery is involved but when things just aren’t working out, you’re already divorced.

The actual reserving of moving vans, funding of attorneys’ retirement accounts and arguing over who gets to keep the Betamax copies of “Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo” and the Sylvester Stallone-Dolly Parton epic musical, “Rhinestone,” may still be years in the future, but the breakup is inevitable.

In the course of even the best marriages, there will be times when you think, “@#$% this. I’m outta here.” The cause could be a fiery argument, or dozing off during a long conversation about something called a duvet cover, or tracking mud in the house for the eleventeenth time, or just the friction caused by too little money and too little time and too much familiarity and too much responsibility.

If you believe divorce is acceptable, sooner or later, at one of these junctures, you walk. If you don’t believe divorce is acceptable, you count to 3,415,342 and say, “Tell me one more time what a duvet cover is, honey. I’m all ears.”

That, I suppose, one might call conscious coupling.

There is one more reason my wife and I will never divorce, one that came up years ago when we were discussing a couple we knew that was splitting.

Me: “If we could afford a second home, on the beach or in the mountains, would we own one?”

Angela: “Heck yeah, that would be awesome.”

Me: “Do we have a second home?”

Angela: “Er … no.”

Me: “If you can’t afford two homes, you can’t afford one divorce.”

Chris and Gwyneth, of course, don’t have that problem.

Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board. His email address is

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