Love American Style

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Did you see the pop culture Paltrow-Martin divorce announcement? It’s on a blog site called Goop – how appropriate.

A colleague pointed it out to me. The announcement isn’t very surprising. Sounds just like something from self-absorbed and disconnected Hollywood. You couldn’t write a better Robert Altman script filled with all the plastic stereotypes. Andy Warhol, where are you when we need you?

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  – Andy Warhol

What’s really interesting is the commentary after the announcement. Its authors are a husband wife team of doctors. He’s an osteopath. Looks like his wife is a dentist. Their commentary is all about the history, psychology and therapeutic benefits of divorce. Hmmm… They work in Hollywood and their books are recommended by celebrities.

They are introducing a new concept to the pop psychology jargon – “Conscious Uncoupling”

Here’s some of the statements in the blog post that struck me (you should read the whole thing):

The high divorce rate might actually be a calling to learn a new way of being in relationships.

Modern society adheres to the concept that marriage should be lifelong; but when we’re living three lifetimes compared to early humans, perhaps we need to redefine the construct. 

To put in plainly, as divorce rates indicate, human beings haven’t been able to fully adapt to our skyrocketing life expectancy. Our biology and psychology aren’t set up to be with one person for four, five, or six decades.

The idea of being married to one person for life is too much pressure for anyone. In fact, it would be interesting to see how much easier couples might commit to each other by thinking of their relationship in terms of daily renewal instead of a lifetime investment.

It seems ironic to say that a marriage coming apart is the cause of something else coming together, but it’s true. Conscious uncoupling brings wholeness to the spirits of both people who choose to recognize each other as their teacher.

He’s an osteopath and she’s a dentist.

Are you sure this isn’t a Woody Allen movie?

I’m a doctor, but I can’t write prescriptions. I can explain history and culture. I think I can shed some light on divorce as a social phenomenon.

  1. Divorce is an experience that we understand and construct through interactions with others like our parents, family, lovers, children, and friends.
  2. The experience of divorce is social and cannot be limited to psychoanalytic self examination.

Perhaps divorce is what it is in America today because of our fascination with the self. “Conscious uncoupling” seems to just mean that we can talk ourselves out of feeling guilty about betrayal and dishonesty with our spouse and children. Do you think guilt might have a positive purpose for us?

A society that has created self-centering values in order to train up better shoppers will slowly fall apart because there is no longer anything sticky enough to hold it tight in the storm.

If you’d like to know more
Census figures on divorce – take a look at marriage and divorce rates on U.S. maps. Divorce is declining, not because we all decided it was a bad idea, but because we’re living together first, we’re waiting longer to get married (women) and (as adults) we’re still living at home with our parents.

About Randy Wilson

Professor of Sociology at Houston Baptist University I read, think and write about religion and culture in the United States. It's very interesting and very complicated but incredibly exciting. For many years I have been trying to figure out how people learn best (my students and myself). The classes I teach are always in a state of experimentation - trying to reorganize around what students bring to the table and where we have to go.

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