Funny how these things work. Somehow, Josie and I didn't need a self-help guru or an island getaway, and we still managed to get this silly conscious uncoupling concept down, ten years before it became popular.
Look, I'm not knocking the lifestyles of the rich and famous when it comes to well publicized--and highly promoted--separations. I'm just saying that maybe what some folks have to stick a fancy name to is something dozens of people manage to do every year quite successfully, without the fanfare. They don't even need the services of a self-help guru to get it done it, either. Maybe conscious uncoupling just makes common sense, for those who want to approach a separation in a civil manner.
Josie, as most of you probably know, is my ex-wife--someone who still figures prominently in my life, because...well, she is the mother of my three children, after all. But more than that, she's a good friend of mine, as well as a good friend of the Corbster, and we still spend a lot of time together, at parties, hanging around, and once a year, even sleeping over her place on Christmas eve to open presents in the morning. We've been living apart for about eleven years.
However, we KNEW we were going to separate about twelve years ago. We went to a marriage counselor, agreed we were better off apart (or at least, separated for a while), and then decided we needed to figure out where to go from there. Note: the marriage counselor helped us reach this conclusion, but we really only had two sessions with her. The separating part we handled totally and completely on our own.
What we decided to do was to put together a one year plan. No, seriously. We decided we weren't going to take the decoupling plunge for a full twelve months. That would give us time to put everything in place: let me figure out where I was going to move, what I was going to take from the home, what I would need to get from other people, figure out how to tell the kids, determine how to tell everyone, save up enough money, etc. It also gave us time to start spending time away from each other. So, once a week, I would sleep over my parent's house (which was pretty much abandoned at the time and they were looking to sell). That allowed both of us to get used to living alone...and also, the kids used to me not being there every night.
We also had "war room" meetings, usually held in the kitchen. Whispered discussions about what we were doing and where we were headed. Whether we were doing the right thing. Oh, and because this was a gay thing (which I haven't mentioned before, because I wanted to talk about the process), we also spent several Saturdays going out to gay clubs, if you can believe it. That was an awful lot of fun. Josie is an awfully remarkable woman.
And then, like Gwyneth and her husband, after we announced to everyone we were separating (including the kids, which was horrible, and I don't like talking about), we packed everyone up and went on vacation. Ours wasn't to an exotic beach resort for $10,500 a week in the Bahamas, though. We went camping! Our thought at the time was that it would show the kids that despite what we had told them about separating, we were still going to be friends, and that should hopefully reassure them. A few weeks after that vacation, I made the big move.
In retrospect, I wish we had handled that a bit better. I'm not sure one last vacation was the best idea. The kids have since told me that it was confusing: here we had this big horrible meeting to inform them we were breaking up, and then, next thing you know, hey, we're going away as a family for a week! For them, it was false hope that we hadn't actually been serious. It let them pretend we weren't really falling apart for a few weeks more. I kind of regret that.
So there you go. There's my non-celebrity, non-People magazine experience with conscious uncoupling. It's not for everyone, but it actually worked for us, so I guess I recommend it. Only thing is, I'm not sure we would...or could...have handled things any differently.