Gwyneth Paltrow has a bad reputation for many things, but amicable splits aren’t one of them.
The ‘conscious uncoupling’ announcement that came in 2014, when the Hollywood star and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin were due to part company, may have been doused in a saccharin-sweet, egotistical ethos, but ultimately, the couple have divorced, found new relationships, yet still manage stay on good terms and parent their children together.
Yesterday, on Father’s Day, Gwyneth even posted a picture of her ex-husband with their daughter Apple, gazing lovingly at one another, as she wrote: “Nothing like father/daughter love. Happy Father’s Day to you, CAJM” (using all the initials from Chris’ name).
“Nobody ever said divorce is easy,” says relationship coach, award-winning writer and international speaker Dr Annie Kaszina.
“The photo Gwyneth Paltrow published makes the point, more eloquently than a thousand words could ever do, about why everyone needs to do divorce as gracefully as possible.”
But there’s a reason relationships come to an end. And there’s often a world of hateful and hurtful shenanigans that land a couple in the murky mess of separation. So just how do you uncouple amicably?
Only ever discuss one issue at a time
“The more you focus on the individual issue – such as which weekend, or what time to expect them – the less fraught things are likely to get,” advises Dr Kaszina.
“It can be tempting to try to sort everything out once and for all, but that probably isn’t going to work. Instead, try to reverse engineer a good relationship going forward; each time you create a small win through peaceful, harmonious interaction on one small issue, you’re improving the likelihood of a good long-term relationship.”
Cut yourself some slack
“You’re only human. Sometimes you’ll get it right, and sometimes you may get it horribly wrong,” continues Dr Kaszina.
“That may not be what you want, but you’re learning a new life skill. Any new life skill takes time and practise to perfect.”
Remember there’s a reason for their behaviour
“Try to bear in mind there is always a reason for your partner’s feelings and behaviour,” says Cat Williams, relationship counsellor and author of Stay Calm and Content: No Matter What Life Throws at You.
“Once a relationship has reached the point of breakdown, it can be hard to still take an interest in the other person’s point of view, but if you can keep communication as open and honest as possible, it will help you to maintain understanding and respect for each other.”
Be clever with your communication
“Use ‘I feel…’ to explain your feelings, but try to avoid slipping into ‘You made me feel…’ because the truth is, no-one can ‘make us’ feel anything,” Williams continues.
“We are in control of how we feel and behave, and as soon as your partner perceives criticism, they will defend themselves, and the conversation will deteriorate into mud slinging and mutual criticism.”
Pick your battles
“You’re separating for a reason, and it may not be on the best terms, so it’s easy to just think of your own needs,” advises Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society and author of The 10 Step Stress Solution.
“Fighting every decision is exhausting though; there should be compromise on both sides. During a conflict, ask yourself if the outcome is truly worth harming your wellbeing for.”
Keep children away from the front line
“When there are children involved, the stress of separation multiplies,” states Shah.
“Keeping healthy communication between parents is key. Don’t use children to pass on messages. Show them that you’re still able to happily talk with their other parent – this is a key learning point for children to see how to communicate as an adult.
And stay as a parental unit with your ex-partner; never bad mouth them in front of the children. If you don’t show respect for them, it gives your child permission to do the same.
“Remember you’re not the only one that loves your child. Preventing your ex-partner from seeing their child, or restricting their time with them will not just hurt them, it will hurt your child.”
“This is a major life crisis, and it’s too important to get through on your own,” says Dr Kaszina.
“You’ll need cheerleaders when you feel down, partners in crime who’ve been through it, that you can laugh with (and bitch and moan with and get drunk with) when you’re at your wits’ end, and someone with the experience to guide and support you when you feel blocked and unable to see the wood for the trees.”
Dr Kaszina is adamant that your ex’s life is not your business. “It really isn’t. Those days are over. And, since it’s not your business, there’s no point in being ‘curious’ about it,” she says.
“For that reason, you don’t need to hear from the children what’s going on in the other parent’s world. All you need to know is that they are happy and cared for when they’re with him or her.”
Focus on the future
“Focus on when you and your ex can be friends,” says Dr Kaszina.
“Gwyneth Paltrow’s Instagram photo is touching, because you can not only see the precious father-daughter bond in it, but her own selflessness. This photo clearly shows her rejoicing in the unique love her ex can bring to their child.
“You don’t want your child to be penalised for your mistakes. They won’t be if they can share that special bond with your ex. Your positive attitude can help make that happen.”
Have you managed to keep things amicable with your ex partner? Let us know in the Comments below.