Earlier this week, actress Gwyneth Paltrow posted a statement to her website in which she announced that she and her husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, had decided to divorce. However, she did not actually use the term ‘divorce.’ Instead, she referred to the split as a ‘conscious uncoupling,’ a term that may have caused more of a stir than the divorce announcement itself. What, exactly, is a conscious uncoupling, many wondered, and how is that difference from a divorce?

From a legal perspective, of course, a divorce is a divorce. Regardless of the psychological and emotional approach that Paltrow and Martin take, they will have to determine child custody, child support, property division and all of the other issues that go along with divorce, like any other couple. But it is interesting to examine the attitude that Paltrow and Martin have taken toward their divorce.

The term ‘conscious uncoupling’ was coined by a family therapist, who created a program of the same name that aimed to help divorcing spouses “release the trauma of a breakup, reclaim your power and reinvent your life.” Essentially, it is a way of looking at divorce as a positive process that can improve your emotional and mental well-being, rather than a completely negative experience.

The primary goal of conscious uncoupling is to “change the concept of divorce,” to think of it as an opportunity for growth rather than a personal failure. Spouses are advised to examine the issues that marriage has raised and work to move beyond them, with the ultimate goal of increasing consciousness and gaining flexibility, which will hopefully create success in future relationships. And even though “couple” is in the title, both spouses need not participate for unconscious coupling to work. One spouse can achieve clarity and growth on their own.

So even though it may seem somewhat new age, it may be a good idea for all couples to consider the tenets of conscious uncoupling as they navigate through a divorce. Anything that could help to lessen some of the emotional strain of a split is worth exploring.

Source: New York Daily News, “’Conscious uncoupling’: Gwyneth Paltrow explores spiritual side of divorce on Goop,” Tracy Miller, March 26, 2014