Consciously Uncoupling, Self-Esteem, and What It All Means

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In the midst of life’s unpredictable journey, there are moments that reshape us in ways we never anticipated. Today, I invite you into a deeply personal chapter of my own story – a chapter marked by questions, reflections, and the profound realization that sometimes, love isn’t enough.

As the inquiries about my dogs, solo European adventures, the absence of a wedding ring, and the changed name echoed around me, I felt compelled to share the intricacies of a journey I never thought would be mine to navigate – the journey of consciously uncoupling. What follows is a candid exploration of the emotions, challenges, and unexpected discoveries that unfolded when my love-filled marriage came to an end at the age of 31.

This isn’t just a narrative of separation; it’s an introspective dive into rebuilding self-esteem, embracing change, and finding hope in the midst of uncertainty. Join me as I lay bare the raw realities, share the lessons learned, and reflect on the profound transformation that emerged from the ashes of what once was my forever love.

All You Need Is… More Than Love

“What happened to your dogs?” 

“Why are you traveling to Europe… alone?”

“Where is your wedding ring?” 

“Why has your name changed?”

These are some of the many questions I’ve faced after sharing that my then-husband and I were divorcing.

There comes a time in almost every relationship when it comes to an end; 46% of US marriages end in divorce, according to the US Census Bureau. It reaches a point where two individuals have stopped growing together and as individuals. Some people stay in relationships that no longer serve them because it’s comfortable, and they fear the unknown and the pressures of society. For me, coming to this realization that divorce in my 30s was in my cards was devastating. It was a hard reality to swallow. But the truth of it all is that my loveless marriage was over years ago. It wasn’t evident then, but now, looking back at it all, it couldn’t have been clearer.

It’s not just a closing of a chapter, but a book. The pages filled in this book are chapters and chapters of fun-filled adventures around the world, plenty of good belly-aching laughs, silent smiles, silly moments, dancing in the desert until the wee hours of the morning at Burning Man, music festivals, BBQing with friends, trips and random moments on the coast, and the support for one another. Very few tears, fights, and arguments. The respect that we hold for one another is unparalleled. A picture-perfect marriage, to say the least.

The words that became our theme throughout were that of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” but in reality, sometimes love is not enough. It is a deeper love. It is happiness. It is companionship. It is an effortless devotion. A symphonic free flow of blending of families. A type of romance that sweeps you off your feet effortlessly.

Consciously Uncoupling

What Is Consciously Uncoupling?

“Consciously Uncoupling” gained widespread recognition through the high-profile divorce of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, who notably referenced the term in their announcement. However, it is essential to acknowledge that the term originated from the book “Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After” by Katherine Woodward Thomas, published in 2015. The concept, as outlined in Thomas’s book, emphasizes a deliberate and mindful approach to ending romantic relationships or marriages. It promotes mutual respect, understanding, and consideration for the well-being of both partners.

Contrary to traditional and potentially contentious separations, consciously uncoupling advocates for an amicable and collaborative process, aiming to minimize conflict, encourage open communication, and allow both individuals to part ways with a sense of closure and personal growth. The term underscores the awareness and consciousness involved in recognizing when a relationship has evolved and when, for the well-being of both parties, separation becomes the healthiest choice.

Never more than ever before do the words “consciously uncoupling” make sense and resonate because this is my reality. As I look back at these last 10 years with my ex-husband, I can only thank my partner for everything he has provided for us, the support and love he has shown me, and the patience he has had for me. As the days, weeks, and months go on, the sadness, the heavy broken heart, and confusion have minimized. Some days are easier than others, while hard days — quite a few these days — seem debilitating, going through life in an empty daze, realizing I am alone. ALONE.

I’m alone in a place we relocated together in hopes of starting a family and having a better quality of life than what San Francisco could ever offer us. I walked away, knowing that we had a good run together. I wish him nothing but happiness and an idyllic life filled with love.

Those who are close to us have all been baffled and shocked that my ex-husband and I divorced. Just like that, it took two weeks to end it all legally. This is what happens when you have a clean break on friendly terms, when things are far from messy, when there are no kids, and when filing in Oregon. And let me just tell you, I’m still shocked by it all. I have moments where I stop to think, “Holy shit, I’m divorced. WTF happen?” I never thought that this would be a reality. I really thought that it would be ‘until death do us part, not until Portland do us part.

The day I met him, I knew he was “the one.” Or at least that is what the young 20-year-old girl still had a lot of life experiences to grow from and become into her own. The day I walked down the aisle to a string quartet rendition of Coldplay’s “Yellow” and the moment we exchanged our wedding vows, I never in a million years would have thought that he wouldn’t be my forever love. Never in a million years would I have thought that I’d be divorced at 31… or flat out divorced. I thought I would be starting a family at this point in life, not ending mine.

As you can imagine, this is undoubtedly the hardest decision we’ve had to make. I can’t even express how heartbroken I am, and I know my ex-husband feels the same. Coming to terms with the fact that our relationship had reached the end, where we could no longer grow individually and as a couple, was devastating. But, I know that life has a grand plan for us individually. I can only be grateful for having an amazing partner these last ten years, the fantastic experiences we have shared, and the memories we’ve created.  We can only walk away from things knowing we gave it our all. I just want him to be happy and find someone that can genuinely fulfill that. Unfortunately, this was not me. I’m grateful that things between us are very amicable, and we intend to stay friends.

Divorce Does Not Make You A Failure

And, as I’m picking up the pieces, wrapping my head around it all, and moving forward with life, it’s hard to feel like a failure—a failure not only to myself but to my marriage, partner, family, and society. I regularly have to remind myself that divorce is not a failure. Failure would be sticking around, living life unhappy with an unhappy partner, and later resenting each other.

I hope that life will be alright, in whatever direction life takes me. Although this is a transition that has flipped my world upside down, and even though the future seems uncertain, unclear, and scary at times, I’ve got hope that everything is going to be alight. I hope my path will be much clearer – I may not see it now. Hopefully, it’ll be one with an abundance of life’s riches in love and happiness.

Will I ever get married again? I’m not sure. But, I know that I am less open to marriage, not because I don’t believe in love but because I don’t believe in a legally bounding document to prove a deeper commitment. The legality of it all makes it much more complicated to walk away, not to mention the blow to your self-esteem.

Rebuilding Self-Esteem

When you’ve just been through a breakup, it can leave your self-esteem torn. You feel that there must be something wrong with you, even if it was a mutual break or you were the one that initiated it. Are you unlovable, unattractive, or undeserving? You’re nothing of the sort; your self-worth has taken a knock, and you need to rebuild it.

What about the heartbreak and moving forward? Here are five ways that I’ve gone about healing a broken heart…

But guess what? Being single isn’t all that bad.

Suddenly being confronted with your newly single status may come as a shock. It’s scary to lose the support and reassurance that having a partner gives you. But being single isn’t all bad; once you get used to it, you’ll realize that you’re coping just fine. And there are some pretty good points to it; you can do what you like with your time, and don’t have to deal with the problems that your relationship brought.

Breaking up doesn’t mean that you aren’t lovable.

Women are particularly prone to blaming themselves for the breakup. They reason that it must have been their fault somehow. Perhaps they weren’t good enough for their partner. But breaking up doesn’t mean that you’re unlovable or that there’s something wrong with you, it just means that things didn’t work out between you. Nor does it mean you’ll never find love again – or that you don’t deserve it.

Avoid trying to validate yourself by rebounding.

Your confidence can knock after a split, especially if your ex swiftly moves on to another woman. So you may try to give yourself a sense of validation by rushing into a new relationship or having one-night stands. This won’t help your self-esteem and could even be harmful. Don’t try to prove you’re desirable by having rebound relationships.

Spend TIME with people you love.

One thing that will help rebuild your self-esteem is spending time with people who love you. Being around family and friends will give you an emotional boost and make you realize there’s more to life than a relationship. You’ll realize that there are people who think you are amazing and love you unconditionally.

Do things you enjoy.

Although you might not feel like it, being single has a huge advantage; you can do exactly what you want with your time. You can be as self-indulgent as you like and do all those things that your partner disliked or discouraged you from doing. Start that hobby you’ve been meaning to try, resurrect an old interest, or take that vacation to a place your partner didn’t want to visit.

Hi, I’m Valerie!

I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), offering guidance to high achievers in aligning their lifestyle with well-being through daily wellness and self-care routines, promoting balance and harmony. Join me at Wellness Bum for tips on living well, and consider subscribing to my newsletter or booking a coaching session.