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When it comes to divorce, does it matter what you call it?

Shakespeare is noted for saying that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Whether that sentiment is one that could or should apply to the concept of divorce is something that has burst into the agora of public debate in recent weeks.

The trigger was actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s announcement that she and her husband are getting divorced. She doesn’t call it that. She calls it “conscious uncoupling.” The various media ways have been filled since with reactions that range from virtual eye rolls to straight up kudos.

Some marriage counselors credit Paltrow for what they see as her euphemistic embrace of the concept that divorce is so much a part of the cultural landscape now that it deserves to be approached from a perspective of the positive potential it holds for the ex-spouses’ personal growth.

As a matter of family law, there may be support for that view. Florida state law and the laws of other states do reflect a shift toward a less adversarial approach to divorce. The availability of mediation might be seen as an example of this.

The objective of a mediated divorce, whether it is contested or uncontested, is to reduce stressors. Mediation can also be more efficient, less costly and support the preservation of parent-child relationships.  

Still, some marriage experts worry that Paltrow’s positive spin on her break-up reinforces a message that divorce can somehow be made unpleasant, which they say is a false promise. As one marriage therapist puts it, “it might sort of grease the tubes for someone who might not be seriously thinking about divorce.”

What do you think?

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Is ‘conscious uncoupling’ a better way to divorce?” Anya Sostek, March 29, 2014