Recently a new way of looking at marriage and how it ends has come boldly upon the scene. This old way of seeing marriages end was called divorce. It was and is a messy exercise as two people who pledged fidelity and a life-long commitment to each other break a covenant made before God and witnesses who came to support their union. Divorce is painful and involves both a sense of loss and a sense of failure. Promises were made – a covenant was made – and now it is being broken. Things seem wrong, because something has gone wrong. Some divorces are due to infidelity and adultery. Some divorces are due to abandonment. Some are due to two people who site irreconcilable differences. Some are simply due to one or both parties just not wanting to be married any longer – and wanting their freedom back to live and do as they want.
But, as I said at the beginning of this article, a new wind of doctrine is blowing over the wreckage of couples across the world. This new wind offers us arguments on why this whole, “till death do us part” thing was never a good idea in the first place – especially for those of us who have evolved toward longer lives than our Paleolithic ancestors. This new wind of doctrine is called, “conscious uncoupling.”
Conscious uncoupling is a term developed by Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami. These two postulate that the high divorce rate may be a mile marker in our evolutionary history. The problem may not be us – it may not be selfishness and self-centered thinking and actions. We may be just not responding properly to the evolutionary cycle we are in at this present time. They point us back to the evolutionary theory of the upper Paleolithic period, which supposedly takes us back to roughly 50,000 to 10,000 B.C. Life expectancy was under 50 for both men and women. Today life expectancey is 76 for men and 81 for women. What, you may wonder, does this have to do with the high levels of divorce (0ver 50% of all marriages end in divorce today) in our current day? Everything – according to the good doctors.
You see, evolution has advanced greatly since the days of our Paleolithic grandparents. Marriage for a lifetime to them meant, at the most, 20 years. But due to our evolutionary advances in longevity – we are expecting marriages to last anywhere from 25 to 60 years. Sadeghi and Sami want us to see that we’ve not evolved in our view of marriage. Our longevity has evolved way past our marriage stability quotient (have no idea what that means – but it sounded really good didn’t it). That is where Conscious Uncoupling comes in to rescue us from our lack of evolutionary progress in views of marriage and relationships.
We need to see that our evolutionary progress calls for a way to be in at least two to three strong relationships in a lifetime. The idea of “till death do us part” must evolve or perish as we move toward the eventual perfection that we seek (Even though there was no conscious force or individual that started evolution – we were just an amoeba that wanted more out of life – but honestly never knew why it did or any way to determine, beyond natural selection, why it even thought there was any morality involved. Actually, in light of this whole marriage mess – it might have been higher evolutionary thought to just embrace asexual reproduction as an amoeba, because you only have to get along with yourself – but I digress). Therefore Conscious Uncoupling is the answer to our lack of evolutionary progress in the area of relationships and marriage.
In Conscious Uncoupling there is no blame game – no fault assigned. There is just the realization that we are “uncoupling.” We are now free to move on to meaningful relationship number 2 or 3. Geez, we may find that we are so far behind that we could have 8 to10 and be perfectly fine.
This would be laughable if it were not being embraced by so many. Sadeghi and Sami even go so far as to compare our relationship issues to our evolution from being bugs to humans. Bugs have an exoskeleton that is outside its body and is rigid and unflexible. Humans evolved into an edoskeleton that is on the inside, which allows for wonderful flexibility. The lack of flexibility in bugs is why they did not eventually rule the earth – human edoskeletal flexibility is why we have risen above the bugs to rule the world. The leap our two scientists take from there is to postulate that if we become spiritually and relationally inflexible – by – oh, let’s say – holding marriage to be a lifelong covenant between and man and a woman – we too may become relationally extinct (Personally, I'm now terrified about a relationally-rigid comet or asteroid that will cause me and all other "marriage-rigid" people to become relationally extinct - sigh!). Their point is to say that the flexibility of conscious uncoupling will advance us greatly in the area of relationship evolution.
In Sadeghi and Sami’s article and writings, the word marriage begins to give way to new terms like coupling and uncoupling (Houston we have a problem – sorry, sounded like NASA trying to dock the Space Shuttle). This is done for a reason. If there is no marriage – there can be no divorce. If we have coupled (which we can now, due to evolutionary extrapolation, do 2 to 3 times in our lifetime), then it is so less traumatic to just consciously uncouple. Sounds nice and neat doesn’t it. Be flexible – don’t be like a bug – you’ll only be left behind by the superior species which leaves inflexibility behind.
Here we have radical worldview differences on display for all to see. Worldview begins with things like origins. Our view of origins matters – tremendously! Sadeghi and Sami see our origins coming from an evolutionary viewpoint. There was no creator – and as a result no real purpose for life, marriage, or anything else. There is only the relentless onward march of natural selection to weed out what is weak and reward what is strong. What comes across subtly (maybe not so subtly) in their writings is that traditional, lifelong-covenant oriented marriage is out. It is outmoded, out-dated, and evidently being out-sourced to a much more open view of relationships. Marriage is out and “coupling” is in! We either advance in relationship-evolution – or are left behind and crushed like the rigid marriage bugs we are.
Here is the worldview according to God’s revelation of Himself. You and I, and our ancestors, were never Paleolithic – and given to tiny lifespans that are rising due to evolutionary wisdom and wonder. We were and are God’s creation. When God made us, we were innocent and not subject to death. When our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, chose to rebel against God’s command, we fell – and – we also died. We died spiritually instantly – and later experienced physical death as well. Things have been devolving ever since. As sin increased – things have gotten worse. Life expectancy for our early ancestors was longer than at present. They lived into the hundreds of years. For someone to have died when they were only 75 to 81 years old was tragic. As the years have progressed – our life expectancy has gone down – even if, in the short –term it has gained a little at various points in modern history.
Relationships were instituted by God in Genesis 3, and consisted of marriage between one woman and one man. What God put together was never meant to be something man could separate due to convenience or some uncoupling instinct into which we've evolved. God’s intent was for them to selflessly give themselves to each other for life – maturing together and caring for each other in each and every stage of life – until death parted them.
Our current mess in the area of marriage and family is not due to our being too rigid. It is due to our being too sinful and selfish. But mankind does not like such terms because they imply that there is an absolute right and wrong (something that also comes from one’s worldview as well) which extends even to relationships and marriage. We do not just couple and consciously uncouple. That would indicate that during the entire process we are still two people. God’s Word reveals that in marriage the two become one. Want to know why divorce hurts so badly? It is because the two, who have become one, are now tearing apart – not back into two, but tearing the one in half.
The world may attempt to redefine marriage and divorce into their newest pet terms, Coupling and Conscious Uncoupling; but the reality of God’s sovereignty will remain – as will the fact that in marriage there are no longer two - but one. The pain of divorce will also be just as real as it has always been. We may change the words and even try to alter concepts – but the pain will still be there. The sense of failure in a relationship will still remain. That is because we are the creation of God – we are under the commandments of God – and we will still feel pain when we reject the purposes of God. One bright spot in all this though, is that we also have the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ to put us back together when sin and rebellion have torn us apart. Maybe I’ll start calling that Conscious Redeeming.