On Conscious Uncoupling & Why More Women Need To Break Their Own Heart In Advance

"I want to be madly, enthralled and enamored by the person that I'm with. And if I don't have that, I don't want it."

Human Interest

The idea of "conscious uncoupling" entered the culture zeitgeist in 2014 when actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced her divorce from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin after 13 years of marriage. Conscious uncoupling was pegged as a more evolved way to separate, because within these terms two exes make the decision to set aside personal grievances and bitterness to cultivate new friendship and love in the fallout of a breakup. We revisit this concept in the context of Black love, with media guru, comedian and artist Chis Bright taking purposeful breakups to task.

There is a mindset of scarcity plaguing this generation of daters--and for good reason. The instantaneous nature of communication through technology has made connection easier, but less intentional. Dating apps put millions of fellow singles at our fingertips, but real partnership is somehow still evasive. In the absence of perceived options, many folks settle into the best they can get versus the best, which creates an environment where too many relationships stay in tact to the detriment of two individuals. This staying power is glorified in Black communities as noble, but for Chris, remaining in her connection past its expiration date was actually the opposite of love for herself or love for the other person.

"You're betraying yourself every single day because there are things you want in a partner that you're not getting in this relationship, and you're OK with it," Chris told xoNecole.

"It was less about him and more about my relationship with myself--figuring out, what is it about myself, and where are the places that I feel I'm not worthy of checking off every box that I have?"

Chris met her now ex, Ryan** in high school. She had a boyfriend at the time but was secretly crushing on Ryan, who was one year her junior. The two became friends, but Chris clung to the idea that more may blossom between them in the future, since they both shared a foretelling ringtone--Erykah Badu's "Next Lifetime"-- when they were teens.

The pair reconnected in adulthood about three years ago when Chris had a photo shoot, and Ryan happened to pop up.

"Because we were already comfortable with each other, I knew his family; I had known him for over ten years, so it was very easy to just fall into that like--that deep like when you just want to be with that person and hang out with them all the time," she said.

But as their relationship grew, Chris started to notice that there were crucial parts of their connection missing, but shrugged off her concerns in the name of compromise."

Obviously we know that not every single part of someone is going to make you happy, but I will say that I feel like, in a lot of ways, it was a co-dependent relationship, but I wasn't self-aware at the time to see it, because I was still buying into that fairytale," Chris explained.

It took a dispute with her business partner for Chris to stop and take inventory of all of her relationships and examine how they reflected her own sense of self-worth.

"I believe in abundance, but it's one thing to say it and another thing to assess your surroundings, your relationships, your relationship with your family, your relationship with your partner and your relationship with money," Chris described. As she processed and grieved the business betrayal, Chris decided to dig deep to find other patterns, behaviors and connections she was participating in that did not serve her—starting with her relationship. It was tough for Chris to wade through these waters of doubt because on paper, Ryan was a good man, and they shared a great bond.

"He was really great with my son, definitely a family man. I really do love his family, and that's really hard to do too because now that we're broken up, I don't want to be all in their face because we need time a part. And he's a good person. And I think that's the most important thing. He's a really good person, who I love."

But their union required compromise on Chris' part that felt contrary to the spirit of true love.

"I was in an abusive relationship before where I almost lost my life ten years ago, and when I really stepped back and looked at the last ten years of my life, I was like 'Yo, I be letting people abuse me in different ways.' And Ryan wasn't abusive at all, but it was just still in alignment with Chris being the one to sacrifice and compromise her happiness for someone else. And I was like, 'Wait, that's not love.'"

Going forward, Chris knows that an individual sense of completeness is not something she can ignore when picking a forever mate.

"Our connection was one of being comfortable, he's in a transitory phase where he's trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and I'm super supportive, but I just think that, the concept of wholeness is what's been highlighted through this whole relationship, because you can't date someone who's not whole. It's just not possible. It is possible, people do it, but it's not fair. And I started to really pay attention, instead of forcing things and willing certain things. I got to the point where I started to pay attention to what is."

With the relationship's flaws now blaringly visible, Chris made the decision to end their relationship. At first, she and Ryan were not on the same page—but she prioritized her needs and desires over his in an act of self-love. Ryan eventually packed his stuff and left, and Chris didn't hear from him until he took to Instagram to share their story.

"He finally let me know that he realized what I was talking about, how you have to just release—we don't own anybody."

Chris wrote her own post in response, called to share their separation as an example of what love can look like when a connection's season is up.

"As someone who uses my platform to really just inspire people through being authentic, it was my responsibility to show people that you can set your own terms for how you want to end something, and it doesn't have to look like a god*mn episode of Love & Hip Hop," the New Jersey native explained.

Chris wants to encourage her audience to see "letting go" as a crucial part of Black love since its importance is usually overshadowed by narratives focused on staying power--even if the relationship is not healthy.

"This preaching that 'you don't give up, you don't do this, you don't quit,' failure and all this stuff around relationships is very toxic. I always saw people holding on no matter what, compromising themselves no matter what, betraying themselves no matter what, so they can brag that they were married for forty f*cking years, but who gives a damn if you were dealing with bullsh*t for forty years? That's not an accomplishment."

In the space since the split, Chris is now on fire with her renewed sense of purpose, faith and firm understanding of what perfect partnership looks like for her.

"I want to be madly, enthralled and enamored by the person that I'm with. And if I don't have that, I don't want it," Chis said.

For more of Chris, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image via @chrismiss_

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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