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_