When Gwyneth Paltrow chose to announce her separation from her spouse of 10 years, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, via her website goop.com, she created a new fear of the term "conscious uncoupling." Now, some married couples are consciously considering marriage sabbaticals instead. A new book suggests not to get divorced or separated but to try a "marriage sabbatical" from each other to ensure a long and happy union.
In "The Marriage Sabbatical," author Cheryl Jarvis spoke to around 55 women about their own sabbaticals -- moves they say they're making in order to save their marriages. Marriage researchers describe a "marriage sabbatical" as completely different from a separation. With a sabbatical, you're basically hitting "pause" on your marriage. The idea is for spouses to spend time apart, from a month to years even, to figure it out.
Just so I'm clear on this: I leave my fictitious husband, for a few months or years, to figure things out ... really? This sounds like one of those ideas where you think, "Hey, this could probably work ..." Then it just ends in complete disaster. There's another term for this: a pending divorce.
Full disclosure: I don't know anything about marriage. I've never been married (mostly because I couldn't marry until recently, but for that, I must thank the government for helping me dodge a bullet), but I dated someone for eight long years. If we had taken a "marriage sabbatical," would we still be together? Would it have saved our relationship? Without a second thought, absolutely not. With his high sex drive and my flirtatious wit, we would've gone down faster than Jenny McCarthy on "The View."
We live in a world where couples sign social media prenups to virtually protect their hearts, but that's already hard enough to do in the real world. I have a few close friends getting divorced at age 32, and they choose divorce over maintenance because they knew it wouldn't work. The only thing that's prevented separation in my past relationships is just to keep fighting until you can't anymore, then call it a draw.
My real problem with a marriage sabbatical is that the rules are not outlined. Can we have sex with other people? What if I fall in love with someone else? Or, worse, get emotionally pregnant with someone else? Going off is a bit risky, and I think it would very difficult to return. All that free love stuff has been tried and tested -- and it doesn't work.
And I know myself. If I take a sabbatical from Facebook, I'm going to entertain other social media sites to ... fill the void. Of course, I would intend to return to Facebook, earnestly, but it's not guaranteed that I wouldn't stop loving Twitter.
I get that a marriage sabbatical (or the gap year of relationships) is really all about you, but it seems like a selfish vacation. People take sabbaticals all the time in the academic world and come back energized and refreshed. But you can't take a sabbatical from the one you love. Work it out or get out.
Lenox Magee is a RedEye special contributor.