Gwyneth Paltrow wrote an overwrought essay about conscious uncoupling


It was huge news when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin split in March 2014. They announced their “conscious uncoupling” separation on a Goop post, and for months following that, there were all kinds of stories about the sad state of affairs within their marriage. I also remember the complete drama of it all when, mid-uncoupling, Chris began dating Jennifer Lawrence. Gwyneth freaked out about that, I still believe that in my bones, just as believe that Gwyneth is the reason J-Law and Chris broke up. Anyway, Chris and Gwyneth’s divorce dragged out over the course of a few years as they negotiated child care and assets and all of that, and to their credit, they did raise two seemingly well-adjusted kids and Chris and Gwyneth seem very close to and loved by their kids.

Surely, the story of “conscious uncoupling” is over and done with, right? Wrong. Gwyneth Paltrow had to dust off the topic with an overwrought and overwritten British Vogue essay about how she invented divorce, conscious uncoupling and getting along with one’s ex. You can read the full piece here, and here are some highlights interspersed with my own asides:

It was my birthday, my 38th. My ex-husband and I were tucked away in the Tuscan countryside, on a hill in a beautiful cottage with a view of the forest. Fall was coming; the leaves were just loosening their grip on bright green. Inside, the cottage was perfectly appointed in the way you dream of for a birthday trip: cosy living room with a fireplace, kitchen table overflowing with spoils from the farm nearby – peaches, tomatoes on the vine, basil, eggs. I don’t recall when it happened, exactly. I don’t remember which day of the weekend it was or the time of day. But I knew – despite long walks and longer lie-ins, big glasses of Barolo and hands held – my marriage was over.

LOL. She turned 38 in September 2011, so basically she’s setting the scene for “we tried everything over the course of two-and-a-half years to save our marriage.” But the way she sets the scene, it makes her sound like she was just some privileged housewife with ennui.

What I do remember is that it felt almost involuntary, like the ring of a bell that has sounded and cannot be undone. The inadvertent release of a helium balloon into the sky. I tried to quell that knowing, to push it far down. I tried to convince myself it had been a fleeting thought, that marriage is complicated and ebbed and flowed. But I knew it. It was in my bones.

At first, I was moderately successful at turning the volume down on that knowledge. It would be years until we said the words aloud. But, that weekend, a dam had cracked just enough to hear the unrelenting trickle of truth. And it grew louder until it was all I could hear.

True story: both Chris and Gwyneth carried on affairs with other people during their marriage. Gwyneth ended up marrying one of the men she slept with during this whole period of time. I kind of wonder if Gwyneth only “knew” her marriage was over when she began her affair with Brad Falchuk.

Between the day that I knew and the day we finally relented to the truth, we tried everything. We did not want to fail. We didn’t want to let anyone down. We desperately didn’t want to hurt our children. We didn’t want to lose our family. The questions, both philosophical and tactical, seemed unfathomable: who sleeps where, how does bath time work, what do we say to the kids? I bent myself into every imaginable shape to avoid answering them. But one day, despite all our efforts, I found that I was not at a fork in the road. I was well down a path. Almost without realising it, we had diverged. We’d never find ourselves together in that way again.

In those early, dark days, I struggled to imagine what my life would be. I wasn’t sure how a mother goes about untangling herself from the man with whom her DNA has co-mingled. It seemed impossible, that kind of extraction or extrication. I had not grown up around a lot of divorce, and the divorce I had been privy to had been bitter, acrimonious, unending. With all my heart, I did not want that.

I told you it was overwrought. Again, divorce is stressful, I completely get that. It’s stressful and emotional for the married couple and for their kids and families. But Jesus, Gwyneth makes it sound like she’s the first person to ever contemplate divorce or have a “failed marriage.”

The day came. With a plan in place, we published a newsletter on Goop, simply called “conscious uncoupling”. It was our announcement to the public that we were ending our marriage. I remember trembling on the phone to Elise Loehnen, our content chief, giving the green light to send. We knew that the piece would generate a lot of attention – a celebrity couple ending their relationship always does – but I never could have anticipated what came next. The public’s surprise gave way quickly to ire and derision. A strange combination of mockery and anger that I had never seen. I was already pretty tattered from what had been a tough year. Frankly, the intensity of the response saw me bury my head in the sand deeper than I ever had in my very public life.

For the love of God, she announced her split on her elitist lifestyle site to drive traffic to the site and somehow, no white woman has ever been as harshly judged or mocked as much as Gwyneth! HOW DARE YOU!

Conscious uncoupling/separation/divorce, whatever you want to call it, has now permeated the break-up culture. Instead of people approaching me with, “Why did you say that?”, they now approach me with, “How do you do that?”

She started an uncoupling revolution!

I know my ex-husband was meant to be the father of my children, and I know my current husband is meant to be the person I grow very old with. Conscious uncoupling lets us recognise those two different loves can coexist and nourish each other.

I hope Brad Falchuk knew what he was signing on to.

Anyway, Gwyneth is definitely one of those writers who needs a good editor, and she did not find one at British Vogue! Enjoy.

Gwyneth Paltrow at the Grand opening of the JVP International Cyber Center

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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33 Responses to “Gwyneth Paltrow wrote an overwrought essay about conscious uncoupling”

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  1. Athyrmose says:

    Good lord, she should…stop publishing her writing. I’m so embarrassed for her. 😬

  2. Noodle says:

    English teacher checking in: in some of the early, undergraduate writing courses, we have to introduce students to the idea that more words aren’t better. Reading an essay about pollution that is written in flowery, almost poetic levels of metaphor is downright painful. When you share this with students, some are shocked because that’s what they think “great” writing is. Then you ask them to find a paragraph that evokes imagery or powerful ideas, and more often than not, it’s diction and phrasing that invokes the power, not an open thesaurus. Better writers do it with fewer words, GP.

    • Sarah says:

      She writes the way I tried to when I was c14/15 and being ‘creative’.

    • Slowsnow says:

      Even the expression ‘grow old with’ becomes ‘grow VERY old with’. Which puts the onus on expecting to live long as opposed to spend the rest of your life with a person.

      • Noodle says:

        So. Many. Superlatives. If she chose better words, she wouldn’t need to emphasize every single one.

    • HaHa says:

      Bloody hell, GP sounds like she swallows a thesaurus. Why use only one word when ten will do? *eyeroll*

    • minx says:

      She dropped out of college after a year—her choice, she was wealthy, connected and wanted to be an actress, so why not? But now her career is dispensing (questionable) advice and she seems to be compensating by using “big words.” She thinks it makes her sound more intelligent 🙄, when actually the simplest, clearest writing is always the best for what her business is.

    • NeoCleo says:

      As an English major one of the hardest lessons I had to learn was “more words are not necessarily better.”

  3. Annaloo. says:

    She is such a self absorbed bore.

  4. Sarah says:

    My latest (British) Vogue arrived on the doormat today, won’t be racing to read this that’s for sure. I even scanned this article after the first two quotes to just read the commentary on it!

  5. My3cents says:

    Well over a couple of bottles of wine and beer , I invented unconscious coupling somewhere on the 90’s.

  6. Slowsnow says:

    Thanks Gwyneth for:
    1) exposing the emptiness of your dreams – the cottage description is merely wanting to live inside the page of an uninspired interior design magazine; money does not give us inner life.
    2) giving plenty of examples for creative writing teachers to use as what not to do

  7. lucy2 says:

    Eesh that was bad.
    Also, it’s been YEARS. She’s remarried. Why is she writing about this again?

    • Annaloo. says:

      She needs attention, and Apple probably told her to stop using her for online likes

  8. JEM says:

    I cringed so hard while reading that I have to now consciously uncouple my jaw bones.

  9. MaryContrary says:

    My god, she is so far up her own butt that it is astounding. Does she really think that other people cared that much that her marriage was ending? And the narcissism involved-between “inventing” yoga for the Western world and having the first non-acrimonious divorce for her children’s sake-she is truly something else.

    • Annaloo. says:

      This woman is responsible for SO much Asian appropriation! She’d better shut her pie hole about what she’s”brought” to the unwashed western masses before karma catches up and she gets called out and cancelled for it.

      And she is trying TOO HARD to remind (or fool) the rest of us that she’s into sex. We get it, you sleep with Dobby the House Elf and an organic vibrator every night, while your son gets puzzles of women’s breasts in another room. Ok! Fine! Now go away!

  10. Darla says:

    I find her disgusting. I saw a video on Downey’s instagram, they did this thing for voting. Which was cool. But at the end of it Downy says “how you doing, selling lots of vagina candles?” Which was funny. And she answers “Always. And I have a special one for you. It smells like my taint”.

    You can call it whatever you want, I call it no class.

    • LaurenMichelle says:

      G seemed to be more reserved and classy in her 20’s. I enjoyed her acting then too. Is she going through menopause, cause all she talks about is her past with Chris & sex.
      I think G is trying to seem wise & evolved, but I think she misses her youth, and is trying to make up for lost time.

  11. Mumbles says:

    In 2013 she was telling people that if you argue with your husband you should just start blowing him in the middle of the fight. Thought that was BS then, now that we know her marriage was over for over a year by then, seems even more BS.

  12. Amelie says:

    LOL she writes like Liz Gilbert. Liz Gilbert also has this over-wrought, contrived way of writing too. It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t stand her books, her writing was just so affected and made me roll my eyes all the way through Eat, Pray, Love. She starts her Facebook posts with “Dear Ones” which drives me insane every time I see it (note: I don’t follow her on FB but her posts sometimes come up do to friends liking or commenting on her posts). The way Gwyneth writes about her divorce is the way Liz writes about her divorce.

    In fact, I believe Liz Gilbert and Gwyneth are friends which makes so much sense. They both have this New Age white women thing going who think they are both self-help gurus.

    • katharine says:

      Yes to this! Cannot abide either of them for a millisecond.

    • Annaloo. says:

      The preciousness is nauseating, yes.

    • MaryContrary says:

      Oh lord-you can add Glennon Doyle to that group too. Gag.

      • Emma33 says:

        Oh yes! I’m not from the US so I hadn’t heard of Glendon Doyle until I heard her interviewed on an Australian podcast a few weeks ago. I was rolling my eyes so hard they nearly unconsciously uncoupled from my face. It is like all these women need hyperbolize their existences to the max for the smallest thing. It is exhausting.

  13. Kitten says:

    The Millennials have Lena Dunham, Gen X has Gwyneth Paltrow.

  14. BraveLilToaster says:

    I find her so exhausting.

  15. Tracyface says:

    Gwenyth Paltrow should stop publishing the contents of her feelings journal, and use her money to educate herself ffs. At this time she comes across as out of touch. I think that is her white privilege. Also, Demi Moore & Bruce Willis had this kind of ex relationship 1st. Others probably did too.

  16. Shampooch says:

    What a dummy.

  17. Shampooch says:

    OK dummy.

  18. Valerie says:

    Having read her writing, I now understand why it’s so hard for her to read a room.

  19. Queen Meghan’s Hand says:

    I thought they had to “uncouple” because he wanted to claim Alexa Chung as his bonafide?

    Anyways, It’s weird that she’s writing this now. She’s been married for a while, he’s settled with Dakota Johnson…she still seems wistful about being married to him. Why? They never looked right together, not the way she looked right with Brad Pitt. Is she happy with Brad No. 2? He has a nice body and appears to adore her. Is Chris proposing to Dakota soon and Gwyneth can’t handle it?
    The timing of this essay and it’s place of publication is strange. Hmmm.