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Confession: I’m with Gwyneth

Gwyneth Paltrow via MingleMediaTVNetwork

I remember seeing Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love back in the day, but I haven’t sought her out in any later movies. And until this week, I’d never even heard of her lifestyle website, Goop, much less visited it. Sure, she’s been faintly on my radar for years — she’s gorgeous, wealthy, and married to a lead singer for a band I’ve been known to sing along to. I know that together they have two kids, a bit younger than mine, and that surely they live a life of glamor and riches.

I didn’t see much that we had in common other than raising two children (unless she also sings Viva La Vida in the shower).

I was also aware that, like Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth is one of those women — seemingly blessed in all the big ways — that other women love to hate. I get it. Some of her quotes do sound blesseder-than-thou, Marie Antoinette-esque in their disconnection from the lives we mere commoners experience.

As much as I feel zilch for Gwyneth regarding most of her life, I admit that I liked when I heard that she’d said she and her husband, Chris Martin, were “consciously uncoupling.” (Although if she’d researched the “50 percent of marriages end in divorce” statistic, she wouldn’t have perpetuated the myth on her site.)

uncoupling train per Daniel Schwen

Of course, I wasn’t clapping for the “uncoupling” part. The death of a long-term relationship doesn’t make me happy, especially when children are involved. I wonder if part of the uproar about Gwyneth’s announcement was the fact that she used the more uppity “uncoupling” rather than “breaking up” or “separating” or “divorcing.” Perhaps people thought she was attempting to call donkey a unicorn and think we wouldn’t notice.

But it was the other word that resonated for me: consciously.

I seek to do everything more consciously, more mindfully: Be with my kids. Prepare meals. Write. Drive. Be with my husband. Shower. Wash the dishes. Walk the dog. Really be with whomever I’m with. To do so requires single-tasking in a world that highly values — almost requires — multi-tasking. I do this in varying degrees of success. Indeed, at this moment I have 11 tabs open (plus a whole other browser!) and am simultaneously making coffee and observing my daughter play with our dog.

I’m a work in progress.

To live with intention is to go off auto-pilot, one moment at a time and then another and another and another. It requires a person to tune in and choose her words and actions deliberately over and over again. I have seen some really nasty divorces, and I applaud Gwyneth’s pledge to navigate the upcoming turbulent waters — ones that are sure to dredge up deep insecurities and fears — with mindful intention. It will not be easy.

Even for Gwyneth.

How did Gwyneth Paltrow’s announcement of conscious uncoupling come across to you?

Image of Gwyneth Paltrow via MingleMediaTVNetwork, Creative Commons 2.0.
Train image via Daniel Schwen, Creative Commons 3.0.

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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31 Responses

  1. Really, I don’t much care what celebs do. I believe she means well, but has lived such a privileged life she’s tone deaf to how Marie Antoinette she comes across.

  2. I don’t totally get the uproar around Gwyneth either. The whole “conscious uncoupling” thing was coined, written about, and promoted by Katherine Woodward Thomas. If people have an issue with it they need to go after Woodward Thomas not Gwyneth. And I honestly don’t think it’s that “weird” considering how many divorced, broken relationship people I know with baggage and unresolved hurt, anger perhaps they should read up on conscious uncoupling themselves.

  3. I think Gwyneth is probably just trying to help, but she often comes across as too calculated. When she announced their separation on Goop it was accompanied by articles and interviews about “Conscious Uncoupling” so I think the impression she left is she can’t even get divorced without preaching the masses about a “better” way. I’d guess she was just trying to share something that had helped them, but it might’ve been better received had she waited a few weeks with the info.

  4. I wish I could agree with your take on this. I don’t believe any of her pronouncements and I’ve never liked her because she has a very “I’m better than all of you” attitude and aura. I DO believe that most couples who divorce do so with conscious, thoughtful concern for their family. Turning that into a catchphrase that serves to re-brand divorce seems unfair to the children in my eyes. Call it what you want, a family is still breaking up.

  5. Gwyneth Paltrow is the victim of her own sphere of context, privilege and influence, unaware that sphere is actually a bubble floating over most ppl’s heads.

  6. I agree, Lori. My guess is, however, that based on the ridiculousness she spews on GOOP (her silly website) she was going to get smacked upside the head no matter how she phrased her announcement.

    Honestly, I think the backlash was more about how her announcement condescended to the half of married folks who get a—wait for it—divorce. In the vein of “Divorce is for the rest of you commoners! I, who am better than you, am doing it better…as always.”

  7. It’s great that they’re amicably divorcing. I wish them luck with raising their children with as little stress as possible.

    There are plenty of people whose proclamations I greet with an internal (or external – sometimes I’m not very subtle) eye roll. If I were her friend, I would use your donkey/unicorn analogy and tell her to get over herself. But I’m not, so I will just continue to ignore her.

    (In other words, I prefer plain and precise speech. She doesn’t deliver. But it makes no difference in my life.)

  8. It’s great that they’re amicably divorcing. I wish them luck with raising their children with as little stress as possible.

    There are plenty of people whose proclamations I greet with an internal (or external – sometimes I’m not very subtle) eye roll. If I were her friend, I would use your donkey/unicorn analogy and tell her to get over herself. But I’m not, so I will just continue to ignore her.

    (In other words, I prefer plain and precise speech. She doesn’t deliver. But it makes no difference in my life.)

    1. I hadn’t thought of that angle, that attention for celebrity anything can dwarf real issues and events that have real effects on real people. We can blame both the media and the people who consume it, I suppose.

      Snickering at the description of your mind (and feeling an affinity!)

  9. Did you see the NYT article about the freshly coined term, CU? Call me if you want to hear the funny back story about Kirks good friend, Kit, who first came up with it. See how I’m always looking for an excuse to talk w you ?

  10. Gwyneth has never bothered me like I know she bothers other people. I find her mostly amusing – GOOP is enjoyably silly. As for her description of her divorce, it sounds like she’s trying to do the right thing in a crappy situation. Yes, the description was predictably pompous, but overall I have no problem with the phrase or the philosophy.

  11. I like Keiko’s imagery for sure! I wonder about her intent in posting it on her ‘branding’ website as it were. Is she making divorce part of her lifestyle brand? That being said, I like her wording – I’m shamefully up on entertainment gossip and they have been allegedly struggling for years (and she had a later miscarriage at one point). This is not something they she has appeared to approach lightly.

  12. I didn’t really read up on her concept of conscious uncoupling, but I admit that I like the idea of two people (or, at least one of them) being mindful of the enormity of divorce. We have a pre-marriage ceremony called tenaim, where the couple breaks a piece of pottery to symbolize that both people understand that the two families will forever be shattered and pieced back together if the couple divorces. Sort of giving you that last chance to think long and hard about marriage before the ceremony. Some people think that once you break the pottery, you hit the no-going-back point. Even if you’re months from your ceremony.

    We wrote our personal vows on our pottery and then had our two mothers break it (sometimes the task is given to the matriarchs as knowledgeable women who are teaching the younger woman the enormity of marriage) and gave a piece to every family member in a tiny clear box sealed with ribbon.

    So… yeah… I sort of get her coming at it from the back end since a lot of Jews come at it from the front end (and her father was Jewish, so who knows how the knowledge of tenaim influences her divorce).

    I do think that she’s damned no matter what she says and how she says it. People have already decided to be annoyed by the way she does things and says things, so they’re going to find that fault. Is she an annoying person? I don’t know — I don’t pay any attention to her nor have I ever been on Goop. If she’s in a film, that’s great. Other than that, I sort of forget about her until she appears in People magazine or bubbles up on the Internet like this.

  13. I wish Gweneth all the best. I very much enjoyed seeing her in the film Proof (2005) recently (on DVD). But I find her alienating in interviews. I prefer just watching her act.

  14. I have no issue with Gwenyth. She might say things that do not resonate with the common folk but she’s not a part of the common folk so that makes sense. I actually kind of liked her choice of the word conscious also. We’ve all seen those divorces where the parties are not just unmindful they must be unconscious to behave the way they do, especially with children in the picture. Hopefully Gwenyth’s approach will be something much more manageable for her children.

  15. It makes me sad. Sad for all of those marriages started with such hopes and dreams that shatter on the rocks of reality and daily living. I don’t care how privileged you are, divorce (no matter how it’s titled) hurts. And usually the most innocent are the biggest victims. Money might seem to make it better. But it really doesn’t.

  16. What I thought was so self-involved about her announcement was her attempt to redefine the term, as if, by saying un-coupling made her divorce somehow more important then all before hers.

  17. I liked the word consciously, too but hated her for that BS about how working mothers have it easier than she does. Because sorry, we don’t. She’s delusional and it makes me sad because I used to think she was amazing. I used to really look up to her (not that I know anything about celeb gossip these days but what I read on blogs but yeah)…

  18. I do appreciate the conscious piece of it, but it’s not as though anyone wakes up one day and says – wait? I’m divorced?! Everyone makes a conscious choice to split up – if they choose to make it positive and amicable, that’s great – but I’m not certain conscious is the right adjective to describe that. And “uncoupling”? To me it brings to mind the end of an intimate encounter – as in he uncoupled from her and then took a shower.

    So, perhaps pompous, but a little laughable at the same time – sometimes just use the regular 5 cent words is best :-).

  19. What bugs me most about Gwyneth is that she acts as if she is the first person to do anything…and apparently feels the need to explain it all to us poor unenlightened people. Just because she is well-known actress does not make her intelligent. I see a donkey with a strapped-on unicorn horn!

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