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Marriage in the Age of 'Conscious Uncoupling'
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Marriage in the Age of 'Conscious Uncoupling'

Mar 28 2014
Five things Gwyneth Paltrow's announcement gets wrong about relationships.

The Interwebs don't need more snark about Gwyneth Paltrow, so I almost hesitate to weigh in on her "Conscious Uncoupling" announcement.


I'm mindful that Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin are, in fact, real people who are in distress and working hard to be loving parents. I am also certain that whether you're a millionaire actress married to a rock star or my neighbor down the block in the Chicago suburbs, I can't begin to know what's going on inside your marriage.

So what follows isn't about trashing "gp," as she refers to herself on her website, but about exploring what I think her now-infamous "conscious uncoupling" message gets wrong about marriage. (By referring to her as "gp," I'm acknowledging that her statements are hewn with the help of publicists and probably represent the bone she felt obligated to toss at a barking, celebrity-crazed culture. I expect that what the real woman – Gwyneth Paltrow – is experiencing right now is likely very different.)

Here are five things gp's goop post gets wrong:

1. Her terminology sets the wrong tone.

Paltrow didn't invent the term "conscious uncoupling," which refers to a five-week course developed by therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas. The term is not meant to be a synonym for "divorce," but a process by which divorcing couples can attempt to be as peaceful and gentle with one another as possible in an impossibly tricky time.

By choosing "Conscious Uncoupling" as her headline, however, Paltrow seemed to be using the term as a stand-in for divorce. Given her notoriety as an advice guru who appears blind to her own privilege (helpfully suggesting that readers purchase $300 sweatshirts or make Fried Oysters with Curried Crème Fraîche for dinner), it comes off as condescending.

A divorced friend put it this way: "'Conscious uncoupling' sounds so clinical and clean cut. Like somehow she is above all the bloodiness of splitting up." That is, while you wear $35 Keds and get "divorced," gp slips on $500 sneakers and is "uncoupled."

I imagine that gp's announcement would not have resulted in jeering posts all over the Internet had she just said, "Yeah. This stinks. We tried. We failed. We're all heartbroken," instead of suggesting that this – like that recipe or those puzzlingly expensive sneakers – was another extravagant secret that she was privy to and consented to share with her readers.

Related Topics:Divorce; Entertainment; Marriage

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Marriage in the Age of 'Conscious Uncoupling'