Celebrity power couple Gwyenth Paltrow and Chris Martin are not merely divorcing; they are consciously uncoupling.
In a Tuesday night post announcing the end of their ten-year marriage, under the headline “Conscious Uncoupling” on Paltrow’s lifestyle blog Goop, the couple wrote that “it is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate.” After “working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us,” they “have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate.” They will always be a family, though, and in some ways are “closer than we have ever been.” They conclude with a request for privacy as they “consciously uncouple and coparent.”
Consciously uncoupling certainly sounds much more amicable and orderly than breaking up or even unconsciously uncoupling. But what exactly does it mean?
Paltrow helpfully followed up her initial announcement by posting a 2,000-word treatise on conscious uncoupling from Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami, a married couple living in Los Angeles. (Dr. Sadeghi is an osteopathic doctor who runs an “integrative health center” called “Be Hive of Healing,” pun presumably intended, and whose book Within: A Spiritual Awakening to Love and Weight Loss contains a forward written by Paltrow. His wife is a dentist.)
Sadeghi and Sami begin by explaining that given rapidly accelerating life expectancy, these days it’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll be able to stick it out until death do us part, which suggests we “ought to redefine the construct” of marriage.
“Our biology and psychology aren’t set up to be with one person for four, five, or six decades,” they write. So there’s the science. Now for some New Agey jargon: “Life is a spiritual exercise in evolving from an exoskeleton for support and survival to an endoskeleton,” they write in a section entitled, “Intimacy & Insects.” They mean by this, basically, that you have to look within yourself for support and strength and healing, not to others, or, one can infer, to any kind of external deity.
Finally, they get to the part about how to uncouple consciously and “avoid the drama of divorce.” You shouldn’t think about it in terms of your marriage having failed, because (a) as we learned, the expectation that it would last was based on an outdated construct, and (b) this is actually going to be a positive experience if you just let go of old notions and approach it in terms of building up your partner’s spiritual endoskeleton. “To change the concept of divorce, we need to release the belief structures we have around marriage that create rigidity in our thought process,” they write. The “belief structure” that marriage should be for life “is too much pressure for anyone.”
Conscious uncoupling will bring “wholeness to the spirits of both people who choose to recognize each other as their teachers.” What’s more, conscious uncoupling “prevents families from being broken by divorce and creates expanded families that continue to function in a healthy way outside of traditional marriage.”
They conclude that by “choosing to handle your uncoupling in a conscious way . . . you’ll see that although it looks like everything is coming apart; it’s actually all coming back together.”
One anonymous source offered E! a more prosaic take on the end of the relationship. “They both really believed in the sanctity of marriage and the role model it provided for their kids,” the source said. “Both of their parents were married their entire lives, and they really wanted the same for their kids. They stuck it out for a long time.”
If that’s an accurate description, it sounds like Dr. Sadeghi has some work to do in helping the uncoupling couple to adjust their rigid belief structures.
— Katherine Connell is an associate editor at National Review.