Monday 18 February 2019

Uncoupling is such sweet sorrow

Despite the facade of perfection, Paltrow and Martin can't avoid pain of divorce, writes Julia Molony

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin
Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin

Julia Molony

PERHAPS the concept of good old-fashioned divorce was just a bit prosaic for Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. After all, when you've enjoyed life so far up that diamond ladder that the air is a bit thin, the utterly quotidian, common-as-muck business of severing your marriage vows might feel just a bit, well, economy class.

Those of us who would have believed that death, disease and divorce were the true levellers in our midst may well have got it wrong. Because when Paltrow, popularly known as the patron saint of perfectionism, splits with her pop-star husband after more than 10 years of marriage, it is not an everyday thing like a normal divorce, hashed out through a toxic emotional fug, and over endless half-drunk cups of family-law office instant coffee and bitter acrimony over the silverware. It is a "conscious uncoupling" a process of enlightening transition, marshalled and overseen by a panel of expert therapists and justified on philosophical and spiritual grounds.

And of course, the obvious thought is that this is exactly why Gwyneth is so disliked – for putting preachy spin on every aspect of her life so as to bolster her self-appointed position as self-help guru. And the way her "uncoupling" experience was so expertly editorialised on her own website – complete with handy mail out to all subscribers of Goop, so that they could hear the news directly from the uncoupled ones themselves.

But it's a shame, because in amongst the interminable self-improvement guff and the compulsive need to present everything from food supplements to marital severance into something either inspirational or aspirational, there's much in Gwyneth's approach to admire (and Chris's we must presume, though he is more silent on the matter).

Paltrow has long been a refreshing pragmatist about marriage – she has owned up to its challenges openly in interviews, calmly explained her flexible stance on the issue of fidelity born out of a belief that marriage takes compromise. Considering she operates in a social milleu where it's common practice to claim one thing in public and do another entirely in private, it's fair to say that there doesn't seem to have been any hypocrisy here. No one can know what goes on inside a marriage, but appearances suggest that they have both given their relationship a resounding and determined good innings.

Gwyneth, ever the WASP, has fulfilled her governing edict to Put In The Work. Her claims to top marks for effort were right there, in the second line of her "note from GP".

"We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate."

Of course, such generosity of spirit is probably easier when, if reports are true, the couple will be smoothing the transition for their family by moving into separate wings of their jointly-owned Malibu mansion, so that they can live as neighbours and family while giving up the marital bed. But it's not as simple as that really. Very often, the richer the couple, the more there is to bargain over and consequently, the more bitter the dispute.

Paltrow and Martin are said to be currently holidaying together in the Bahamas with their children, doing their best, at a difficult moment, to carry on with domestic business as usual.

If this civility is to be believed, I'd say it's credit not to the fact that they are rich, but more to do with the fact that they are equal. Paltrow and Martin are estimated to be worth roughly the same amount of money each, around $140m. In any failing marriage, the determination to handle things maturely is laudable, as is Gwyneth and Chris's avowed determination to continue to co-parent peacefully.

They are endeavouring to handle this well. If that means that they have to consciously uncouple rather than simply split up, then so be it. But I'd bet, despite the relationship gurus on hand to advise them through every conflict, and the new-age lexicon by which they are defining this new phase, the truth behind this amicable split, is financial independence. It's not just conscious uncoupling, it's the diplomatic power that comes from going Dutch.

Sunday Independent

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