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Should We Give the Idea of ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ a Chance?

Five years after Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow announced their split, are we ready to stop mocking them?

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Remember 2014? In many ways, it was a simpler time. Germany won the World Cup, The Lego Movie was way better than it had any right to be, the measles were seemingly a thing of the past, and Gwyneth Paltrow announced her divorce from Coldplay singer Chris Martin by saying they were participating in a “conscious uncoupling.” At the time, everyone lost their collective shit over Paltrow’s gaudy attempt at describing a marriage ending and Paltrow officially established herself as one of the most reliable targets of ridicule on the internet. She hasn’t done herself any favors since then, but a new interview with Paltrow could make everyone reconsider whether or not we think “conscious uncoupling” is as silly as it sounds.

Paltrow was recently a guest on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert, where she acknowledged the backlash she received. Here’s what she said.

“It was brutal,” she said of the negative reaction. “I already felt like I had no skin on.” Do we care? Should we feel sorry for a person who upsells upper-middle-class women on magic potions and pretends that she invented yoga? Maybe not, but she does have a somewhat reasonable defense of why she used “conscious uncoupling” instead of “divorce.”

Concerned that a common “wound” shared by many children was the concept of divorce, Paltrow says she imagined “if there’s a way to circumvent that and go directly to the point where we’re friends and we remember what we loved about each other, and constantly acknowledge that we created these incredible human beings together.”

If this notion had been floated by someone other than Paltrow, the chances that everyone would have taken it more seriously would have probably increased. Sure, it scanned as silly for her to an academic-sounding term for something that has become such a normal part of the modern family. But should we really blame her for not wanting her kids to think that their parents despise each other just because their marriage didn’t work out?

For what it’s worth, the overly cautious approach seems to have worked, as Martin and Paltrow apparently have divorced amicably and are successfully co-parenting their kids through their early teen years.

“Family structure can be reinvented and divorce doesn’t have to be devastating,” Paltrow told The Evening Standard. “It doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship with somebody.”

They even went on a giant family vacation over the holidays, which doubled as a honeymoon for Paltrow and her new husband TV producer Brad Falchuk. Martin brought his girlfriend, actress Dakota Johnson.

“So, my new husband and his children, my children, my ex-husband, our best family friends [all went]. It was a very modern honeymoon,” she said on Live with Kelly and Ryan back in January with a bit of self-awareness that perhaps she was missing before.

In fact, Paltrow even went on SNL recently to poke fun at herself, which everyone knows is the surest sign that a joke has jumped the shark.

Is any of this relatable? Probably not. In a lot of ways, Paltrow appears representative of everything wrong with celebrities: she’s smug (her Instagram is unbearable!), pretentious (she named her kid Apple!), and completely out-of-touch with reality (Goop!). She’s not necessarily the greatest parent of all time, or an ideal anyone should strive for, but her thoughts on trying to make divorce less painful aren’t exactly insane.

So while it may be easy to make snide comments about Goop or meme-ify some of her more absurd quotes, it might be time to retire the hate on “conscious uncoupling.” As kooky ideas go, this one seems to have come from the right place.