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In an essay for British Vogue, Paltrow said she knew her marriage was over three years before they called it quits in 2014. It was in 2011 and she and the Coldplay frontman, who married in 2003, were on a getaway in Italy.
“It was my birthday, my 38th,” the actress recalled. “My ex-husband and I were tucked away in the Tuscan countryside, on a hill in a beautiful cottage with a view of the forest.”
While the venue was perfect, her marriage wasn’t.
“I don’t recall when it happened, exactly. I don’t remember which day of the weekend it was or the time of day,” Paltrow, 47, wrote. But I knew – despite long walks and longer lie-ins, big glasses of Barolo and hands held – my marriage was over.”
The Goop founder said the split “felt almost involuntary, like the ring of a bell that has sounded and cannot be undone.” While she tried “to push it far down” and “convince myself it had been a fleeting thought,” she “knew it” was over “in my bones.”
However, it was “years until we said the words aloud.” She explained that she and Martin “had always been friends. We laughed at the same things, shared a funny bones humor, impressions, utter silliness. We were moved by the same qualities in music: beautiful chords, innovation, harmonies. Peter Gabriel, Chopin, Sigur Rós — though I listened for pleasure and he like he was studying for an exam.”
While they had many things they enjoyed doing together and “were close,” they “never fully settled into being a couple. “We just didn’t quite fit together. There was always a bit of unease and unrest. But man, did we love our children,” referring to Apple Martin, 16, and Moses Martin, 14.
Paltrow said that between the realization that her marriage was over and “the day we finally relented to the truth, we tried everything. We did not want to fail. We didn’t want to let anyone down. We desperately didn’t want to hurt our children. We didn’t want to lose our family... But one day, despite all our efforts, I found that I was not at a fork in the road. I was well down a path. Almost without realizing it, we had diverged. We’d never find ourselves together in that way again.”
She wrote that during the “dark days” when they first agreed to split, she thought of the divorces she knew were all “bitter, acrimonious, unending” and didn’t want that. That led her “to wonder, as impossible as it sounded, whether there was a way we could continue to feel the structure of our family on some level. Could we create a paradigm whereby we still ate meals together? Vacation, even? ... But more than that, could my ex continue to be a family member, someone who would continue to protect me, want the best for me? Could I be that for him?”
Their therapist introduced them to the term “conscious uncoupling,” which she said initially “sounded a bit full of itself, painfully progressive and hard to swallow. However, they “decided to try” to still “be a family, even though we were not a couple.”
She said they started practicing “conscious uncoupling” a year before they “introduced the phrase to the world” in their March 2014 breakup statement. She admitted it was initially “hit and miss” with “days when we couldn’t stand each other, but [we] forced ourselves to remember what we were aiming for.”
She called it was “the most challenging year of my life,” saying, “I felt ruled by fear. I worried about my children integrating into a new life, new school, new family structure. I worried about the world finding out that we were no longer together before we were ready to say it. And how to say it? What to say?”
She said that when they did make the announcement — in a newsletter published on Goop called “conscious uncoupling,” “I remember trembling on the phone” while on the phone with her website’s content chief giving her the green light.
“We knew that the piece would generate a lot of attention — a celebrity couple ending their relationship always does — but I never could have anticipated what came next,” she said. “The public’s surprise gave way quickly to ire and derision. A strange combination of mockery and anger that I had never seen. I was already pretty tattered from what had been a tough year. Frankly, the intensity of the response saw me bury my head in the sand deeper than I ever had in my very public life.”
She said despite the early criticism — that she said she often gets via her lifestyle website with its ladybits candles and jade eggs — “conscious uncoupling/separation/divorce, whatever you want to call it, has now permeated the break-up culture.”
She said personally the concept has helped guide her to be “accountable” for her part in the failure of the marriage, “to understand that forgiveness involves taking responsibility for your half of the relationship... It’s just much more convenient to be the hurt one, so you never have to look at your own sh**.”
Paltrow ended by saying, “I know my ex-husband was meant to be the father of my children, and I know my current husband [Brad Falchuk] is meant to be the person I grow very old with. Conscious uncoupling lets us recognize those two different loves can coexist and nourish each other.”
Paltrow married Falchuk, a TV producer, in 2018. They were slow to move in together and combine their families (he also has two children), finally doing so well after they tied the knot. The couple opened up about sex and intimacy issues while being confined at home during the coronavirus pandemic during a chat with a relationship expert for Goop.
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