It’s the divorce story of the day: actress and food writer Gwyneth Paltrow has announced her separation from husband Chris Martin, the lead singer of rock band Coldplay. The pair have been married for just over ten years and have two children, named Apple and Moses.
There is nothing terribly unusual about that of course. Parents split up all the time and celebrity marriages are hardly renowned for their stability. In fact, by high pressure Hollywood standards, ten years is pretty good going.
What seems to have caught people’s imagination is the manner in which the couple chose to make their announcement. They did so with a brief post on the actress’s lifestyle and fashion website Goop. This reads, in its entirety:
“It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. 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. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.”
What are we to make of this? The “new age” language will not appeal to all, but what strikes me about the statement is its determination to focus on the positive. They declare:
“…we still love each other very much but we have decided to remain separate…”
They are still a family, they say, and are “parents first and foremost”.
Of course, we cannot know to what extent such fine phrasing really reflects the reality of life behind their closed doors, but you cannot help but admire the sentiment.
Few of us would use such language as ‘consciously uncouple’ – such phrases are perhaps the preserve of a certain type of celebrity – but I certainly believe there comes a point in every struggling marriage when it is far better to accept the reality of the situation in as calm and rational a manner as possible. It is certainly better for the children.
In a post on this blog back in 2010, I wrote:
“…I agree that marriage is the “gold standard” for couples, particularly those who have children, I do not believe that a broken marriage can be held together…Indeed, I believe there are plenty of instances of children who have been gravely psychologically harmed by remaining with dysfunctional parents who loathe each other.”
It is wrong, I wrote, to assume that:
“…a ring on the finger is some sort of magic talisman to ward off family breakdown. As if a wedding turns a vulnerable relationship into an invincible one! It doesn’t. When a marriage reaches the divorce stage, that marriage has failed. The uncoupling process is complete.”
I stand by every word of that today. If that uncoupling process can be “conscious” and firmly focused on the needs of the children, so much the better.