All things considered, Gwyneth Paltrow is best ignored. Nothing can really be gained by musing over her New Agey pronouncements.
And yet, Paltrow is culturally relevant. She set herself up as a role model. She offered lifestyle advice for those who want a life just like hers. And she declared her marriage to be one that people should emulate.
Thus, when Paltrow announced that she and her husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin were undergoing what she and her gurus called “conscious uncoupling” the news instantly went viral.
But what is “conscious uncoupling?”
If “conscious uncoupling” is what happens when a couple separates, what were they doing when they were together?
Apparently, the New Age gurus who dreamed up this infelicitous phrase meant to reduce the negative emotions and outright rancor that often accompany separation and divorce.
One has to admit that those are worthy goals.
Paltrow’s gurus, Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami apparently believe that separation and divorce are new developmental stages. Since human being live longer than they used to be, it is right and normal for them to have a series of marriages.
And yet, if these same gurus were counseling Paltrow before her marriage broke up, their psycho-flakery does not seem to have had a very beneficial effect.
While it is altogether possible that the Paltrow-Martin marriage was doomed from the start, for reasons that had nothing to do with the state of anyone’s soul, it seems slightly unseemly to conjure up a silly phrase in order to sugarcoat a failure. Whether it is a failed marriage or failed counseling, a divorce is not something to celebrate.
Apparently, Paltrow and Co. believed that “conscious uncoupling” was a more felicitous phrase that “separation.” And it sounded much nicer than that horrible word “divorce.”
And yet, as Shakespeare might have said, divorce by any other name smells as foul.
We know that divorce is bad for children and we are pleased to see that Paltrow and Martin seem to want to remain on good terms for the sake of their children. Knowing how rancorous and destructive divorce can be, we are happy to see that one couple is avoiding the destructive bitterness.
But, one suspects that by glossing over the pain of separation and divorce Paltrow and her gurus are obscuring the reality of what has taken place.
It is also fair to note that they are both fabulously wealthy. Since they are not going to have a real problem dividing money and property, they are not going to deal with one of the major sources of contentious divorces. It has nothing to do with frilly language.
And yet, by making divorce a developmental stage, Paltrow and her gurus are also normalizing divorce. Effectively, they are encouraging people to divorce. They are telling people to disrupt their lives and traumatize their children in order to find self-realization.
So, we are faced with something of a cultural phenomenon. Or better, we are faced with a couple of gurus who are apparently promoting their own New Ageism through a failed marriage.
One assumes that Hollywood is awash is such gurus. They appeal to people to have too much money and too few IQ points.
Enquiring minds now want to know what went wrong.
By all appearances Paltrow bears much of the responsibility. She chose to make her marriage into a public spectacle, embarrassing herself and humiliating her husband. She held herself up as a role model, someone who had it all, who had achieved the perfect life, who had the perfect husband, who had given birth to the perfect children.
Worse yet, she presented herself as a mini-guru, doling out marital advice to any and all. Where did she get the idea that she should be teaching the art of a great life?
Hang on tight: she was told it by a rock.
In her words:
I’ll never forget it. I was starting to hike up the red rocks, and honestly, it was as if I heard the rock say: ‘You have the answers. You are your teacher.’ I thought I was having an auditory hallucination.
One forgives those members of Paltrow’s audience for greeting the news of her breakup with Schadenfreude.
To everyone but her, it felt like she was flaunting her wealth, her fame and her success. Apparently, her gurus did not teach her not to flaunt it.
Beyond the fact that speaking openly and honestly and publicly about her marriage must have humiliated her husband, Paltrow also, unconsciously, expressed contempt for him. When asked how to deal with a spousal spat, she told Chelsea Handler:
Whatever you’re feeling, do the opposite. Go at him with love and you give him a b–wjob.
Of course, if fellatio were the cure for marital discord, most divorce lawyers would go out of business.
At the same time, Paltrow recommended acting like a housewife, holding down the home front while husband was off touring.
Call this the Patti Hanson way of sustaining a marriage with rock star husband—you know that Hanson is married to Keith Richards—but is it true?
She once told E!:
I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening. When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day, and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.
She has been severely criticized for her lack of empathy, but, to some extent her point was well taken. It is easier to establish an organized home life when routines are established and followed.
Paltrow is not making very many movies these days, but, by her admission working on one requires either long separations or a disrupted family routine.
Ultimately, hers is a sad story. You don’t even have to consult with an osteopath to find out what went wrong:
Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.