Gwyneth and Chris 'consciously uncouple'. How is that different from 'breaking up'?

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin did not break up. They did not split. 

To use Gwyneth’s terminology, the marriage is over because they have chosen to consciously uncouple.

Our first thought when we heard the news this morning was ‘This is the most devastating celebrity break up since Brad and Jen’. Our second thought was ‘What the hell is conscious uncoupling?’

According to the 41-year-old actress, she and her husband, 37-year-old Coldplay singer Chris Martin, did this ‘conscious uncoupling’ so they can ‘coparent’ their two creatively named children, 9-year-old Apple and 7-year-old Moses.

Here’s the full statement Gwyneth posted on her website, Goop.com, this morning. The site crashed because too many people wanted to read it at once.

It needs to be translated for those of us who don’t speak fluent Celebrity, stay with me.

So what exactly is ‘conscious uncoupling’ and is it something we can use in our own normal-people lives?

Gwyneth got the idea from Dr Habib Sadeghi and Dr Sherry Sami, who shared an epic thesis on G.P.’s lifestyle website Goop. There’s a lot of high-brow celeb nonsense about taking our emotional cues from grasshoppers, the skeletons of anger we trap ourselves in, and our ‘psycho-spiritual spines’. But not to worry, I’ve sifted through Gwyneth’s thesis so you don’t have to. And brought back the bits that make sense.

Gwyneth and Co. suggest that we totally rethink the way we approach human relationships. The main point? We should prepare for three significant, long-term relationships per lifetime, rather than the conventional one. This is because we live so much longer than we used to, but we haven’t adjusted our expectations for the longevity of love accordingly.


Many centuries ago, human lives lasted 33 years, which means a monogamous relationship could last a measly single decade. By 1900, men were expected to make it to 46, and women to 48, which would make a marriage last a couple of decades. Now, with men hanging around for 76 years and women for 81, marriages are expected to survive four, five, six, or even seven decades. It’s a lot of pressure.

Which is why Gwyneth and Chris have an understanding: Their marriage is just one of their lifetime’s Big Relationships. So the process of ‘breaking up’ is not as sinister and heinous – because it was always inevitable. The process of their separation is called ‘conscious uncoupling’ because it’s a deliberate (presumably mutual) decision to part ways according to their worldview. They’ve taken the sting out of divorce by agreeing upon its inevitability from the start.

Are you still with me?

Here’s how Dr Sadeghi and Dr Sami elaborate on the benefits of ‘conscious uncoupling’:

From this perspective, there are no bad guys, just two people, each playing teacher and student respectively. When we understand that both are actually partners in each other’s spiritual progress, animosity dissolves much quicker and a new paradigm for conscious uncoupling emerges, replacing the traditional, contentious divorce. It’s only under these circumstances that loving co-parenting can happen. It’s conscious uncoupling that prevents families from being broken by divorce and creates expanded families that continue to function in a healthy way outside of traditional marriage.

Now that we understand the concept of conscious uncoupling (sort of), we have so many questions for Gwyneth and Chris.

What happens when one member of the consciously uncoupled couple lives in LA, and the other one wants to live in England? What happens to their mansions, their cars, and their belongings? How do you co-parent with oceans and countries between you? Does this conscious uncoupling have anything to do with Vanity Fair spreading rumours that Gwyneth has had affairs? And most importantly, does this mean Chris can hoe into a hamburger and fries for the first time in 11 years?