Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin got divorced? It was a big moment for those of us who follow celebrity relationships. Everyone wanted to know the juicy details and the exact meaning of the mysterious phrase Paltrow used to describe the split — “conscious uncoupling.” Many years later, she’s finally divulged everything people wanted to know.
It was all the way back in March 2014 when Paltrow and Martin announced their divorce. They were a supercouple at this point: he was a famous musician and she a — possibly — even more famous actress. When Paltrow posted the news on her Goop website, it crashed from the sheer amount of traffic.
There had been a few warning signs — casual comments in interviews suddenly took on a new meaning — but it was still a shock. The pair had been married for more than a decade and had two children. Social media suddenly became overwhelmed with fans mourning the loss of one of the most beloved celebrity couples.
And at the same time the words “conscious uncoupling” became a point of curiosity. What exactly did that mean and did it spell a new, less drama-filled era for high-profile divorces? Suddenly there was a massive increase in people Googling that phrase. And to this day it’s associated with the Paltrow-Martin split.
Since both are so famous, Paltrow and Martin still get asked about the divorce often. But in 2020 Paltrow took one step further and decided to publish a whole essay about it in Vogue. It would, the magazine said, highlight “the lessons she’s learned about love, family and forgiveness.”
That’s not all Paltrow said even just that year. She also did interviews with other magazines where Martin came up, plus she also discussed co-parenting and more on the Drew Barrymore Show. Paltrow was clearly keen to talk about it. And her fans are keen to listen.
Paltrow and Martin first met all the way back in 2002, when Martin was doing a Coldplay concert. Interestingly, she met him mere weeks after the death of her father, Bruce Paltrow. She was still grieving at the time, but Martin seemed to help her cope with it. The pair began to date.
In 2003, a year after their first meeting, it was announced Paltrow was pregnant with her first child. You probably know her name, as it went down in history as one of the odder celeb child names — Apple Blythe Alison Martin. But before Apple came along, Paltrow and Martin were married in secret.
The couple famously valued their privacy, especially after a second child — this one named Moses after a song Martin once wrote for Paltrow — came along. In 2010 U.K. newspaper The Telegraph claimed that the couple were “so concerned about privacy that they go to extraordinary lengths to avoid being photographed together.”
Even so there were always rumors about their marriage. These first sprung up in 2008, but Paltrow told Glamour UK that they were “ridiculous.” She also added, “You will never see us out publicly. We just don’t want to be one of those couples. It evolved that way. He gets furious if I say something about him.”
But Martin seemed fine with talking about Paltrow. Later on that year he told Rolling Stone magazine, “Being married to someone very successful and very powerful basically keeps you hungry to improve. You’ve got to be hungry. If your wife went out with Brad Pitt, you’d want to prove yourself, you know what I mean?” And Paltrow had indeed dated Pitt in the past.
In 2013 Paltrow admitted that marriage was “hard.” She told Glamour UK, “You go through great times, you go through terrible times. We’re the same as any couple. I’ve learned more about myself by being married than anything else.” But things seemed alright, since she added, “But we laugh, we’re good friends, we like to do the same stuff.”
The rumors that the marriage was coming to an end never really went away though. One of them involved infidelity on Paltrow’s part, and media outlets claimed that the pair had an open marriage that Martin was tiring of. None of these things were ever confirmed — but then in March 2014 came the shocking announcement of the split.
On the Goop website Paltrow wrote, “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.”
Paltrow went on, “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.”
Unfortunately, Paltrow’s use of the previously almost unknown term “consciously uncouple” didn’t go down too well. In fact, it was met with mockery all round. The Guardian newspaper called the statement on the site “among the most deluded 2,000 words of tosh ever to be associated with sentient adults.”
However, the conscious uncoupling itself actually seemed to go pretty well. Once it was done there was no sign of any drama. By 2016 the pair had by all accounts settled into an almost sibling-like relationship, and furthermore Paltrow was dating again. Her new boyfriend was Glee co-producer Brad Falchuk.
In 2017, just as Martin was dating actress Dakota Johnson, an announcement came that Paltrow and Falchuk were engaged to be married. Paltrow confirmed the news a few months later via her own Goop magazine, the company having taken off in a major way by then. They tied the knot in September 2018.
And perhaps surprisingly, Martin was right there for Patrow’s wedding. Martin, their children and Falchuk’s children all showed up for the event. Perhaps that was an early sign that Paltrow’s new marriage would go in a different direction to her previous one. It was pretty unorthodox, as she didn’t even properly move in with Falchuk until a year had passed.
As for Martin, rumor has it he might marry his girlfriend Johnson someday. If so she’ll be another addition to the very modern family Paltrow and Martin have separately built since their divorce. But there has definitely been some sadness along the way, as Paltrow revealed in her Vogue essay.
In her contemplative essay Paltrow wrote, “I don’t recall when it happened, exactly. I don’t remember which day of the weekend it was or the time of day. But I knew — despite long walks and longer lie-ins, big glasses of Barolo and hands held — my marriage was over. What I do remember is that it felt almost involuntary, like the ring of a bell that has sounded and cannot be undone.”
Paltrow remembered that she was desperate to stay together for the sake of Apple and Moses. She wrote, “But most of all, we loved our children. We were close, though we had 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.”
Paltrow went on, “Between the day that I knew 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. The questions, both philosophical and tactical, seemed unfathomable: who sleeps where, how does bath time work, what do we say to the kids?”
Eventually Paltrow was able to find the answers to these questions, though it was hard. While on The Drew Barrymore Show that same year she told her fellow actress, “Chris and I committed to putting [the children] first and that’s harder than it looks. Because some days, you really don’t want to be with the person that you are getting divorced from.”
Paltrow went on, “But if you’re committed to having family dinner, then you do it. And you take a deep breath, and you look the person in the eye, and you remember your pact, and you smile, and you hug, and you make a joke, and you just recommit to this new relationship that you are trying to foster.” She added, “You’re ending a marriage, but you’re still in a family, and that’s how it will be forever.”
“Some days, it’s not as good as it looks,” Paltrow admitted. “We also have good days and bad days. But I think it’s driving towards the same purpose of unity and love and really what’s best for them. We have this idea that just because we break up we can’t love the things about the person anymore that we loved, and that’s not true.”
But Paltrow also had good news to share, “My relationship with Chris now is better than our marriage was.” And she offered some advice, “If you are brave enough to take responsibility for your half [of the relationship] and really look at your own garbage and your own trauma and how it’s presenting in the world and in your relationship then there really is somewhere to go and something to learn and something to heal.”
The family situation now sounds much better than the “dark days” Paltrow wrote about in her Vogue essay. During those times, she wrote, “I struggled to imagine what my life would be. I wasn’t sure how a mother goes about untangling herself from the man with whom her DNA has co-mingled. It seemed impossible, that kind of extraction or extrication.”
Paltrow went on, “Looking back, it was probably the most challenging year of my life. 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?”
Perhaps understandably, Paltrow was still pretty unhappy about the ridicule “conscious uncoupling” came in for. She wrote in the essay, “We knew that the piece [about the divorce] would generate a lot of attention — a celebrity couple ending their relationship always does — but I never could have anticipated what came next.”
Paltrow was hurt by the backlash. She wrote, “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.”
For a long time now Paltrow’s had to defend her use of the phrase. In 2019 she went on the podcast Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd and said the criticism felt like, “a layer of the world turning on us about saying, essentially, we just want to be nice to each other and stay a family.”
Paltrow remembered, “It was brutal. I already felt like I had no skin on.” She herself believed that “conscious uncoupling” was “such a beautiful concept. You’re staring down the barrel of a divorce, the worst outcome possible.” She was completely unfamiliar with the difficulties as she’d never witnessed a divorce in her family.
However, Paltrow didn’t actually regret her use of “conscious uncoupling.” She said in her Vogue piece, “I have always been a person who says what I believe to be true and I have always been unafraid to say things that might be provocative. It comes from a place of wanting to incite change for good. To share a vulnerability that might help someone. To highlight something that might resonate with others.”
And having a consciously uncoupled blended family was working out great. Paltrow said, “Even when they are young, children understand that love takes multiple forms. I know my ex-husband was meant to be the father of my children, and I know my current husband 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.”
And Martin is still very much the father of their children. Even the global pandemic which hit in 2020 didn’t stop him seeing his kids. Paltrow mentioned how they coped during a January 2021 conversation with Jimmy Kimmel, saying, “I think Moses, my 14-year-old son, is having the hardest time with it.”
Paltrow told Kimmel, “I mean, what’s great is that he is a skateboarder, so he can do a lot of solo outside exercise and work on skills and tricks and stuff like that, but I think it’s very hard to be 14. As you know, and all the parents that are watching your show know — it’s tough on the ones that are still in the most intense developmental stages, I sort of observe.”
Martin not only showed up to co-parent the kids, he brought someone else with him as well. During the summer of 2020 he was seen on the beach with his children and with Dakota Johnson, who looked perfectly happy to be spending time with them. It’s not the first time they’ve all been spotted together either.
But Paltrow has made it clear she has no jealousy whatsoever about Johnson. In 2020 she told Harper’s Bazaar magazine, “I love her. I can see how it would seem weird because it’s sort of unconventional. But I think, in this case, just having passed through it iteratively, I just adore her.”
In February 2021 reported that Martin and Johnson can frequently be seen going to Paltrow and Falchuk’s home for Sunday dinner and hanging out with the kids. Johnson has also been spotted with a ring on her finger, making people suspect a proposal is imminent. If there is a wedding, you can bet Paltrow will be invited to it.