When Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow split from her rock-star husband Chris Martin, the two attempted to paint their divorce as “conscious uncoupling.” With astronomical rates of divorce in show business, Paltrow and Martin wanted to paint the break-up–which tore apart their family of four–as a positive, or at least neutral, decision. The stars weren’t going through a messy divorce or separation; they were instead choosing to shift the nature of their relationship to a close friendship from what was once a romantic and legally binding union. Naturally Americans mocked the announcement, full well knowing that a friendship does not equal a marriage, not for the couple nor their two children.
What has slipped under the radar, however, is that Paltrow herself seems to understand this.
In a new interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK Paltrow admitted that which we all knew: divorce is devastating for all involved, no matter how much their PR spin doctors tried to convince us otherwise. She told Harper’s,
Of course, there are times when I think it would have been better if we had stayed married, which is always what your children want.
It isn’t just that children want their parents to stay together (or be together in the first place) because of the attachments they’ve formed. It’s that they also thrive in a two-parent household. According to Family Facts, a site run by The Heritage Foundation, “Compared with peers in intact families and those in stepfamilies or single-parent families where either the biological father or mother was present, children who lived in households where no biological parent was present fared less well with regard to 24 out of 30 indicators of emotional well-being and behavior. This was true even when demographic factors were held constant.”
Given the flippancy with which Paltrow treated the seriousness of divorce at the outset of her own, her latest admission in Harper’s is refreshing–and revealing. Paltrow might regret her own decision to part with Martin, for whom she may still have romantic feelings. But far more important than this, she has also reevaluated the entire premise of “conscious uncoupling.” The difference between being married and not being married is one of kind, not degree–no matter what type of postmodern, self-“empowered” spin you put on it. Let’s hope these comments and their implications for marriage and divorce get as much ink as the original divorce announcement.
By the way, we seem to be taking note of Paltrow as cultural indicator here on the IWF blog. Patrice has already commented on another aspect of Paltrow’s life in a post headlined “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Defying or (Re)Defining Feminism?”