Few fell over from shock at this week’s announcement that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have separated. The news took a while to percolate up though the web, but by Wednesday morning it was everywhere. Trying to click on anything Paltrow or Martin related resulted in long load times.
The reason for the click fest wasn’t the split but the terminology they used for the announcement. “Conscious uncoupling” piqued our curiosity. Many of the first, eager to catch the click fest articles assumed that Paltrow and Martin coined the term. They are both known for pretentious words, Paltrow though her lifestyle advice for the privileged at her site GOOP and Martin though his lyrical compositions for his band Coldplay. It didn’t seem like a stretch. But “conscious uncoupling” is the new language of the good divorce, which didn’t turn out to be as good as it sounded, hence the need for new language.
Paltrow’s advisors in conscious uncoupling, Dr. Habib Sadeghi D.O. of Be Hive of Healing and his current wife Dr. Sherry Sami, a pediatric dentist, wrote a 2000-word explanatory essay, Be, accompanying Paltrow’s GOOP post. They claim that humans have not adapted to their recent longevity and therefore “living happily ever after for the length of a 21st century lifetime should not be the yardstick by which we define a successful intimate relationship[.]”
But the yardstick expectation doesn’t cause marital problems, the work expectations do. Sadeghi and Sami correctly identify this real problem in their section “End of the Honeymoon.” Many do enter into marriage thinking that if we have found the right partner then things will be easy. When we discover that marriage isn’t easy then we often get angry and defensive. But instead of proposing the rather obvious solution that we accept that marriage can be difficult and then starting to adapt by working with our partner to navigate life together, Be veers off into an insect analogy [emphasis mine]:
Intimacy & Insects
To understand what life is really like living with an external shield, we have to examine the experts: Insects. Beetles, grasshoppers, and all other insects have an exoskeleton. The structure that protects and supports their body is on the outside. Not only are they stuck in a rigid, unchanging form that provides no flexibility, they are also at the mercy of their environment. If they find themselves under the heel of a shoe, it’s all over. That’s not the only downside: Exoskeletons can calcify, leading to buildup and more rigidity….
Life is a spiritual exercise in evolving from an exoskeleton for support and survival to an endoskeleton. Think about it. When we get our emotional support and wellbeing from outside ourselves, everything someone says or does can set us off and ruin our day. Since we can’t control or predict what another person does, our moods are at the mercy of our environment. We can’t adapt to the situation if our intimate partner doesn’t behave the way we think they should.
Besides the ridiculous and over-stretched analogy of insect exoskeletons and emotional shells, the assertion that we can’t adapt if our partner doesn’t behave as we think they should—that’s not an inability to adapt. It is refusal to adapt. It says, “I will only adapt if I don’t have to be the one to adapt.” It is pretentious phrasing for ‘do things my way or I’m leaving.’
The piece goes downhill fast from there and never seems to realize that all of the goals about growing and finding strength to endure the trials life throws our way, those can be reached by applying the ‘grow an endoskeleton’ advice to the partnership rather than the self.
Be is a setup for failure. No partnership of any sort will survive that kind of self-centered and immature reasoning for long. Following advice like this, I’m actually surprised that Paltrow and Martin made it 10 years.