Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have separated. So, who cares?

Posted at 9:33 AM, Mar 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-29 09:33:08-04

(CNN) — Breaking news: Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have separated. So, who cares?

Well, for many reasons, people seem to have strong reactions. I imagine some of that stems from the fact that Paltrow has at times perpetuated an ideal that seems impossible to replicate. Her lifestyle website, Goop, offers otherworldly solutions to problems only the uber-wealthy can afford to have. Goop proclaims, “Gwyneth started goop in the fall of 2008 to share all of life’s positives.”

Among the things it has shared: “For those of us who will be in or passing through any one of the Hamptons this summer, we’ve compiled a best of. And for those of you who aren’t/don’t/don’t care, check out our Turkish towel collaboration (I’m obsessed with these towels).”

She’s also worked very hard to keep up appearances, even going so far as to persuade her Hollywood friends to boycott Vanity Fair to ward off a potential expose of the couple’s marital woes.

And for another, many seem to be confused and riled up by the idea that the couple has said they haven’t separated but have instead “consciously uncoupled.”

On that final particular point, the opinions were clear:

Janice Min, editor of the Hollywood Reporter, said, “I’ve never heard it, but it sounds like a phrase used by marriage therapists in Malibu.”

“What deluded tosh” was the headline in a column in The Guardian.

And my friend Tony Katz, a contributor for the conservative site Rare, translated the phrase as “divorce for elitists.”

Apparently, though, it’s also a psychological term. According to New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine psychiatrist Gail Saltz, “it’s a nicer way of saying, ‘We’re getting a divorce,’ because it sounds prettier.”

Maybe it does, or maybe it sounds pretentious and overly precious.

Either way, I tend to think this is a goop — I mean good — thing.

A Hollywood divorce these days may yield plenty of tabloid fodder but not a whole lot of cultural or professional scorn. Hollywood, in fact, celebrates divorce — literally; celebrities often have “divorce parties” to celebrate their emancipation. And I doubt very much that anyone would stop seeing Paltrow’s movies (if they still do) or listen to Martin’s music (if they still do) simply because they’d split. Some of the top-grossing film actors in the country — Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Harrison Ford — have all been divorced, more than once, and with much press coverage.

What I find refreshing in this story is the fact that this Hollywood couple spent, by their own account, a tremendous amount of time working on their marriage, and they were both incredibly reluctant to admit to its defeat.

Take into account Paltrow’s ire at Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, in trying to quash the rumors of their split. Take into account the fact that rather than call their separation a divorce, they decided on the softer term “conscious uncoupling.”

What all of this suggests is that this was a Hollywood couple that took tremendous pride in being married and having a nuclear family. It suggests that rather than admit their marriage was a failure, they preferred to retain the illusion that it was a success.

Maybe they did this for their two children. Maybe they did this for the press. Maybe they did this to maintain their image as two perfect people.

Regardless of the reasons, it’s an acknowledgment that they were proud of being married and ashamed of separating.

I’m no fan of Paltrow’s high-and-mighty persona. But in contrast to the Hollywood couples who show no shame in divorce, or multiple divorces, or marriages that last 72 days and are filmed for reality television, or in having children out of wedlock, this actually seems a reassuring adherence to traditional values and a refreshing show of humility.

In 2013, Paltrow said of their marriage, which was by all accounts flailing, “I mean, we’ve gone through terrible times where it’s been really, really hard, but I’ve sort of come through those times with a much deeper understanding of myself. And we’re still married. We worked through it. I think it’s easier to get divorced. But I think the more you can keep at it, the more you end up seeing the value in it. But sometimes, it is not easy.”

We should all applaud this Hollywood couple (for each, this is their only marriage) for having such devotion to their sacred union and their family, and for working — at all costs — to find another, less celebratory way of saying, “yes, we’ve called it quits.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of S.E. Cupp.

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