Catfights, Tabloids and Conscious Uncoupling: Divorce in the Public Eye

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Catfights, Tabloids and Conscious Uncoupling: Divorce in the Public Eye

When one thinks of Gwyneth Paltrow, you might think of Shakespeare in Love, Chris Martin or that candle. However nearly a decade ago, Gwyneth Paltrow changed the world with two words: conscious uncoupling.

Okay okay, Gwyneth did not come up with the term -which was introduced by Katherine Woodward Thomas in 2009, but her popularisation changed the way we talk about divorce – less drama more self-discovery.

Media at the time of Gwyneth’s divorce were cynical of the approach – filling column inches with opinion pieces on her methodology in place of the typical fodder. However, the Gwyneth effect has permeated through pop culture ever since. When Hollywood suffers heartache, the strategy is a jointly drafted message to the public at large, accepting the reality and asking for privacy. It is standard, it is respected – it works. It was this very approach that Reese Witherspoon took this year to announce her divorce from her husband Jim. It has become so de rigeur that couples who are closer to Tarporley than Tinseltown have adopted the approach as well.

And why not?  It saves on acrimony and shows a willingness to work together on difficult issues, which can help facilitate problem solving going forwards. This can be particularly helpful where there are small children, who will require a solid coparenting relationship.

More recently, we have seen an influx of infighting from celebrities divorcing. From police calls and brushes with paparazzi, to derogatory remarks and diss tracks – the era of the messy celebrity break ups appears to be upon us once again.

Disputes on divorce are not uncommon and for good reason. The breakdown of a relationship is an intense time, full of high emotion and low moods. However, intending divorcees should look to Gwyneth’s example where possible. Public shaming of a spouse is unlikely to ever cover one with glory, glorious though it may feel. And, once again, we have to think about the relationship which you need to have with that party going forward and the impact of this public shaming on any coparenting relationship.

Last year, Judge John McKendrick KC wrote a brilliant later to the children of two bickering parents in a reported case, telling the children he had told their parents to “stop the crap”. So when in doubt, just think – what would Gwyneth do?

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