Gwyneth Paltrow and the Pernicious Myth of the Perfect Divorce

Oh my. Now we have Gwyneth Paltrow, of all people, proudly proclaiming that she and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin have the “perfect” divorce. “He’s at my house every single day. We still have our family life.”

Paltrow says she thinks she and her Ex Martin, who split two years ago, “have contributed something positive to the culture of divorce.”

Good for them. If they’re together every day, and if, as she says, Martin would still “take a bullet” for her, that’s good news for their children. But let’s please not get this confused with the real world populated by real people getting real divorces.

My work is focused on divorce for couples who are able to be reasonably cooperative, and I certainly see more than my share of couples who still have a great deal of affection and respect for each other even as they work through the gritty details of their split-up, so you would expect me to be sympathetic with, even encouraging of, the rosy outlook about divorce Paltrow promotes. The problem is that it’s wildly unrealistic and therefore more likely to harm than help.

Divorce hurts; even the most cooperative divorce is full of searing pain for both spouses. It may be different in character and come at different times, but pain for both spouses is almost guaranteed in divorce.

Gwyneth and Chris have celebrity lifestyles that may allow them to adapt their schedules to spend as much time as they wish with their children, but most of us don’t. Taking care of children is difficult nowadays even in intact families; it becomes more challenging when the parents live in different households.

There’s every reason for couples who know they need to divorce to cooperate with each other, to stay in regular communication with each other, and even to laugh together as they work through the details of their divorce. But it won’t be perfect; it won’t even be pleasant. Arguing that it should be doesn’t “contribute something positive to the culture of divorce;” it just adds yet another way for divorcing couples to feel like they’ve failed.

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