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Defining the Breakup and Consciously Uncoupling: Paltrow and Martin

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GWYNETH PALTROW CHRIS MARTIN
Colin Young-Wolff/Invision/AP

Breakups are not an uncommon occurrence in Hollywood. Every day TMZ and similar entertainment news outlets report on the latest failed Hollywood relationship. Given the pressures associated with being in the spotlight, being an old, married Hollywood couple is a coveted status for those entertainers fortunate enough to stay together through films, television shows, albums and undesired paparazzi attention. Hollywood power couple Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's recent announcement of their split has sent shock waves across the digital world. More shocking than the dissolution of their 11-year marriage, however, is the terminology Paltrow used to describe the breakup.

According to Paltrow's announcement, she and Martin are going the process of consciously uncoupling. While many individuals are mocking Gwyneth Paltrow's sophisticated terminology to describe her separation and calling for the introduction of a new Facebook relationship status, her characterization of the dissolution of her relationship and the breakup process is accurate. Moreover, uncoupling is a recognized sociological phenomenon.

Diane Vaughan's Uncoupling brought widespread recognition to the concept of uncoupling and understanding breaking up as a process. According to Vaughan, uncoupling is the process in which individual members of a couple, usually one initially, begin to recognize that the relationship is no longer fulfilling their needs. Upon recognizing their dissatisfaction, the individual will begin the process of redefining the relationship and negotiating an individual identity separate from their coupled identity. Although potentially internal, the redefinition and negotiation processes possess a conscious element. Ultimately, the other partner will learn of their partner's dissatisfaction and too must engage in the conscious process of defining a new individual identity upon separation. In other words, couples must consciously uncouple.

Unlike many couples, however, Paltrow and Martin must undergo the painful process of uncoupling in front of a very critical media. Given that breakups are as nuanced as the term consciously uncoupling indicates, Paltrow's ability to describe her separation in a less popularly recognized manner is courageous and insightful. Ideally, the media can cut Gwyneth some slack for her insights and respect her and Martin during their transition from couple to individuals.