In 2014, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their decision to “consciously uncouple”—aka divorce, but make it Gwyenth Paltrow.
In their words, “conscious uncoupling brings wholeness to the spirits of both people who choose to recognize each other as their teacher. If they do, the gift they receive from their time together will neutralize the negative internal object that was the real cause of their pain in the relationship.”
This mindset spawned a cultural wave of overly civil breakups in Hollywood (not to mention a good amount of memes and social commentary).
“Consciously uncoupling” was actually coined by therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, and describes a five-step process of ending a relationship with “intention” and “enlightenment” and “manifesting love” … or some shit.
Basically, it’s a breakup, only one that’s been dressed up to look like some sort of spiritual journey between two people who no longer want to sleep together. It’s the flowery equivalent of saying “it was mutual!” because nothing screams “mutual breakup” like a catchy, new phrase. And besides, saying “we’re getting a divorce, but don’t worry, we’re cool,” is about as convincing as Kim Kardashian claiming she’s never had plastic surgery. (Good one, Kim.)
Thanks to Gwyneth’s divorce announcement, the phrase quickly went viral and the public reaction was equal parts confusion and mockery. (To be fair, it’s hard not to mock someone who advocates putting jade eggs up your vagina.)
But then, slowly, it started to become the Hollywood norm. And soon enough, it seemed like every single celeb going through a breakup was adopting the Goop guru’s playbook and getting consciously uncoupled. They might not have used those words, per say, but that same, unapologetically amicable sentiment is there.
Take Kate Bosworth and Michael Polish, for example. When they ended their 8-year marriage in 2021, the announcement read more like a love letter than a separation post. (Don’t believe me? Here’s a snippet of said post: “Our eyes look more deeply into one another, with more courage now. In the process of letting go, we have come to acknowledge that our love will never end.”)
In their joint statement, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux called themselves “two best friends” who would continue their “cherished friendship” after getting divorced. Moreover, they’ve actually done that over the years.
Similarly, Florence Pugh and Zach Braff have had a number of friendly exchanges on social media since their 3-year relationship ended in 2022.
But perhaps, the most consciously uncoupled divorce statement came from Jason Momoa and Lisa Bonet who shared that after 16 years together, they planned to “free each other to be who we are learning to become.”
And, while these mature, civilized breakups are admirable, they’re also a bit… nauseating. Celebrities already make us feel bad about ourselves, what with being rich and famous and beautiful, but to add being self-assured in the face of heartbreak is taking it too far.
Which is why I, for one, am happy to see that this era of conscious uncoupling is coming to an end, ushering in the much more relatable trend of ‘vengeful disconnecting.’ Unlike consciously uncoupling, which is done with love and respect, it’s a way of breaking up in a messier fashion, one that doesn’t shy away from ugly crying or being unabashedly petty.
Miley Cyrus hinted at some divorce drama in her new song, “Flowers,” a badass self-love anthem about the power of giving yourself everything you need. She might not have outright dissed her ex-husband, Liam Hemsworth, but she was definitely throwing some subtle shade. Not only are the lyrics a far cry from her previous breakup ballads (most notably, “Wrecking Ball”), she also released the song on January 13—which just so happens to be Liam’s birthday. Talk about a baller move.
Shakira, meanwhile, went all in with her song, “BZRP Music Session #53,” clearly aimed at her ex, Gerard Piqué. Sung in Spanish, the lyrics, which have been loosely translated online, are scathing. (The line, “I’m worth two 22-year-olds,” seems particularly damning given that Gerard’s new girlfriend is 23.)
Then there’s Megan Fox, who sent the internet into a tizzy last weekend thanks to a flurry of social media posts hinting at a possible breakup with Machine Gun Kelly. First, she deleted all photos of him on Instagram. Then, she posted a thirst-trap photo of herself in a black bodysuit with the Beyonce-inspired caption, “You can taste the dishonesty/ it’s all over your breath.” She also followed three people, including Eminem (you know, the rapper who’s had a long-standing beef with MGK) before deleting her Instagram altogether.
It’s unclear at this point whether we’ve actually heard the last of their blood-sucking, twin-flames manifested love story, but one thing is for sure: she’s leading the pack when it comes to vengeful disconnecting and I’m here for it.
Photo by Hunter Newton on Unsplash