Total Marriage Recall: Are We All Doomed to Divorce?

Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin

I wasn’t exactly surprised to learn last night that the Great Queen of Goopdom and her husband—that dude Chris Martin who is in a band—are divorcing, though the designation “conscious uncoupling” did have me reevaluating Gwynnie’s creative abilities and potential career as a poet. Or, perhaps, I wondered, she’s just really in on her own joke?

Nah, that would be too good, and something tells me that she truly believes in all of the Zen-laced-with-a-proper-thigh-gap jargon that she’s constantly shilling. If it makes her happy to believe that the good life can be found at the bottom of a green juice, than I’m not going to vehemently refute that happiness. Most of us get through life with a healthy dose of denial anyways, I just prefer mine to come in less insufferable shades (or so I think—erm, don’t correct me).

The Internet, however, was collectively appalled at the notion that this pretty blonde duo was forever disbanding—apparently forgetting how robotic and icy their relationship has always appeared in the public eye. I’ve always thought of them as attractive placeholders for romance in each other’s lives, while they attend to more pertinent duties like running an empire or touring the world. Though Coldplay consistently makes bank in the love song department, nothing about Chris and Gwyneth ever read to me as parallel to the mushier songs in the band’s oeuvre.

With that said, I’m not sure it’s fair to judge a couple on how they’re portrayed via reality-rigging media outlets like Us Weekly and People Magazine. Which, importantly, is a point that works against both my non-shock and other people’s apparent awe, reminding us of the oft-forgotten fact that nobody really knows a marriage except the two parties (give or take, because #polygamy) who comprise it.

Being a child of divorce myself—yes, yes, woe is me—I wasn’t exactly raised on a diet of marriage-as-be-all-and-end-all. On the dirty spectrum of divorce, my parent’s break-up wasn’t the worst, but they weren’t throwing a party to celebrate the matter either (a recent trend, apparently). I was also too young to really pick up on all the negative nuance that I’m sure was present at that time, and instead have had to slowly piece their ending back together somewhat shoddily as I’ve grown up. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, or, shall I say, unspoken details, that I’m not even sure I want to know.

That experience has made me inherently cynical about relationships, always questioning the hidden realities behind the more obvious decorum kept up on the surface. This, despite the fact that my father remarried, and I—crazily enough—love my stepmom. They seem happy—but does marriage itself seem easy and fun all the time? Not quite. So am I convinced that eternal coupledom is the route to take—an American Dream worth having? Not exactly.

But a huge part of me (studies have shown that I am 99% hopeless romantic) wants to believe it. It’s the story with the happy ending, and the easiest notion for all of us to swallow: that people are meant to pair off and be happy, that it’s possible to do so and succeed. Compare this to the possibility that it’s actually a deeply-ingrained societal ideal forced upon us, which inevitably drives people apart, and it’s not difficult to see why many people still deem marriage both a worthy, and fulfilling, pursuit.

Thus, when couples of a certain caliber—these celebrities that we’re endlessly projecting on to—reveal themselves to be incapable of playing marriage out until the very end, we often reel. What does this mean for marriage? We wonder, as if this divorce (in a sea of so many others) will be the one to tear down the establishment. We toy with the question for a few days, until we retreat back into the coziness of tradition and the sweet-nothings of the usual tabloid-bred justifications. They had special problems—not common problems—we’re made to think. She was probably unbearable, an ice queen—the “natural result” of her fame. He, then, was certainly weak, emasculated—perhaps he cheated to temper these flaws.

Whatever the stories, they will be relegated just enough into that separate sphere of celebrity to render them null in the real world. And while divorce may be far more accepted and prevalent in today’s world than it once was, many will continue to place marriage on a pedestal, one with nearly moral implications. Then, a few months down the line we’ll learn of another power couple (the holy ones, Jay-Z and Beyoncé?) ceasing to surfbort their way through life to the misguided mantras of “I Got You Babe.” Oh, shit, we’ll think—maybe love won’t pay the rent? But the song, of course, will end up being far too appealing to deny.

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