Even Gwyneth Paltrow thought the phrase “conscious uncoupling” was ridiculous at first.
“I had never heard of the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling,’” the Goop founder wrote in an essay detailing the end of her marriage for British Vogue. “Frankly, the term sounded a bit full of itself, painfully progressive and hard to swallow. It was an idea introduced to us by our therapist, the man who helped us architect our new future.
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“I was intrigued, less by the phrase, but by the sentiment," she wrote. "Was there a world where we could break up and not lose everything? Could we be a family, even though we were not a couple? We decided to try.”
Paltrow, who has two kids with Martin, daughter Apple, 16, and son Moses, 14, has since gotten remarried to Brad Falchuk. She recalled how she and Martin eventually used the term when announcing the news of their breakup to the world, unaware of the backlash they would receive.
“With a plan in place, we published a newsletter on Goop, simply called 'conscious uncoupling.' It was our announcement to the public that we were ending our marriage," she wrote.
“We knew that the piece would generate a lot of attention — a celebrity couple ending their relationship always does — but I never could have anticipated what came next,” she added.
“The public’s surprise gave way quickly to ire and derision. A strange combination of mockery and anger that I had never seen. I was already pretty tattered from what had been a tough year. Frankly, the intensity of the response saw me bury my head in the sand deeper than I ever had in my very public life.”
Eventually, Paltrow, 47, who once told Howard Stern that "conscious uncoupling" is a "goofy term," said public opinion shifted and the animosity many had toward her for appearing snobbish in using the phrase began to morph into something else entirely.
“Conscious uncoupling/separation/divorce, whatever you want to call it, has now permeated the break-up culture. Instead of people approaching me with, ‘Why did you say that?’, they now approach me with, ‘How do you do that?’” she wrote.
Paltrow says the whole idea of "conscious uncoupling" has meaning for anyone enduring a breakup.
“It’s very different for every couple but, for me, it meant, more than anything, being accountable for my own part in the dissolution of the relationship," she wrote.
"There existed aspects of myself I was trying to heal through this relationship that I wasn’t honest with myself about. I had been blind, guarded, invulnerable, intolerant. I had to admit that and be brave enough to share it.”
As for her union with Martin, Paltrow can pinpoint the moment when she realized it was over, saying they were vacationing in Italy when she turned 38.
"What I do remember is that it felt almost involuntary, like the ring of a bell that has sounded and cannot be undone. The inadvertent release of a helium balloon into the sky," she wrote.
"I tried to quell that knowing, to push it far down. I tried to convince myself it had been a fleeting thought, that marriage is complicated and ebbed and flowed. But I knew it. It was in my bones.
"At first, I was moderately successful at turning the volume down on that knowledge. It would be years until we said the words aloud. But, that weekend, a dam had cracked just enough to hear the unrelenting trickle of truth. And it grew louder until it was all I could hear."