Gwyneth & Chris Parting Ways: I Think I Saw This Coming

Chris Martin


So, it’s just been reported that Gwyneth Paltrow, the Oscar-winning actor, and Chris Martin, the Grammy-winning frontman of Coldplay, have separated. As one of Hollywood’s highest profile celebrity couples – who were together for 11-plus years, making them one of the more enduring examples of celeb marital harmony – this news is being received with unfiltered shock from most quarters.


However, there were clues that this was going to happen sooner rather than later. That is, if you were paying attention to the drips and drops about their personal lives that they let us in on. Alright fine, I admit I stalked them – let’s just get that over with so I can explain to you why this should not have come as that much of a surprise.


Don’t take any of this in the wrong vein – I don’t have insider access to their private lives, and for all I know this speculation could be way off the mark. My objective here is to show you how to predict the future by carefully observing current trends and extrapolating, by means of a case study that you can all relate to. Applied properly, by examining the evidence carefully, reading between the lines, and hypothesizing appropriately, you could have predicted Russia’s annexation of Crimea as soon as revolutionary fervor hit the streets of Kiev last year. So yeah, this speculation is completely academic in nature.




Nothing irks Hollywood as much as a beautiful, happily-married, high-profile couple staying that way forever (looking at you, Katy and Russell). Show-business and pop music are the wrong occupations if you have any interest in maintaining a stable family. Furthermore, they’re all constantly looking for ways to drive you and your loving partner apart – endlessly picking on a personal bone of contention during interviews, highlighting differences rather than common purpose, endlessly reinforcing divorce/separation as the new normal, and so on…


And while Martin and Paltrow have done their best to minimize this interference, questions would always be raised when they did not show up to an awards ceremony together, or the fact that Chris almost never talks about his personal life on stage or during interviews, leading many to incorrectly assume trouble in paradise. “He doesn’t want to talk about it – things must be awkward at home.” The deliberate choice of privacy for a celebrity couple is an alien concept in entertainment reporting.


This is why it pleasantly surprised most ordinary folk that they had managed to remain together for so long. It gives aspiring entertainers and musicians enduring hope that they may not have to sacrifice everything in pursuit of recognition and acclaim.


Opposites Attract


Let’s be clear on this: Chris and Gwyneth are pretty different in terms of attitudes, upbringing, and personality. Much like the other power couple, Jay-Z and Beyonce (who are close friends of Chris and Gwyneth by the way), one is a neurotic, obsessive-compulsive sensitive person who is endlessly introspective, while the other has an easygoing, relaxed persona with a gift for natural extroversion. (I’ll leave you to figure out who is what in both marriages as a homework assignment.)


The 7-Year Itch


You all know about this one. d/dt of happiness and satisfaction in a typical marriage becomes negative after 7 years, so you’re already fighting an uphill battle after by the 11th year. Is there need of further embellishment?


Chris Martin


On a side note, Guy Berryman, the bassist who separated from his partner in 2007, before guitarist Jonny Buckland got married to his longtime girlfriend in 2011 – his engagement earlier this week, to a Dutch supermodel he’d been going out with for some time. (Handsome musicians tend to have lofty standards.) Perhaps Coldplay secretly adhere to a bizarre rule that states no more than 75% of members may be married at any given time? That would explain everything…


The Truncated Tour


Coldplay’s best-selling – though not necessarily – Mylo Xyloto tour was cut short in 2012. The Latin American dates were initially postponed, and then abruptly cancelled. While no official reason was specified, other than the generic “circumstances beyond our control”, most assumed it had something to do with label change (from EMI to Atlantic, after their fairly standard five-album Parlophone contract expired in 2011, assisted by EMI’s extensive restructuring and overhaul) or even lack of profitability. Some of the more spiteful Latino fans went as far as to claim that Coldplay were not interested in revisiting their part of the world anymore.


You won’t believe me now, but I had guessed at the time – correctly in hindsight, I think – that this had something to do with their families. It is extremely difficult for dependents to accompany you on a world tour with an exhausting schedule that rewards only you. As anyone who has been on even a limited countrywide tour can attest, life on the road for a performer is little better than that of the roadies who accompany him/her. You don’t eat or sleep well most of the time, and if you are married with kids, forget about attempting to give them any sort of coherent schooling if they tag along with you. It’s the life of a circus troupe, basically.


Now Coldplay are the biggest band in the world, and Mylo Xyloto was one of the most ambitious tours ever. Frequent absences of one parent for over a year every couple of years can take its toll on any family, let alone one under such a high degree of scrutiny. When Martin let slip in Australia that there was a possibility of the band “taking a three-year break”, the press went into its usual Coldplay-breakup-rumor frenzy but more importantly, the disgruntled Latin Americans were being joined by fans from other parts of the globe.


Coldplay are no Weezer: if there is one thing the self-deprecating, oversensitive Chris cannot tolerate, it is fans who are not totally enamored of his band at all times. That is one of the reasons why Coldplay’s love-them-or-hate-them dynamic still endures, despite a back-catalog stupendous enough to keep an arena fixated for two hours straight.


Of course, he would later clarify that this “three-year break” referred to the amount of time that usually passes between successive iterations of LP-promoting world tours. Smooth recovery there Chris, but you’d already revealed your hand, at least to me.


Chris Martin


Vegan Warrior


When you examine Chris’s attitude and temperament before stardom and Hollywood matrimony, he does not come across as the type of guy who would regularly shove Make Trade Fair and Oxfam down our throats. A typically earnest English country boy, he could be compared to an approachable version of Thom Yorke in the early years of Coldplay. He would drink, smoke, and occasionally partake in recreational drugs like any other rock musician. Most people are unaware that Chris temporarily fired his drummer Will Champion in 1999 over an inconsequential disagreement. Will is the same intimidating dude who now exercises complete control over all aspects of Coldplay, possessing unilateral powers to veto any song off an album.


I could write a whole book about the internal politics of Coldplay, but the point I want to emphasize here is that marrying Paltrow dramatically changed him. It started with giving up smoking altogether (the hard drugs had already been abandoned post the Will-gate incident). Fair enough – I would sacrifice no less for my own family. Next to go was alcohol – also understandable. Then it was meat-free Mondays, and not long after Chris had become a freaking vegan who also espoused gluten-free diets.


Jesus. And this was along with his increasingly visible support of all sorts of artistically fashionable causes, from Palestinian independence to fair trade. Though in all fairness, he has scaled back on that sort of front-stage activism in recent years, letting fans experience baggage-free and opinion-neutral music once more.


His mates have not been spared either. Jonny, Chris’s best friend – and also the most impressionable, vulnerable, and indeed likable member of Coldplay – has adopted many of these practices as well. Nobody can change a man like that except his wife, and Chris has shown remarkable flexibility in adapting his lifestyle to make the marriage work. Now, one makes endless compromises in any marriage, but at some point you have to give your spouse the freedom and space to make their own choices.


London to L.A.


Since their quickly-arranged marriage in 2003, the couple have spent the majority of their time in London, choosing to raise and school their two kids in the British system. Good decision. London may be crowded, full of snobs and shady customers after dark, but it is still leagues better than the fake utopia of Hollywood. Celebs who choose to raise their teenagers in Glamour City inevitably expose them to the wrong sort of friends with the wrong sort of inclinations (cough-Lindsay-cough), and the result is essentially a generation of spoiled, substance-abusing brats with little education and poor mental health.


So it came as a great surprise to me – and one that ultimately led me to anticipate this separation – when Paltrow admitted she was moving the kids to Los Angeles last year. The same kids who were just beginning to enter their vulnerable preteen years and are extremely susceptible to the Lohan syndrome. Career-wise it makes the most sense: Paltrow, after having reignited her hiatused career with the Iron Man franchise, needed to be closer to her industry if she wanted a serious shot at a second blaze of glory. And L.A. is the perfect base for any band that wants to manufacture corporate hits a la Maroon 5.


It’s possible Chris did not share this rose-tinted view of the situation. I’m not saying this was the chief culprit, but as a said, it’s not one thing or the other, it’s all things all at once.


But What About…?


No doubt you will (or already have) read articles speculating on the real reasons behind this unfortunate split. Many of them will undoubtedly turn their attention to the cheating rumors that have swirled around Paltrow over the past couple of years.


Nonsense. Gwyneth doesn’t strike me as the type to fool around, even if she is conveniently networked with tons of people who are attracted to her. By all accounts there is no disputing her family-first approach to life and career, no matter what. I still have tremendous respect for how she has handled every bit of this saga.


Ah, those darned entertainment journals and gossip tabloids… always looking for the least-common-denominator way of profiting from juicy rumors. Their contributors are no match for the intellect that this humble servant of yours can employ on a piece like this. No matter – if you learn to use your critical thinking skills properly from now on, you are guaranteed to be insulated from shocks like these in the future.





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