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'Conscious uncoupling' of Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin confounds many (w/video)

  • Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Like any world unto itself, Hollywood has its own lexicon. But Gwyneth Paltrow's use of the term "conscious uncoupling" to describe her breakup with Chris Martin this week had even Hollywood veterans scratching their heads and reaching — metaphorically at least — for a dictionary.

Of course, there was snark, too. And, on the other hand, some real appreciation for the message and the way it was delivered — in a joint post from the actress and her rock-star husband on Paltrow's lifestyle website, goop. (Which — surprise! — crashed from the traffic.)

But before we get to that, let's start with the basics: What the heck does "conscious uncoupling" mean?

"I've never heard it, but it sounds like a phrase used by marriage therapists in Malibu," quipped Janice Min, editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

Pretty close, actually. The term was coined by a Los Angeles therapist and author, Katherine Woodward Thomas, who has created a five-step "Conscious Uncoupling" online process — to "release the trauma of a breakup, reclaim your power and reinvent your life."

Speaking by telephone Wednesday from Costa Rica, where she traveled to write her second book — called, not surprisingly, "Conscious Uncoupling" — Thomas explained that her goal was "to create a map for a couple to consciously complete a relationship — to have an honorable ending."

Thomas said that the assumption that people will have only one lifetime partner — and that anything else is a failure — comes from a time long ago when the lifespan was much shorter.

"I'm a fan of marriage, but I recognize that most people in their lives will have two to three longtime relationships — which means one to two breakups. And so we need to learn how to do this better," she said.

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