April 14, 2014 12:00 PM

They arrived for a weeklong stay in paradise with enough suitcases—and salad greens—to fill an SUV. But that was just a fraction of the baggage Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin brought with them when they landed on the narrow Bahamian island of Eleuthera on March 24. One day after touching down with their kids Apple, 9, and Moses, 8, the pair announced that they were ending their 10-year marriage “with hearts full of sadness.” Toting “plenty of food and a lot of wine,” says an observer, they retreated to a private home on the tiny neighboring island of Windermere. The four-bedroom estate, which rents for $10,500 a week, is “an isolated place so they didn’t have to deal” with the public fallout from the split, says a source close to Paltrow. As for their decision to spend spring break together, “they’re still a family,” says the source. “Nothing will ever change that.”

The island getaway echoed the unified stance Paltrow, 41, and Martin, 37, took in announcing their split on March 25. “In many ways we are closer than we have ever been,” they said in a joint statement on Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop. The separation, which they termed “conscious uncoupling” – a concept promoted by Paltrow’s self-help mentor Dr. Habib Sadeghi (see box)— followed a period in which the pair had been “working hard for well over a year,” both together and “some of it separated,” they stated. Paltrow herself had hinted that her home life was not as blissful as the picture-perfect idyll she promotes on Goop. “We’ve gone through terrible times where it’s been really, really hard,” she told PEOPLE last May. “Gwyneth has always been into therapy, and Chris has embraced it too,” says the source close to Paltrow. “They really tried to make the marriage work. But sometimes it’s best not to be married.”

If marriage in general is “not easy,” as Paltrow acknowledged last year, hers had long been the subject of exceptional scrutiny and pressure – including tabloid reports of escalating tensions, alleged infidelity (“ridiculous,” says the Paltrow source) and a planned Vanity Fair piece that spurred the actress’s ire. (The story, subsequently scrapped by the magazine, “is not the one anti-Gwynethites expect,” said editor Graydon Carter.) Several friends say the pair had a complicated and at times “open” relationship. “They were physically separated and emotionally,” says the insider. Another source says that frequent distances worked for them. “They always have been comfortable doing things apart,” says a friend who knows them both. “No one thought that was unusual.”

Yet few in their circle were shocked by the separation. “They have been on and off for many years,” says a close Paltrow friend. “The marriage was falling apart. It caused both of them tremendous pain, and they tried to fix it day after day.” Adds a source in their circle: “The writing was all over the walls. I’m surprised it took this long.”

The stars’ diverging personalities were one source of friction, say several insiders. Despite her prim, upper-crust image, Paltrow – who had a Hollywood upbringing as the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and the late producer Bruce Paltrow – “is earthy and open-minded,” says a friend who has worked closely with her. “I would describe her as a sort of pampered bohemian.” Says another friend: “She’s funnier than people realize. She’s not prissy – if anything she can be pretty crass.” And yet “you get the sense her crowd is a very jet-set, money crowd,” says the friend who knows them both, “and it’s not necessarily his crowd.”

Although Martin, who was raised in an upper-class family in southwest England, “comes from wealth and is a rock star, he’s the kind of person who is always in a T-shirt,” says another friend. “She’s much more glam.” The couple – who wed in a secret 2003 ceremony in Santa Barbara, Calif. – took pains to maintain their privacy by avoiding joint red carpet appearances. “It was a struggle for Chris to have this movie-star lifestyle,” says the insider. “He hated the paparazzi attention. They started to realize they didn’t have as much in common as they would have liked.”

There is no doubt, however, that both charismatic stars shared a firm command of the spotlight. “Women go crazy for Chris,” says a source, adding, “Gwyneth is also someone who likes attention. There is a narcissism there.” Another source who knows Paltrow says the Oscar winner has been increasingly anxious about aging and had been going out “flirting, feeling sexy just to feel like her beauty was not fleeting.”

Cheating rumors have dogged the couple for years, with tabloids variously linking Paltrow to South Florida billionaire Jeffrey Soffer, Glee producer Brad Falchuk and attorney Kevin Yorn. (Soffer and Falchuk declined to comment; Yorn denied the allegations.) Soffer “has a lot of power over women,” says a Palm Beach source. “He’s very seductive.” A Soffer family friend says the actress, who attended the reopening of the real estate mogul’s Fontainebleau hotel in 2008, “was staying at Jeff’s house for quite a while” around that time. “Something might have come from it had she been single. But she wasn’t.”

Meanwhile, the tabloids have linked Martin with a number of famous women, including actresses Kate Hudson and Kate Bosworth and model Helena Christensen. (Hudson and Christensen denied the allegations; Bosworth declined to comment.) A regular at the Beatrice Inn in Manhattan who often saw him there with Bosworth and actress Kirsten Dunst a few years ago says Martin and Dunst “used to dance all night. It didn’t look romantic. With Kate, they were flirty and closely talking.” A Paltrow friend says such chatter never bothered the star. “If Chris was playing around, Gwyneth didn’t care,” says the friend. “She’s never been jealous or territorial. Her philosophy is, ‘We’re both adults. We make our own choices.’ ” Asked for her thoughts on infidelity last September, Paltrow told refinery29.com, “No couple is the same, and as such, every couple takes on different challenges. I would like to think I would be forgiving and/or forgiven.”

Close friends with fellow power couple Jay Z and Beyoncé, Paltrow “is in awe of Jay and B’s relationship because they genuinely love doing things together,” says Paltrow’s friend. “She’s more of a ‘me’ than a ‘we.’ ” Still, Paltrow often praised Martin as a supportive spouse, and the two health-conscious stars were in sync about the Goop lifestyle, which emphasizes clean and organic living. “Chris parties the least of everyone in Coldplay,” says the friend. “He’s always been a person of moderation. Gwyneth says she learned a lot from him about how to have a healthy relationship with food.”

And yet major challenges persisted, including the conflicting demands of two high-powered careers. Most recently, Martin has been in the studio recording Coldplay’s upcoming album, while Paltrow wrapped a role in the action-comedy Mortdecai with Johnny Depp in January and has been working to build her Goop brand (see box). Although they had been apart in the past while he toured and she filmed, “they seemed to have a pretty mature handle on that crazy rotation of being superstars and parents,” says a source who knows them both. “But that balance, given the time they had to spend apart, clearly couldn’t sustain itself.”

When they first began dating in 2002 after being introduced at a Coldplay concert, “they fell for each other fast,” says the Paltrow insider. “It was very romantic: her joining him on tour, having an international lifestyle.” When they welcomed daughter Apple in 2004 and son Moses two years later, “adding kids to the mix made it all the better.”

Both stars have embraced their roles as parents: Paltrow, who shared her struggle with postpartum depression after Moses’s birth and was candid about suffering a subsequent miscarriage, has primarily taken supporting roles since becoming a mom. “All the stuff you hear about Gwyneth being high maintenance, that wasn’t evident at all with her parenting,” says a source who knows the couple. “Quite the opposite. She does mom things that any mom does – playdates and car runs.” Attending a food truck event in L.A. on March 7, the family “was adorable,” says Lori Barbera, co-owner of Baby’s Badass Burgers, where Paltrow, Martin and the kids stopped by for veggie sliders. “Chris was a really good dad, playing with the kids. They seemed like the perfect family.” And at a birthday party for Robert Downey Jr.‘s 2-year-old son Exton in Malibu several weeks ago, Paltrow and Martin “looked so happy,” says a fellow guest. “They were lovey-dovey and affectionate. The last thing you would have thought is that they would be announcing they’re divorcing.”

Now, as they proceed with the task of dividing their considerable assets (see box), the couple are committed to ensuring that their children’s lives remain as stable as possible. “They will always be a family,” says a source close to Paltrow. “The kids mean more to them than anything.”

*According to a 2013 estimate in Britain’s The Sunday Times

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