April 14, 2014 12:00 PM

When I heard the news that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin had split, two questions came to mind: Should this be our cover this week? And what the heck is “conscious uncoupling”?

But to be honest, their announcement also made me sad. I’ve been there. Most of us have. We fall in love, we struggle with disillusionment, we do our best to make it work, and when it finally comes time to separate from the person we planned on growing old with, we grapple the best we can with the fear of being alone and a profound sense of failure. The feelings are universal and inescapable, so I’ve been a little surprised at the glee and schadenfreude with which Gwyneth’s detractors have greeted the news of her split. Reading the vitriol online, you’d think Gwyneth didn’t have a friend, or a fan, in the world.

That’s not true, of course. Her supporters are out there, just relatively quiet. (When she graced the cover of PEOPLE’s Most Beautiful issue last year, it sold very well despite a chorus of anti-Gwyneth complaints.) She can seem maddeningly tone-deaf, like when she talks about the difficulties of being a movie-star mom, or sells $315 pillows on her lifestyle site Goop. But Gwyneth is true to herself, for better or worse, and seems to have no interest in jumping through hoops just to make us like her. That’s a refreshing quality in an industry where images are so carefully cultivated. It’s also what makes Gwyneth such a fascinating, divisive star. Love her or not, you can’t stop watching.


Follow me on Twitter @MrJessCagle

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