Would you take your ex-husband on a 'modern honeymoon' like Gwyneth Paltrow?
With Gwyneth Paltrow revealing that former husband Chris Martin joined her and her new husband on honeymoon, Liz Connor asks a relationship expert whether holidaying with an ex is healthy for children
SINCE they 'consciously uncoupled' in 2014, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have proved they might just have the most amicable divorce in history.
Rather than blasting their relationship on social media or penning heated breakup songs, the pair have stayed remarkably solid friends, with Paltrow jetting around the world to watch the Coldplay frontman perform live and inviting her ex over for cosy family gatherings at her LA home. The couple have even been known to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas together.
So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the Iron Man actress and her new husband Brad Falchuk were joined by her ex on what she describes as a "very modern" honeymoon.
The US actress married TV producer Falchuk back in September, and the newlyweds spent Christmas in the Maldives. Never one to go with the grain, though, Paltrow revealed on the US talk show Live With Kelly And Ryan that she was joined on the romantic getaway by a host of close family friends, as well as Chris Martin.
"We had a big family honeymoon over Christmas," she said. "My new husband, and his children, my children, my ex-husband, our best family friends. A very modern honeymoon."
The pair, who are parents to daughter Apple (14) and son Moses (12) say they have remained firm pals to set a good example for their children. "We just wanted to minimise the pain for the kids," said Goop CEO Paltrow. "They just want to see their parents around a dinner table, basically, so we try to keep that."
It's a lovely idea, if one that many of us couldn't imagine doing with our ex-partners. But aside from minimising the hassle of having to organise pick-ups and drop-offs, is it actually to your children's benefit to invite your ex-spouse on your honeymoon – or is the idea simply too close for comfort?
Counsellor and senior practice consultant Dee Holmes from Relate (relate.org.uk) says that a 'modern honeymoon' works in theory, but only if there is no lingering bad blood.
Basically, it's no use attempting to play happy families on a holiday with your ex if you're going to spend the duration making passive aggressive comments about upsets from the past.
"The thing about holidaying as a family is that it's absolutely fine if everybody is getting on OK," she says. To truly make the 'modern honeymoon' work, you need to have Paltrow and Martin levels of love and respect for one another – and avoid bickering at all costs.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, getting on together like a house on fire can be equally confusing for children, if boundaries aren't laid out beforehand. Holmes stresses that it's important that kids know that the holiday is not a sign that that mum and dad are getting back together, as this can cause further hurt.
"Kids may go on holiday with their separated parents for two weeks and think, 'Oh they're getting on really well, maybe they're going to get back together and life will return to how it was before the separation'," warns Holmes. Parents should be particularly mindful of this if the separation is still relatively fresh.
On a practical level too, it's really important to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the idea before booking. While you might be happy to spend two weeks with your ex and your new partner's children, your kids might not be so thrilled at the idea.
"Holidays are a chance for children to have time with their parents without all the problems going on," Holmes says. "When you have a new partner, you have to be aware of the expectations of everyone, especially if there are step-children involved.
"The reality is that your children may not want to go on holiday with other people – they may just want you to themselves. While you might like them, your child may not, and that's an area of friction – if they feel 'forced' to spend a holiday with mum or dad's new partners' children. Be realistic about whether kids are going to gel, especially if it's a combination who aren't together a lot."
If you're comfortable with an unconventional honeymoon though, there are ways you can holiday with your ex and children, and not feel completely on top of one another. Remember that you may feel differently about the idea once you are there, so it's important that everyone has the opportunity to get space from one another when they need it.
"If we're talking about holidaying together, that doesn't mean all being in the same villa for two weeks," says Holmes. "It could be you're in the same resort. Or it might mean you overlap.
"A hotel might be better be because you won't be sharing communal living space like lounges and kitchens, like you would in a villa. Finding what works for you is key. If you have separate caravans, the children can sleep in one caravan one night, and one in the other, for example," says Holmes.