The real reason Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt split

Before Brangelina and "unconscious uncoupling," Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt were one of the most beautiful couples of the 1990s. They were both blond, blue-eyed, strong-jawed, and at one point, even had the same haircut. From 1994 to 1997, they were stunning and inseparable, and we all waited for their wedding with bated breath … but it never happened. (And if you're hoping for a reunion, tough luck: In June 2017, Paltrow flatly said, "Someone wants Brad Pitt and I to get back together. I think that ship has sailed.")

Why did this golden couple, who were referred to as a "happy Romeo and Juliet" and "a truly and deeply felt love" call it quits?

She needed to grow up

When Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt first got together in 1994, she was 22 to his 29. She explained to Howard Stern via (Us Weekly) in 2015, "I was such a kid, I was 22 when we met. It's taken me until 40 to get my head out of my a**. You can't make that decision [to get married] when you're 22 years old … I wasn't ready, and he was too good for me. I didn't know what I was doing."

Paltrow hinted that she was at fault for the split in a 2003 interview with Diane Sawyer for ABC News. "I'm so lucky that I spent time with Brad, somebody who was such a good person! Especially when I was, like, such a mess," she said. "My kind of internal stuff really tripped up that whole relationship, and I felt really responsible, and also like I was the architect of my own misery … I just made a big mess out of it … I was very upset for a long, long time [after the breakup]."

Jean Black, a makeup artist and longtime Pitt pal, told Entertainment Weekly, "I think there were a lot of things that made Brad feel as if Gwyneth probably wasn't ready for marriage."

She was shallow

Paltrow admitted to Howard Stern via (Us Weekly) in 2015 that some of the issues with her hunkier exes, including Pitt and Ben Affleck, was that she was being superficial. "I think that when you're in your twenties, you can get swept up in [good looks]," she said. "When you're a kid, you tend to be more shallow and you're also immature, so you think that being with a good looking person validates yourself in some kind of way. It's not true."

She lost her own identity

Paltrow explained to Vanity Fair (via The New York Daily News) in 2000 that she pretty much lost herself in her relationship with Pitt. "I think you have to keep yourself intact in order to have a healthy relationship, and I didn't," she admitted. "I loved every second of it, but it wasn't healthy. I wouldn't change anything. Even the things I hate most about myself for what happened — the darkest moment of it — I wouldn't change. Because it's made me what I am." To this day, no one has spoken about what the "darkest moment of it" actually was.

He was eager to settle down ...

Just two months prior to the split, Pitt told Rolling Stone (via People) how excited he was to tie the knot with Paltrow, even envisioning his wedding to the blond ingenue. "I can't wait, man … Walk down the aisle, wear the ring, kiss the bride. Oh, it's going to be great."

A source close to Pitt told People, "He was full-speed-ahead with the wedding. He did want to get married, and now he's upset."

... until he got cold feet

Insiders claimed that Pitt got cold feet when it was actually time to suit up and get married to Paltrow. A source told People, "Brad called it off. He changed his mind about a month ago. He got caught up in the frenzy of getting married, but he really didn't want to. He hasn't had a second to think about what's going on." A second source concurred, "He's commitment-shy. He needs to figure out what he wants."

She was obsessed with him

Paltrow may have been a bit unhealthily obsessed with Pitt while they were together. A crew member on Sliding Doors (1998) told People, "She was incredibly close to Brad. She was talking about him all the time … She would say, 'I need my Brad to be with me today, I am really missing him.' She was very, very keen to get back to Brad. She was saying that she couldn't wait." The crew member said she even drank coffee from a mug with Pitt's handsome mug on it.

She had previously told The Los Angeles Times (via People) that she fought off her hankering for Pitt for a while when they worked together on Se7en (1995), telling the paper, "I'm like, 'Are you sane? You can't get a crush on Brad Pitt. Get a hold of yourself.'"

Paltrow told Vanity Fair (via The New York Daily News) in 2000 that the breakup with Pitt changed her and shook her to the core. "It really changed my life. When we split up, something changed permanently in me," she said. "My heart sort of broke that day, and it will never be the same."

The spotlight brought too much pressure

While Paltrow and Pitt were together, they were constantly hounded by paparazzi. Pitt sued Playgirl magazine in 1997 over nude photos allegedly taken with a telephoto lens of him and Paltrow on vacation in the West Indies. Since her split from Pitt, with the exception of her brief on-again-off-again romance with Ben Affleck, Paltrow has made a point to keep her relationships, including her marriage to Chris Martin, under the radar and away from red carpets. Pitt, however, went on to marry Jennifer Aniston, then Angelina Jolie, embracing the power couple status until the marriages each fell apart.

Luke Wilson later hinted to Entertainment Weekly that Pitt's love of the limelight played a role in the split, describing Paltrow's ideal man thusly: "He doesn't have to grab all the attention in the room."

She put her career on hold for him

People reported that Paltrow turned down at least one role to be closer to Pitt while they were together, something she confirmed.

"We're just not doing movies at the same time. So, I finished my last film, Great Expectations (1998), in October and then went with him to Argentina while he did Seven Years in Tibet (1997) and I was there most of the time with him and he's gonna have a break while I do my next one and I'm gonna take a break when he does his," Paltrow told Entertainment Tonight in their golden-haired heyday. "So, you really need to do that I think in order to, you know, have a relationship, you know? It's too difficult to be separated, it really is."

Paltrow also told New York (via People) while she and Pitt were together, "I love acting, but it's not the most important thing to me."

They were terrified of divorcing

When Pitt and Paltrow were still engaged, she expressed that they both shunned the idea of divorce and took marriage incredibly seriously because of how they each were raised. "I take the institution extremely seriously. There are no divorces in my family either — and in his either, so this is not something — we've been together for quite some time, so this is not a rash decision," she told Entertainment Tonight. The pressure of avoiding a possible divorce later may have driven the pair to pull the curtain on the idea of marriage altogether … at least with one another.

She may have cheated

Radar Online reports that Paltrow may have cheated on Pitt during their relationship, pointing to her Sliding Doors (1998) co-star John Hannah. As for Pitt, insiders told People, "Brad is not a womanizer and he doesn't cheat. He always has one girlfriend." (Someone let Jennifer Aniston know.)

Their personalities are totally different

Sources close to Brad described him at the time of their split as "a pretty down-home basic boy" who enjoys life's simple pleasures and had a very down to Earth sensibility. Pitt was described as loving beer and country music. The actor was raised in the midwest by his father Bill, who owned a trucking company, and school counselor Jane — and they all celebrated his engagement to Paltrow together at Red Lobster.

Paltrow's goopy upbringing was very different from Pitt's down-home raising. The daughter of director Bruce Paltrow and actress Blythe Danner, Paltrow was raised in New York City's elite Upper East Side, went to an exclusive girls' academy, did regional theater with her mother, and was spent a great deal of time in Los Angeles growing up. Is it any wonder she went on to found Goop, a website that's been slammed for its pretension and privilege?

Paltrow hinted to Entertainment Weekly that their different personalities played a role in the relationship's demise. "People are, like, obsessed with knowing why [we broke up]. I think, 'What do you mean, why?' When two people aren't supposed to be together, they're not supposed to be together."