What Gwyneth Paltrow's Exes Have Said About Her

This article contains allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Gwyneth Paltrow is no stranger to controversy. For instance, her brand Goop has been accused of profiting from pseudoscience. In 2020, her Netflix show about the wellness brand, "The Goop Lab," even drew criticism from the NHS in the U.K. for promoting controversial alternative medicine in a manner that they believed posed a potential risk to the health of viewers, per the BBC.

She also made headlines when a former optometrist filed a lawsuit against her for a skiing incident in 2016, alleging that she had crashed into him and caused permanent brain damage. "Mr. Sanderson categorically hit me on the ski slope, and that is the truth," Paltrow stated in her own testimony, per NBC News. After a much-publicized courtroom battle over who really was at fault for the collision, the trial finished on March 30 with Paltrow triumphantly winning a symbolic $1 in damages.

But she's also caused a stir in her personal life. Paltrow has dated her share of famous men and broken off an engagement, which she later apologized for on the "Girlboss" podcast (via HuffPost). "Oh my god! I've f***ed up so many relationships, so many," the actor exclaimed, adding that she was proud of herself as a friend and mother. "But I am at my potentially most vulnerable and f***ed up in the romantic slice of the pie." 

But what do Gwyneth Paltrow's famous exes have to say about her and their former relationships with the star? Here's everything we know. 

She briefly dated Robert Sean Leonard

When Gwyneth Paltrow was just a star on the rise, she started dating Robert Sean Leonard who found fame as one of the young actors in the 1989 hit film "Dead Poets Society." The two enjoyed a low-key but private relationship during the '90s. In 1998, Leonard opened up about the end of their romance to the New York Post (via E! Online), stating, "It was the funniest breakup I've ever had." After calling time on their relationship, Paltrow quickly moved on to matchmaking. "Within five minutes she was saying, 'You know who you'd like? I have this friend,'" he explained. "Gwyneth's a bit of a yenta, but she's a great, great friend."

Years later, he expressed empathy with how his ex dealt with the overwhelming forces of fame — something he admitted he couldn't do himself. "I remember watching Gwyneth Paltrow deliver her Oscar acceptance speech in floods of tears," he told Metro. "My God, how open. The poor girl was just so intimate with these unnamed millions of people."

And when Ethan Hawke posted a throwback picture of all the "Dead Poets Society" cast on Instagram in 2022 to commemorate the film's anniversary, Paltrow joined in the nostalgic fun. "Best movie ever. I wish I had made out with more of you than I did," she joked in a comment, hinting at her connection to Sean Leonard. Hawke replied, "We all wish the same." 

She stayed in touch with Donovan Leitch

Robert Sean Leonard wasn't the only promising young actor that Gwyneth Paltrow dated in the '90s. On Instagram in 2015, the star commemorated her relationship with Donovan Leitch in a throwback pic from 1992, pointing out how long it had been since they were a young couple in Hollywood.

Just two years earlier, people had speculated that the pair had been revisiting the past in a very real way when photos of them kissing at a baseball game were published by tabloids. The timing didn't look good for Paltrow who was still married to Chris Martin at the time. The couple announced their separation six months after the pictures came out. However, following news of the couple's breakup, Leitch spoke to the Daily Mail, where he clarified that they were just friends who had been platonic for decades.

'I was just saying goodbye to her. It was purely innocent," Leitch explained, insisting that the photos looked more intense than the situation had really been. "We were sitting in the owner's box in front of 30,000 people with her two children right next to us. That isn't exactly the setting for a secret liaison." He added that Paltrow had to cope with the non-stop intrusion of paparazzi wherever she went. "I consider her to be one of my closest friends," he elaborated. "We have tons of great friends in common."

Brad Pitt loved her dad

Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt dated from 1994 to 1997. And as the actor later reflected, he would have loved to marry into her family thanks to the connection he shared with her dad, Bruce, a director, and producer. "I felt that same kind of guidance that you would get from a coach or a mentor," he said in a Goop interview. Pitt also admitted that Paltrow's family introduced him to life's finer things like cashmere and expensive wines. "Hanging out with both of you sanded off some of my rough country edges," he observed. 

Additionally, the actor admired Bruce's parenting and how he encouraged his children. "You guys were so funny together, ripping across the table, which was a rarity that I hadn't experienced much, and I loved it," Pitt explained. "The fun you guys had was infectious." According to Paltrow, the love was reciprocated.

Pitt has also spoken about how he had to threaten Harvey Weinstein on Paltrow's behalf while they were dating. "At that moment, I was just a boy from the Ozarks on the playground and that's how we confronted things," Pitt told CNN's Christiane Amanpour about confronting the Hollywood producer after Paltrow allegedly had a creepy hotel encounter with him in 1995. Pitt claimed he had promised to kill the producer if he kept making her uncomfortable. "I just wanted to make sure nothing was going to happen further because she was going to do two films [with him]."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

They broke off their engagement

Despite being one of Hollywood's most beloved A-list couples, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt called off their upcoming wedding in 1997. "They have been broken up for a couple of weeks now," Pitt's publicist told the New York Post (via People). "It's not because of any one specific event." Still, in 2015, Paltrow admitted that it was probably due to her young age. At the time of their separation, she was 24 and he was 33. "I think I was a kid and I wasn't ready," she told "The Howard Stern Show." "... I honestly do think I was too young and didn't know what I was doing."

Years later, the pair insisted that they still loved each other and had remained friends. However, as Paltrow admitted to Entertainment Tonight in 2022, it took a while for them to get there and they certainly weren't pals in the years directly following the breakup. They reconnected around 2003 or 2004 and managed to stay in contact through the next two decades. "I adore him," she proclaimed. "He's an amazing person, and he's a great entrepreneur, and such a creative, and such a good person." Pitt echoed the sentiment in an interview on Goop, telling his former "Se7en" co-star that he loved her. "And it's lovely to have you as a friend now," he observed.

Ben Affleck appreciated their differences

After splitting from Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow found love on the set of her next movie, "Shakespeare in Love," which helped her snag an Academy Award as well as a boyfriend. At the time, Ben Affleck was an up-and-coming star who Paltrow encouraged to take more serious and challenging roles. "He's capable of so much more," she insisted to The New York Times in 2000, referencing some of his then-recent film credits like "Pearl Harbor" or "Armageddon" as examples of roles that failed to challenge him as an actor.

To the outside world, Paltrow and the Boston native, who was known for his drinking and gambling, made an unlikely couple. "The germ grass and meditation ... that is not my thing," Affleck joked to the Mirror a year later, following their breakup. "[She] is much more evolved than I am. She is closer to inner peace, whereas I have a very difficult time sitting still."

And Paltrow's parents weren't over the moon about this new boyfriend, as she later shared on "The Howard Stern Show." "I think they appreciated how he's super intelligent and he's really, really talented and he's funny, but he wasn't in a good place in his life to have a girlfriend," she admitted. Admittedly, her family also never warmed to Affleck as they had with Pitt. "I think they were okay ... with us not being [together]," she said.

Affleck and Paltrow had an on-off relationship

After a few years of dating on and off, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck finally called it quits. However, that wasn't the last time they saw each other as they filmed the movie "Bounce" together after breaking up. "Of course, I found the love scenes with Gwyneth awkward," he admitted to the Mirror while promoting the movie in 2001. "Don't you think you would have found it awkward?" However, despite the challenge, Affleck made it clear that he respected Paltrow's professionalism. "She's not a vindictive person, and she's not bitter or spiteful. She's just got enormous depth of spirit and soul," the actor insisted, adding that she was more mature than most people. He also shared that he wanted to stay friends and that he wasn't sure why the relationship ended. "It's just too complicated and too personal — and she'd kill me if I said any more," Affleck added.

Paltrow later said that she wasn't surprised when Affleck and his next girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, broke off their engagement. "Ben makes life tough for himself," Paltrow explained to ABC News in 2003, implying that his personal issues were probably the reason for the breakup. "He's got a lot of complication ... He really is a great guy, so I hope he sorts himself out." She also commented on the breakdown of her own relationship with Affleck, enigmatically stating, "I just think we have a very different sort of value system."

Chris Martin called Paltrow his girlfriend before they met

Even celebrities like Chris Martin joke about dating their favorite Hollywood stars. The difference is that the musician actually managed to make it a reality in 2002 when he was performing in front of thousands at a Coldplay concert in Los Angeles. "An actress that he had a crush on was supposed to come to the concert," Paltrow later explained to The Sun (via Digital Spy). "When she didn't show up, he was so annoyed that he said, 'Oh, this is for my girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow.'" There was so much press about the quip that they ended up actually meeting for the first time at another concert. Martin's assistant reportedly came to her seat and said, "'This is so crazy, but will you come back and say hello afterward?" Paltrow recalled, "And that was it."

The famous pair quickly formed a connection during that fateful first meeting. Martin was just as enamored when they actually started dating and eventually married in December 2003, secretly tying the knot in a private Santa Barbara wedding. During an appearance on "CBS Sunday Morning" (via E! News), he even compared their marriage to winning the lottery, commenting, "From being a loser to going out with an Oscar winner? It's a giant leap." 

The Coldplay frontman also expressed his devotion through his music. He wrote the song "Fix You" for Paltrow while she was still mourning her father Bruce's untimely death from cancer in 2002.

They consciously uncoupled in 2014

Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow created a viral phrase when they announced their unorthodox separation through her Goop website (via ABC News). In a post titled, "Consciously Uncoupling," the pair shared a statement that read, "It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate." In a follow-up essay shared on Goop, Paltrow's editors elaborated on what the new age term actually meant. "Divorce is a traumatic and difficult decision ... However, when the whole concept of marriage and divorce is reexamined, there's actually something far more powerful — and positive — at play." 

The pair insisted that there were no villains in their relationship and that they would be focusing on growing spiritually for the sake of their children. "When we understand that both are actually partners in each other's spiritual progress, animosity dissolves much quicker," the essay continued, adding that this would create a better atmosphere for co-parenting.

Despite their best intentions, the Coldplay frontman later admitted that he went through a period of depression for a year after the split. In a 2016 interview with The Times, Martin spoke about how he came to terms with his emotions. "I still wake up down a lot of days," he confessed. But the musician also discussed the importance of him and Paltrow staying in each other's lives for the sake of the kids and described how she had even contributed vocals to his most recent album. "It's funny. I don't think about that word very often — divorce," he reflected. "... I see it as more like you meet someone, you have some time together, and things just move through."

She met her second husband on the set of Glee

As Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow joked in their Goop interview together, it took a while for her to find the right Brad. "Oh man, everything works out, doesn't it?" the "Fight Club" star joked. Brad Falchuk was a co-creator of "Glee" and Paltrow was a guest star on the hit musical TV show when they met, appearing in the role that would win her an Emmy award. A source told Us Weekly that while things began professionally for the pair, they started dating in 2014, a few months after she had divorced Chris Martin. Falchuk had also recently left a marriage of 10 years at the time.

Like her other romantic partners, Falchuk hasn't been shy about singing Paltrow's praises. "This is the most beautiful woman of all time and today is her birthday. We are all so lucky that she came into the world (but no one is luckier than me)," he wrote on Instagram in 2017. They announced their engagement a year later with a glamorous party. In a joint statement published by AP, they shared, "We feel incredibly lucky to have come together at this juncture in our lives when our collective successes and failures can serve as building blocks for a healthy and happy relationship." 

They tied the knot in September of that year and brought their families together into a co-parenting situation that is, of course, Goop-approved.