Glennon Doyle: ‘So many women feel caged by gender, sexuality, religion’

Glennon Doyle’s memoir inspired Adele – but do we all need to be ‘untamed’?

The marriage wasn’t unbearable, but it didn’t feel right any more. The lightbulb moment came when she realised she needed to think about what she truly wanted, rather than about what society had trained her to think she wanted. Also, she became aware that remaining in an unhappy marriage meant she wasn’t being the parent she wanted to be: following her heart would cause heartbreak to her family now, but it had a noble purpose. Today, her ex lives within walking distance and they share parenting. She got out, and she wants to tell the world how it’s changed her life.

Who is this woman? Well, it could be Adele, whose new album reveals why she decided to leave her husband Simon Konecki, and what it means for their son Angelo, nine. “It just wasn’t right for me any more… I didn’t want to end up like a lot of other people I knew. I wasn’t miserable-miserable, but I would have been miserable had I not put myself first,” she said in a recent interview.

But it is someone else’s story, too – Glennon Doyle, the writer who transformed from a Christian mommy-blogger into a feminist mentor, and who’s been hailed by Adele as her go-to emotional guru. Oprah and Reese Witherspoon have also sung her praises; and Doyle campaigned for the white female vote for Joe Biden (another fan). Her close friend Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) has predicted Doyle’s star will rise still further, and called her “the next Gloria Steinem”.

“I’d been conditioned to believe that a good mother never hurts her children and she certainly doesn’t break up her family,” Doyle writes in her new book, Get Untamed. “I decided to quit showing my children how to slowly die and instead show them how to bravely live. I became their model, not their martyr.”

When Doyle’s book was published 18 months ago and became an instant New York Times bestseller, Adele took to Instagram to share her thoughts. They were, you could say, positive. “If you’re ready – this book will shake your brain and make your soul scream,” she wrote. “I am so ready for myself after reading this book! It’s as if I just flew into my body for the very first time.”

So the first question to ask Doyle on our Zoom call is: does she actually know her superfan Adele? “Well…oh God, I never know how to answer this question,” she says, in a voice that’s steady and determined. “I’m not going to comment about that: but I will tell you that I love Adele! I’m freakin’ excited for her album and I only see good things for her. She’s a model in going off the menu and untaming, and I think the new album is all about her ferocity.”

I’m getting the feeling she does know Adele; indeed, it would be odd if the two women hadn’t connected, given they both live in LA and that they’re clearly a mutual fanclub. Doyle – petite, blonde, perfect-looking in a cream sweat top for our chat – is new to LA: she moved four months ago from Florida, she tells me, having lived there for many years. Why the switch? “We lived in a very Trump-y area,” she says. “It was OK until it wasn’t. People in Florida didn’t even believe in Covid. There’s a line in Untamed that says, about my marriage, why am I staying here when the doors aren’t even locked? And I finally thought that about Florida: why were we staying there?”

Ex-husband Craig moved with them, and now “lives five blocks away; the children run between the two”. It sounds similar to Adele’s post-divorce life: Simon lives across the street from her and Angelo.

Doyle’s credo is that women are everywhere in chains, but that they can free themselves by realising they can think outside the box – think outside the prison – and make their own minds up about how they live, who they live with, and how they behave. Like Adele – or perhaps Adele is this way because of Doyle’s example – she is “off the menu”. And once you find you’re having to order off-menu in one part of your existence, says Doyle, you realise few of life’s menus are to your taste. “My sexuality, my faith, my working life, my views about gender, my mothering, my daughtering…I have to go off menu with all these,” she says. “In all these areas of my life I’ve had to go off the menu to find what fits for me.”

Adele has been drawn to her writing because she identifies with all this, explains Doyle. “I think what Adele found [in Untamed] and what a lot of women find… is herself. So many women feel exactly the same way, caged by gender, sexuality, religion. And you get to this point in your life when you say, fuck it. I can’t please everyone so I’m going to try to figure out a life that works for me.”

So far so reasonable: but some readers of Untamed have criticised it for taking privilege as the norm. Doyle tells me her co-parenting with Craig is “ridiculously beautiful”, and Adele’s set-up sounds similarly dreamy: but how many divorced women can afford to include their ex-husbands in their household caravans, as the wealthy Doyle and Adele clearly can?

Doyle is upfront about how fortunate she’s been. “The reason I was able to leave my marriage was because I had enough money in the bank to begin again,” she says. “I had insurance and all of the things people need and all the things everyone should have.” I read her a sentence from her new book, which is an interactive journal inviting readers to record their own ideas on how to become untamed. “The braver we are, the luckier we get,” she writes. Surely, I ask, the truth is more likely to be the other way round: the luckier we are, the braver we can be. To my surprise she agrees straight away: in fact, she says, she almost cringes when she sees people reading her books (there were two previous memoirs before Untamed, charting her recovery from addiction and eating disorders). “Sometimes I’ll see someone reading one of the earlier books and it feels like looking at someone staring at your senior pic from high school. It’s like… why?” Her life and her books, she says, are a continual reinvention. “I write the most deeply personal things and usually the more personal it is, the more universal it seems to be.”

And indeed, the story at the heart of Untamed and in the introduction to Get Untamed is a cracker of a tale, expertly told (it’s currently being developed into a TV series). Nearly six years ago, Doyle arrived in Chicago for a literary festival; and her whole world changed the moment a soccer player called Abby Wambach walked into the room. “Suddenly, a woman is standing where nothingness used to be… she stands still there… taking an inventory of the room. I stare at her and take inventory of my entire life.” That moment, Doyle writes, returns her to her wild; it reminds her that society has tamed her, but that freedom is still out there. She tells her therapist, who advises her that she can’t trust her feelings: “Good mothers don’t break their children’s hearts in order to follow their own,” she writes. But soon afterwards she realises the opposite is true: “My children do not need me to save them. My children need to watch me save myself.” Despite never having even kissed a woman, she calls Abby, who she hasn’t seen since Chicago, and tells her she loves her and has decided to leave Craig for her.

Today, the two women have been married for four years: so how does it feel, I ask, to be unchained?

“I feel like the same person,” she says. “But I think I’ve gotten to the point where the biggest problem in my life is me. I’m not in any relationship, religion, identity, work life that seems wrong to me.” Life is still tough out there in the wild. “Sometimes people think our story is Juliet and Juliet, it’s a fairytale, but this is still a marriage, it still forces us to deal with our shit constantly, it’s still about raising teenagers.”

“We can do hard things,” is a kind of mantra for Doyle: it relates to her battle to get away from addiction, but also to the story of how she left her marriage. What, then, of the “hard things” of staying in a marriage long-term? I’ve been married 33 years, to the same man; I don’t feel a martyr, a victim. I don’t feel chained, but it’s certainly been, as Doyle might put it, “freakin’ hard”. Also, and perhaps interestingly, there have been times when I haven’t really known why I was staying, and I’m sure he felt the same – and yet, in our late 50s, we’re happier than ever. Doyle says that, though in her own case she feels she was “a coward” to stay in her marriage after she discovered Craig had had affairs, “Sometimes doing the brave thing is so singular, only you can understand it. Sometimes the bravest thing is when you do the thing that’s true to yourself. There’s no hard thing and easy thing in life. Really it’s a question of ‘choose your hard’.”

Get Untamed: The Journal (How to Quit Pleasing and Start Living) is published by Vermilion at £12.99. Buy a copy for £11.30 at


Joanna Moorhead

The GuardianTramp

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