Maria: How she could live with Arnold

I wrote a recent post on Arnold Schwarzenegger, the king of secrets, which didn’t exactly put him in a great light.  This guy had more secrets than the CIA, and had absolutely perfected the art of denial, two things which eventually led to his divorce and the loss of his family which he said was the most important thing in his life.  These things came straight from the horse’s mouth on a 60 Minutes interview with Leslie Stahl.

Okay, so that’s Arnold.  But what about Maria?  How could she live with someone like that?  Someone who hid such enormous things from her–like affairs (more than one), a kid from another woman, open heart surgery (which he wanted to keep a secret but couldn’t for obvious reasons), his intention to run for Governor of California and God knows what else?  How much intimacy can you have with someone who hides so much?  I dare say, not a lot.

Arnold doesn’t spend much time delving into what makes him tick. And when you don’t really know yourself on a deeper level, you can’t truly share the real you.  So if they didn’t have much intimacy, what did they have?  What was their marriage of 24 years based on?  Here’s my theory:

Arnold, for all of his intimacy problems, has a lot going for him.  He has an relentless drive to succeed, which obviously he has done.  He was a champion body builder, and at one time, the biggest box office movie star in Hollywood.  He was also the governor of California, a Republican winning what is typically a Democratic state. Three successful careers in one lifetime.  That’s pretty amazing.

So this high achiever meets Maria, whose mother, Eunice Shriver, was a Kennedy.  Perfect.  What are the Kennedy’s known for?…their competitiveness and their dedication to serving and achieving.  These are the values Maria inherited from her family which have translated into many achievements of her own. So in this respect, Arnold and Maria were perfectly matched.

What else are the Kennedy women known for?  Looking the other way when their men go sniffing about.  Is this what Maria did?  Arnold admitted in the interview that she knew about his affairs, so either they had an open marriage (which I doubt) or she found a way to live with his dalliances.  But finally the multiple affairs, enormous secrets, and a kid he conceived with their housekeeper, left her fed up enough to  chuck her Catholic upbringing’s views on divorce and walk out.

Arnold blamed himself for destroying his family which he said was the most important thing in his life.  I applaud his taking responsibility for his very hurtful behaviors, but this was not a one way street.  Relationships never are; they are co-created, with each person playing their role to make the relationship what it is.  Maria’s part?  She ignored a lot of warning signs.  Arnold couldn’t have been lugging around such enormous secrets without her getting an inkling that something was “off.”  To some degree she had to be living in denial to put up with this.

I know because I lived it.  My husband got an itch 17 years into our marriage and found himself a young babe to do the scratching.  In the aftermath of his affair, I chose to explore my part in bringing about what happened.  I realized that there were things poking at me that I either ignored, rationalized or diminished in importance until they finally came to a head. Most of us use denial as a protective mechanism to some degree or other, and that’s not always bad.  Sometimes it’s just too painful to face the truth, and we need to do it in small degrees.  But too much denial for too long will come back to haunt you, as it did me.

Another possibility for how Maria could live with Arnold is that like him, she also has a hard time with closeness. She wouldn’t have been able to live with someone as distant as he if she were the queen of intimacy. Or if that’s not the case, she was making a big trade-off.  Trading off intimacy for other things she was getting.  Whatever the reason, her acceptance, or perhaps denial of the situation, made her complicit in what happened.

The good news is that this cataclysmic event in their lives can be used for their betterment.  What if they put their enormous drive to achieve into learning about themselves on a deeper level?  What if focusing inward gave them the ability to lovingly share their hearts more deeply than ever before?  Wouldn’t that be a worthy goal?  I mean where else is there to go?  Another successful career?  Sure that would give some satisfaction; but nothing compared to the exquisite feeling of true intimacy with another person.  That’s my opinion.  I would love to hear what you think.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, to learn how my husband and I got through our crisis and made our bond stronger than ever.  You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, and buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (both print and Kindle) and Barnes and Noble.  The book also gives you many great tips and insights on relationships.


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