Should Maria Get Back with Arnold?


If you don’t know that Arnold Schwarzenegger,Terminator and former California governor, fathered a child with the live-in maid who had been cleaning the mansion he shared with Maria Shriver and their four children, prompting Maria to hire a kick-ass attorney and slam Arnold’s sorry ass with divorce papers, you have been living under a rock.

But if you haven’t been reading HuffPo Divorce, or various gossip news sources, you may not be aware that the couple reportedly is attending couples therapy, begging two questions:

Are they going to get back together?


Should Maria take Arnold back?

Before I explore these questions, I must digress.

When I was nine, my parents took professional sabbaticals and we lived in Mexico for six months. It was a tiny town high in the mountains, almost three hours south of Mexico City. The town was known as the silver capital of Mexico. Silver shops lined the town’s hub, the Zocalo. The centerpiece of the Zocalo was the Catholic church, an enormous structure covered in sparkling gold.

I often wondered why the cathedral couldn’t be melted down, and the gold turned into pesos that would help feed the town’s poor, many of whom could be found stumbling around the zocalo, or huddled barefoot on the cobblestone path leading down to the open-air Mercado, their calloused palms curled upward, begging for change.

There were rich people in the town, some of them foreigners. One of them was a businessman from Scarsdale who had acquired acres of land at the town’s peak.

The land featured several small villas, an Olympic-sized pool, a tennis court, and horse stables. The property had been turned into a summer camp attended mostly by wealthy American kids.

But it was vacant during the other seasons, so we rented the largest villa, at the edge of the property. American dollars went a long way back then, and we lived like kings that year.

My typical day involved the following: after a breakfast prepared by Josafina, the maid who worked on the property, I was homeschooled by my 19-year-old sister, who had taken a year off college to live with us. School time was over at noon, and I would spend the rest of the day reading Agatha Christie mysteries by the pool, riding horses, or hiking through the surrounding mountainside, imagining myself an international spy on a dangerous mission.

Because I had grown up in a moneyed northeastern town, painfully self-conscious of my family’s middle-class status, I relished playing the part of the wealthy “gringa,” because, compared to the majority of the townspeople, who housed eight, nine, ten children in tin-roofed shacks, we were loaded.

Besides the maid, the property came with a gardener and groundskeeper. The groundskeeper, Miguel, his wife, Ignacia, and their seven children lived in a small villa by the property’s entrance. Our maid, Josafina, 20ish, lived with her family outside the property, in a shack on a dusty, unpaved road.

You may be wondering about now what any of this has to do with Maria and Arnold. Bear with me. I’m getting there.

After my parents’ sabbatical was over, and we returned to the States, we continued to vacation at the villa every Christmas holiday. We stayed at a new hotel that some rich foreigner had built near the camp property, overlooking the winding mountain roads that stretched out below. Miguel was now managing the hotel. Josafina worked there, cleaning rooms.

My mother had taken Josafina under her wing and was worried about her “advancing age” – by then late 20s — and her single status. It was unusual for a native Mexicana to be unmarried at that age. Mom was concerned that Josafina was running out of time to find a husband and have children.

One Christmas vacation, we arrived for our usual 10-day stint – and a scandal. Josafina was several months pregnant. Unwed and pregnant. And the father of her child was Miguel, who, as you may recall, was married to Ignacia, with whom he had a passel of children. It was a small town, and everyone knew everyone’s business. So this was big talk.

Mom, who had been raised by Christian missionaries, and was so entrenched in rule-bound religion that she forbade me to take the name of the Lord in vain, struggled to reconcile her conviction that premarital sex was a sin with her love for Josafina, Miguel, and Miguel’s entire family.

I was a teenager at that point, and while I definitely didn’t share my mother’s puritanical views, I wondered why Ignacia hadn’t kicked Miguel to the curb. When we visited Ignacia, I studied her brown, lined face for hints of shame or despair. I scrutinized the kids, all seven of them, watching to see if they snubbed their philandering father.

But they all seemed fine. I remember watching Ignacia water the potted plants outside her house. Despite her husband’s secret philandering with the maid, the philandering that yielded a child-to-be, she radiated the same air of acceptance I had come to associate with her: acceptance of her station in life, that of a poor Mexican woman with limited options.

Perhaps the fact that she had moved up in the world and was no longer living with her entire family in a dingy one-bedroom, but was now the wife of a hotel a manger who got to reside in a clean, airy red-tiled adobe house overrode any sense of outrage she must have had.

Miguel did seem a bit embarrassed when faced by my mother, who couldn’t hide her profound disappointment at his behavior. I know my parents had furtive talks with Miguel and Ignacia, then Josafina, separately. I know my mother prayed about it. My father, who had actually had a stint as a Presbyterian minister, had a more pragamatic take on the situation, a take that I believe my mother ultimately accepted.

Despite the profound Catholicism that permeated the air of this tiny town, marital fidelity was frequently sidestepped. I learned this first-hand when I morphed from an awkward 13-year-old into a 16-year-old spicy enchilada, and was groped by one of the hotel waiters, a married man who had known me since I was three years old.

When I pushed him away, sputtering: “But you’re married – and Catholic!” , he shrugged and said, simply: “It’s accepted here that men have other women.”

“You mean your wife knows?” I sputtered again. “She wouldn’t be mad right now, if she saw what you were doing?”

He shrugged again, and lunged again. I pushed him away, thoroughly grossed out.

Josafina had her baby, a girl. Miguel took responsibility, providing for the child he had fathered with another woman. He and Ignacia stayed married. Their seven children accepted their stepsister as a part of the family.

Which brings me, finally, to the question: should Maria take Arnold back?

Despite the fact that they come from two different socioeconomic stratospheres, Maria and Ignacia have some things in common.

They’re both devout Catholics. They both have been raised in cultures – Mexico, and Kennedy-land — in which women tacitly acknowledge male sexual privilege. And they both have spent years married to the same man, with whom they have raised several children.

Even if Maria goes through with her divorce plans, she will never be rid of Arnold. Arnold will always be the father of her children. They will attend college graduations, weddings, and grandchildren’s baptisms together. Both mega-rich people, they undoubtedly have intricately drawn-up estate plans assigning zillions to their children, plans that they will just have to detangle should they go through with their divorce.

Given their circumstances, and given my own experience watching a very different, but similar couple stay together after the husband fathered a child with the maid, I have found myself thinking that Maria should stay with Arnold.

Maybe should is too strong a word. But, should she decide to stay with him, I would not think she’s making a mistake. I would not think she lacks self-esteem, or that her children will lose respect for her.

Would she be teaching her daughters that they should look the other way when their man “has other women”? Would she be teaching their sons to spread their seed with whatever household help tickles their libido?

Her children are Kennedys, for Chrissake. It is practically in their DNA, the notion that men cheat, and women put up with it. If the Schwarzenegger’s mother takes their father back, will it affect them more than the philandering-male Kennedy legacy has already affected them?

So with all that said, I say to Maria: whatever you decide, girlfriend, I support you.

What do you think? Should she take Arnold back, or let her pitbull of a divorce attorney loose on him?


About perilsofdivorcedpauline

I am a survivor of a world-class gnarly divorce. My dastardly ex-husband is suing me for full custody of my son, and more time with my daughter. He’s super-rich and I’m super-not. You get the picture.
This entry was posted in Divorce, Custody, and Parental Alienation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Should Maria Get Back with Arnold?

  1. phoebes-in-santa fe says:

    It doesn’t matter what we think. This is a decision that only the couple in question can make. I have a feeling – and always have – that Maria is crazy about Arnold. And he about her. If they can work it out, they should do it. Your point about having four children together that they are always going to be in each other’s lives is very true. And they have to get along – even if they don’t get back together formally. But it’s something that only they can – and should – deal with.

    You might not and I might not and most of the readers of this blog might not get back with an errant spouse who fathers a child with another woman, but we’re not Maria and Arnold. I’ve always liked Maria and I trust her to know what’s best for herself and her kids.

  2. I have a more European (tolerant) view of certain aspects of marriage, including the fact that the family unit should be respected and honored. Sometimes we look the other way. There are limits, and everyone has their own limits.

    No one knows what goes on inside a marriage – what she knew, how she felt about it, what she sees in him still.

    Or not.

    Her call. They have a long history, and all those kids.

  3. sharon says:

    I actually wondered if her family had any say in this situation from the beginning. Being from the philandering-male Kennedy family, if she ever received the advice from any of them that she should just stay.

  4. Jenny says:

    It’s impossible to know what goes on in someone else’s marriage. And yes, the Kennedy women have historically accepted the philandering behavior of their men. Nothing surprises me anymore.

  5. A biography of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones claimed that Mick had slept with over 300 women. A story about Gene Simmons of KISS said he had slept with thousands. When it comes to rock stars, we seem to accept that boys will be boys and sometimes sex is just sex. After all, Gene was with Shannon Tweed for 28 years when they married in 2011.

    The Shakers, a religious sect, believed in total celibacy adopting children to continue the lineage.

    These are two extremes, the ends of the spectrum with many shades of gray in between. Most of us are not rock stars and now, well, none of us are Shakers. (apparently only three left in 2011) How well to we understand our own shade of gray?

    Why did Arnold do it? Yes, because he’s a @#$%^* bastard. But why did he do it? Okay, okay, I hear you. Because he’s a selfish, uncaring @#$%^* bastard. But if Maria finds out why, she may just decide to stay if she thinks she can deal with it. Why did Ignacia stay? And why do so many men who are not Mick Jagger, Gene Simmons or Arnold Schwarzenegger not end up being a @#$%^* bastards?

  6. You know…as a child of divorce myself I think that we focus way too much on how women ‘should’ handle it when their husband is unfaithful, as though there is some cultural norm and all women should respond the same way. Each situation is different, each marriage is different. So it makes sense that in certain circumstances a marriage can be worked on and forgiveness can be reached. Some men cheat because their marriages have grown weak or perhaps they have grown apart. If I was in that situation I would like to think that an affair would mean a wake up call for both parties to get back on the commitment board. But some men are philanderers and that I couldn’t tolerate. The devil is in the details.

    Perhaps Maria is teaching her sons that it is okay to spread their seed. Perhaps she is teaching her daughters to accept crappy treatment from men. Maybe. But perhaps she is also teaching them that marriage is hard work and you don’t always get dealt a perfect hand. Perhaps she is teaching them that it is not enough to be “The One”. Marriages don’t just work out on their own, it takes guts and determination sometimes.

    Who knows what will end up. But I applaud Maria Shriver for keeping both options on the menu instead of opting for what the public thinks is “normal”.

  7. This is a really thoughtful post about a really difficult question, whether for Maria or any of us. I remember being separated from my now “ex” for 4 years before divorcing him and the opinion among my friends and therapist was virtually unanimous–ditch him (he’d taken off all of a sudden after having been on the academic job market for several months in secret), leaving me with 2 small children to raise and my own tenure-track full time academic job. But I wasn’t ready to, wanted the marriage to work out if it could, and postponed. Even when it became obvious that it couldn’t work (he did some dodgy tax stuff and, it turned out, was living with another woman), I have to say that I still have some doubts because he sued me for custody after I divorced him, by then ten years after he’d left. I’m not saying I could have or should have stayed all that time–but it did occur to me that he couldn’t have sued me if I hadn’t divorced him. What can I say? It’s complicated…

    • I COMPLETLEY understand the second thoughts you have when the divorce you thought was the obvious choice creates unforeseen, devastating consequences. The problem is: how do you stay married to someone who is capable of doing what your ex did? Maybe it would have caused less external turmoil, but living and sleeping with someone who you can’t trust and shouldn’t trust — perhaps would have eroded your integrity and maybe your mental health. And maybe the marriage would have ended anyway 20 years later than it did and you’d be wondering why you didn’t leave earlier. Not saying I have the answer. But as you say, it’s complicated.

  8. Wolf Pascoe says:

    Dear Spicy Enchilada,

    Such a lovely, nuanced post. And I agree with everything you say. But mostly, I just wanted to call you “spicy enchilada.”

  9. M. Hogan says:

    I wouldn’t have married him in the first place! He’s an opportunist, a known womanizer, a lousy actor, and now a confirmed cheat, and he’s in love with himself!

  10. adgirl15 says:

    It’s such a tough decision. I personally don’t know if I could forgive cheating. I would get an attorney right away. I’ve heard nothing but exceptional things about the divorce attorneys at Then if you decide not to go thru with it, you don’t have to. But I would want to talk to a lawyer right away. Also, Arnold and Maria could try counselling if they are willing to talk about and be open. Hoping for the best for them!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s