Arnie, Maria and the Child of that Secret Affair: When Infidelity Leads to Fatherhood and Divorce

The Schwarzenegger-Shriver marriage survived for many years and produced four children. Maria always knew her husband was talented, larger-than-life, ambitious and had ‘an eye for the ladies’. She was with him through his Hollywood action film career and his political, governor-of-California career. She knew her husband pretty well.

Once he quit politics to return to film, though, he had a shock for her. Maria was going to find out that not only did she not really know her husband that well but that a decade of famlily life had been, to a large extent, a sham. Arnie, as the world rapidly found out once the separation was announced, fathered a child by a member of the Schwarzenegger-Shriver domestic staff around the year 2000.

If early press reports are to be believed, Arnie had kept the secret – and supported the child and its mother year in and year out – ever since the affair, pregnancy and birth took place.

If it’s true that Maria only found out in 2011, the shock will be hugely destructive and hurtful for her.

Discovering infidelity in a partner is always painful. When you have a longstanding marriage and four children, it has to be completely shattering.

The unfortunate Ms Shriver will now look back at family event after event and view them differently. She’ll view the whole of the last decade differently. That day when she and Arnie and the kids had a picnic may have been just a pleasant day before the revelation. Now she’ll go back over it and realise that it was on the day each month when he paid for his secret child. She’ll look back at the year the child was born and wonder how on earth he could have taken the news that his fifth child had arrived without giving anything away. She’ll wonder if on those occasions when he was away or in his study, was he visiting the child, or busy looking at photos of it?

She’ll have to consider the long years of dishonesty when her husband neglected to mention that his infidelity had led to him having a fifth, secret baby. And she’ll have to consider the effect of all this on her children. And on the fifth child. Whether she likes it or not, that child is the half-sibling of her own children and will presumably at some point meet them.

The hurt and instability caused by discovering that your life is not what you think it is, is vast. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of such a declaration or discovery knows that it takes years to recover. In Maria’s case, the hurt is particularly destructive because it’s a question of a child being born and a decade of secrecy and deception surrounding that birth and that child. Had Arnie confessed to an affair that was in the dead past, that might be surmountable. But the years of deceit will be virtually impossible to overcome.

Infidelity so often leads to deeper and deeper deceit. Married men (it does seem to be mostly married men in these situations) often begin an affair thinking it’s just a bit of fun. Something easily ended. Then they get deeper into the deceit and it can feel impossible to retreat. Or they fall in love but don’t want to leave their wife and kids. Or they simply fall in love and tell their wife they’re off. Divorce follows. And often remarriage and a new family. Ex-wives, half-siblings and “blended families” populate society as people change partners in kaleidoscopic fashion.

But what Arnie has done – fathering a ‘love child’ and keeping that child hidden – has particularly hard consequences for his five children and for Maria Shriver. Recovering from an instance of infidelity, or your partner’s affair, is one thing. Recovering from the shock of discovering your husband has a secret child and has gone to great lengths to hide that from you and your children for a decade, discovering that the last ten years of your life are not what you believed, discovering that your husband has had a secret life you knew nothing about – that’s mindblowing.