Published May 18, 2011
After 25 years of marriage we learned last week that Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenneger are separating. Now, this week, we have heard the revelations that the former California governor fathered a child with a household employee over a decade ago.
As surprising as this news is to some, I doubt it can come as a complete shock to Ms. Shriver and I believe it need not signal the end of her marriage.
Infidelity on the part of a husband or wife is not a reason to erase one's marital vows. In fact, in the aftermath of an affair, even in the aftermath of keeping a secret about a love child for a decade, spouses can reaffirm their commitments to one another and resolve to know one another at a more intimate level than ever.
Marriage, as I have written before, is a terrifically difficult journey for the vast majority of those who commit to it. Passion wanes, often ending entirely. If couples are not linked by rare and deep connections at the level of the soul, they come to feel entirely alone. For these reasons and others I believe the structure of marriage itself must be changed.
Surely, Ms. Shriver understood that in marrying a man who needed to build up his muscles as no man before him had ever done, a man who needed to be a film star, a man who needed to marry into a famous American family and a man who still needed the affirmation of a state's voters, that she was marrying a man with deep needs for admiration and affirmation. More data could have been found in his well-known needs for the affection of women. But she should have also known that all these needs had to have been based in deep questions her husband harbored about his real worth and whether or not he was truly lovable.
At any point in the last 25 years I would venture that a polygraph examination may well have revealed that Ms. Shriver knew in her heart of hearts that her husband had been unfaithful and was likely to be unfaithful in the future. For reasons known only to her (or which might only be revealed to her in psychotherapy) she decided to build and maintain a family with him, anyhow. Perhaps she intuited that he was, at core, a better man that he could seem to express.
Now, perhaps for the first time, with Mr. Schwarzenegger's behavior a secret to no one, Ms. Shriver might have a real opportunity to connect--at a genuine emotional level--with a husband who could confess all of his weaknesses, his doubts and his pain and be (perhaps to his great surprise) loved despite them.
I have witnessed this alchemy of spirit in my own practice of psychiatry. I have helped couples who have hurt one another through infidelities or other lies resolve to tell the truth to one another as never before. It can be so for Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Prescription from this doctor: With Arnold looking weak right now, rather than strong, Maria has a chance to have and to hold her husband as never before.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. He is a New York Times best-selling author, and co-author, with Glenn Beck, of the bestselling book “The 7: Seven Wonders that Will Change Your Life.” Dr. Ablow can be reached at email@example.com.