Former Mr. Olympia-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and American journalist Maria Shriver were married for 25 years before the two split up. Appearing on a February 2023 episode of the Making Space with Hoda Kotb podcast, Shriver explained how the divorce sent her life into a whirlwind. She explained that the experience allowed her to figure out who she was.
Months after Shriver opened up publicly, Schwarzenegger candidly shared his side of the story. Read on for Maria’s personal account and what Arnold later said about their split.
Shriver’s family was already in the public eye
Maria Shriver is the daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was the sister of former President John F. Kennedy and five other Kennedy siblings. Being raised in such a well-known family had a profound effect on Shriver. “I grew up feeling invisible in an incredibly public, famous family,” she explained. She said the experience was tough.
“There were a lot of really big characters in that family … If you, as a child, are standing next to the president of the United States, two U.S. senators, the first lady, nobody’s looking at you. You are background noise. And you take that with you really through life, and you end up putting yourself in situations where that continues until you learn your lesson,” Maria said.
Shriver felt ‘invisible’ next to Arnold
Shriver and Schwarzenegger met in August 1977 while they attended the Robert F. Kennedy Tennis Tournament. The two hit it off and by 1986, had gotten married. They shared 25 long years and had four children together. Later, she said she felt “invisible” when she was standing next to her husband. It caused her to get angry with people who didn’t acknowledge her when she and Schwarzenegger were together.
Unfortunately, their marriage wouldn’t last. In 2011, Schwarzenegger publicly admitted that he had been unfaithful to Shriver. He fathered another son, Joseph Baena, with their longtime housekeeper Mildred Baena. Within a couple of months of his confession, Shriver had filed for divorce. Their divorce was finalized in December 2021.
She had some soul-searching to do after their separation
Shriver said that she took some time to reevaluate her life following the divorce. “I went to a convent, a cloistered convent, and to be in silence and look for advice… The Reverend Mother there said to me… ‘I think you came here looking for permission,'” she recalled.
She said that the experience was quite unique, like “a scene out of The Sound of Music.” She explained that the Reverend Mother said to her, “‘You can’t come live here, but you do have permission to go out and become Maria.’ I was like, sobbing. I was like, ‘Who is that?’… And then I was like, ‘Okay, God, let’s go. I’m gonna take this and learn everything I can about my role and what I need to learn.'”
Shriver said that the end of her marriage gave her the “freedom” to “go and figure out” what her truth really was. She has since learned some lessons from different moments in her life. “That it’s not about whether they see me,” she said. “Do I see me? Am I visible to me?… It’s about you seeing yourself. And that took me a really long time, a really long time to learn.” She feels her healing journey isn’t over yet. For her, it’s not a rush, as she made herself a promise that “I will never abandon myself again.”
Schwarzenegger says the split was ‘very difficult’
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the movie icon, now 75 years old, described the divorce as “very difficult” and referred to it as his own failure. He also reflected on the similarities between himself and the character he portrays in his new Netflix series, FUBAR, discussing whether the character’s failed marriage due to infidelity was intentionally autobiographical.
Schwarzenegger said his character in the show doesn’t consider his actions cheating because it was part of his profession. However, in his real-life marriage to Shriver, Schwarzenegger admits that the fault was his own and says that he takes full responsibility for his actions. He also mentioned that his FUBAR character remains in love with his wife, which differed from his own experience.
When asked if he misses being married, Schwarzenegger replied with a simple “No.” He admitted that the initial stages of the divorce were challenging, but he has since moved on and now has a successful relationship with his girlfriend, physical therapist Heather Milligan.
They still co-parent
Despite their painful divorce, Schwarzenegger and Shriver have managed to maintain a good friendship and close relationship. They have effectively co-parented their four children—daughters Katherine, Christina, and sons Patrick and Christopher.
“If there’s Oscars for how to handle divorce, Maria and I should get it for having the least amount of impact on the kids,” he said. “The sweetness and kindness you see in them, that’s from my wife. The discipline and work ethic is from me,” he said.
Schwarzenegger emphasized that they continue to spend important occasions and holidays together as a family.