American journalist Maria Shriver was married to former Mr. Olympia-turned-actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, for 25 years before the two eventually split. Appearing on an episode of the Making Space with Hoda Kotb podcast, Shriver explained how their divorce sent her life into a whirlwind. She explained that the experience allowed her to figure out who she was.
Her 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.
Shriver 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.'”
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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.”