What is it about divorce that frightens people?

Maria Shriver does not have to worry that a divorce will bankrupt her. She is probably not concerned about who will get custody of her children. She knows that she is capable of running her own successful career. Her children are no longer babies who need constant supervision.

She must have known since January when the mother of Arnold’s “other” child retired (read: took a handsome pay-off to disappear with her son) that he had been unfaithful. Not once, but in a huge ongoing household staff, Henry VIII, sort of way. No matter how big the Brentwood mansion is or how many nights Arnold stayed in Sacramento, Maria must have known for years that her husband was involved with someone else.

Yet, when they announced their separations and transitions over the past few months, neither Maria nor Arnold ever publicly used the word “divorce.” Whatever marriage they have apparently frightens them less than a divorce.
Arnold rose to fame as a body-builder, yet released films in which he pretends to (or actually does) smoke pot. Maria, who grew up as a member of the most famous multi-generational family of democrats, campaigned for her Republican husband. Maria, the investigative journalist, seemingly did not notice that someone on her staff had a kid who looked just like her own kids. Arnold, the family values man, apparently ignored one of his own children in his own home.

So much image over substance can make you dizzy.

The image of a happily married governor and first lady working together to raise their brood of children has become gossamer thin with the latest round of revelations. What lessons are they teaching their children, and their fans, about values and honesty and commitment? Would a divorce, even at its worst – with a rabid media eager to show as much dirty laundry as it could find – be worse than this?

Probably not. As complex as de-constructing their marriage might be, it is probably simpler than the toll of keeping this veil in place indefinitely. I can only imagine that there will be a huge sense of relief for both Maria and Arnold (and eventually their kids) when all of the dust of this mess has settled. Letting the whole truth out is the first painful step towards what will eventually be a happier and healthier future for all concerned.

What We Love: Maria has had to protect secrets that were not even hers for as long as she has known about Arnold’s affairs. She can now un-shoulder that burden and begin to live her own life.

Published by Sharon Oberst DeFala

Sharon Oberst DeFala has practiced low-impact safe divorce since 1992.

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