And He’s Back

The Ahh-nold, that is. Rumor has it that Arnold Schwarzenegger and about to be ex-wife Maria Shriver are in marriage counseling and attempting to save their marriage. In case you don’t recall, it became known about a year ago that Arnold was involved in a long standing affair with the family’s housekeeper, one that produced a son who is now a young teenager about the same age as Arnold and Maria’s youngest child. Shriver promptly ditched the actor/politician and threw herself into media and writing projects that placed her clearly in the public eye as a symbol of the empowered woman. But lately the couple has been photographed around some of their favorite haunts, and the gossip columns are all atwitter.

I first heard about this while reading through this week’s copy of Newseek magazine. Rebecca Dana, writer of the Social Diaries column, opened the piece with this line - “Don’t do it, Maria!"

It is a little hard to reconcile the thought of this very strong, intelligent, independent and attractive woman returning to a man who betrayed her trust and humiliated her in so publicly. After all, Shriver certainly can’t need the financial support, nor should she lack for male companionship. So why return to a relationship with this man who clearly has so little respect for her or their marriage?

“She must think she’s a saint,” my husband said offhandedly, when I mentioned it to him over morning coffee.

He could be on to something.

Shriver, daughter of Eunice Kennedy and “Sargeant” Shriver, comes from a long line of women who steadfastly took a backseat in their marriages to powerful  men. That, plus her strict Catholic heritage and a family tradition of dedication to a higher standard, makes her a prime candidate for personal sainthood. Perhaps some part of Shriver thinks that putting her feelings aside and taking this moral high ground of attempting to save her marriage is another accomplishment to add to her application for sainthood - or even martyrdom.

Sadly, one has the sense that this whole episode cost Schwarzenegger nothing. Other than a moment’s notariety, which in this case was probably more like a feather in his good-old-boy’s club cap, and the pang of “getting caught,” he’s gotten off scott free.

Certainly it’s not my business to judge Shriver, whatever her motives. Because of my parent’s experience, I have seen the effects of infidelity in a marriage. But I also know that being in love with someone is hugely complicated, and that having a long history of family life with another person creates bonds that aren’t easily forsaken.

I would only wish that whatever Maria does, she does with her own well being in mind, and not from some deep seated sense of duty or expectancy. Otherwise, she’s setting herself up for more pain and suffering.

Sometimes the price of sainthood is just too dear.

How about you? Do you think Maria should “take him back”?