Life is not a Tammy Wynette song. Standing by your man is a lovely idea, particularly if you believe in the sanctity of marriage and that the vows you spoke at the altar meant through good times and bad and until death do you part. The problem is that country music songs and sentimental words don’t always translate to real life.
There is also such a thing as believing in your own self-worth enough to know when it’s time to leave. And Maria Shriver seems to have done just that by leaving husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, after learning he secretly fathered a child with a longtime member of their household staff. In the process of walking out, she is telling her daughters (and sons) that they don’t have to act like second-class citizens when discovering they have been done wrong, no matter what’s inscribed inside their wedding bands.
Not knowing that you’ve been cheated on, or having doubts about the fidelity of a spouse does not make you weak. I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for Strollerderby’s Danielle Sullivan, but I couldn’t disagree more with the post she wrote this morning about Maria being naïve and weak because she didn’t know her husband was cheating — and fathered a secret love child.
It’s quite possible to know, suspect or be in the dark about a cheating partner. And while I think staying in a marriage when a spouse has cheated sets a devastating example for the kids (see Elizabeth and John Edwards), it’s hard to judge why some people stay and some people go. To some people, wedding vows are sacred, even if one or more have been broken. To others, there is no excuse for infidelity.
I don’t know how much Maria knew and when she knew it, but it seems like while there was smoke throughout the couple’s 25-year marriage, the fire only broke out recently. Which is when she chose to leave. And I admire a woman for sending a strong message to her kids that marriage is between the same two people, and no one else.
Maria Shriver has proven herself to be a great journalist, activist, humanitarian, daughter and mother. I think her strength is equally derived from her professional life and personal life. Women can be strong at work and at home, even if they have a cheating spouse. No one ever really knows what goes on in someone else’s marriage or home and how they reach the decisions they do. The important thing in this case, I think, is that she made a choice to set an example for her kids, and it happens to be one I couldn’t agree with more.
Maria leaving when she did — whether she knew something 25 years ago, last month or somewhere in between — is the sign that her professional strength is equaled only by her great personal strength. Period.
Do you think Maria Shriver was weak in not leaving her husband much earlier when there were serious signs of infidelity? Can women be equally strong at work and home?
How does divorce affect children? It depends on the kid.