Arnold’s Last Marriage Lesson?

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

Part of keeping the sparks kindled in your own marriage means keeping the wrong sparks out of your marriage—the ones that can engulf you into an affair.

It turns out there was another lesson (Read Part I) to learn from the troubled marriage of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger: Don’t think you can live a double life of lies and infidelity without eventually facing the consequences.

I would imagine it was much easier for Schwarzenegger to apologize to the nameless, faceless cameras and masses than it was to admit to his transgressions to his own wife and to each of his children. In Monday’s post, I wished his children could be spared the devastation that a divorce would bring, but that wish was too late. Their public humiliation may be Arnold’s worst punishment. His son, Patrick, changed his last name on Twitter to Shriver within days of Arnold’s announcement, a clear sign of his displeasure with this father. The fact that the woman with whom he had an affair worked for the family for two decades likely makes the situation even harder to bear for all those involved.

Unfortunately, infidelity is a relatively common marriage problem. Social scientists have been unable to pin down an accurate estimate of the number of couples affected, because they don’t know who is telling the truth. CNN suggests some estimate 15 to 18 percent of marriages are affected by affairs, while others place the number closer to 40 percent or more for those affected by emotional or physical affairs.

I’ve interviewed both couples who have overcome infidelity and experts who say it is a situation that can be healed. However, no one will deny the difficulty of the situation (particularly one with a 10-year-old child born out of wedlock) and question whether the trust can be rebuilt. If serial philandering is involved, obviously that will make the situation tougher and will likely reduce the desire by the scorned spouse to rebuild the marriage. For example, did anyone really think Tiger Woods’ wife, Elin, could effectively rebuild their marriage, or that she would wish to?

Time Magazine and CNN revealed a study set to be published in Psychological Science found that the higher an individual rises in a business hierarchy, the more likely they were to consider or commit adultery. “With power comes both opportunity and confidence, the authors argue, and with confidence comes a sense of sexual entitlement.”

If we hope to live in lifelong marriages, we can expect to be tempted by someone with whom we feel an emotional or physical connection. The error is in thinking it can’t happen in your marriage. Even those in strong, loving marriages may sometimes feel an attraction to another person. We may even have opportunities to act on those temptations. Those with higher profiles or certain careers may have more opportunities to cheat than others. Don’t kid yourself by thinking no one will find out, even if you have people to lie and cover for you.

Just picture yourself having to come clean to your spouse, your parents, and especially to your children. Realize that children will likely view infidelity with their parent as if you cheated on them, too. If you hope to leave a legacy of love and trust, infidelity is the wrong road.

Read What Happens After Infidelity at CNN for more on how healing may be achieved after infidelity. For those who struggle with temptation, a classic book to help prevent infidelity is His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Dr. William Harley Jr. There are also many newer books found by searching “How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage.”

Do you think your marriage is protected from a possible affair–why or why not? Do you think marriages can overcome infidelity, or do you agree with “once a cheater, always a cheater”?

17 responses to “Arnold’s Last Marriage Lesson?

  1. Lori,
    I can always count on you to provide the facts and statistics of these types of headlines. Thank you!
    I have seen both outcomes after an adulterous affair – divorce and healing. I believe healing is only possible when the spouse who committed the offense sees it as a sin against God. He is the One who took two and made them into one flesh and He is there watching as we break covenant.
    The best remedy is to realize no marriage is exempt from such temptation and to always be on guard.

  2. In response to Debi and Lori
    Statistics show that over 40% of married women with kids have their husbands on starvation diet of sex once a week or less. The average man NEEDS sexual relief 3 or 4 times a week. Every time that a wife forces her husband to masturbate alone, she is putting her marriage at risk because she if not fulfilling her part of the marriage covenant.

    John Wilder

  3. Debi, I agree with your “best remedy”. John, it sounds like you’re suggesting the wife is to blame for an affair. Infidelity can occur even in marriages with healthy sex lives. A spouse has a responsibility to deal directly with problems in the marriage not use them as excuses to behave badly.

  4. Lori, your answer to John – “A spouse has a responsibility to deal directly with problems in the marriage not use them as excuses to behave badly” – is far too pat. After years of refusing to have sex more than once per month, my ex-wife announced she would never have sex with me again. Despite that, for the sake of our children, I stayed married and didn’t cheat on her. I also attended marriage counseling (she didn’t) and tried to work through the book Sex Starved Marriage with her. A year after that, she decided to end our marriage. In the divorce she got custody, the house, child support, and alimony. I see my kids every second weekend and one evening a week. Looking back, I feel like a fool for putting up with years of little and no sex – and I certainly can’t blame any man for cheating in a similar situation. If there are children involved, a man in a sexless/low sex marriage has a choice of losing his kids, home, and income, or having an affair.

    • It sounds as if you tried to do everything right and that you had grounds for divorce early on. I’m no therapist but unfortunately there are extreme situations where even when you do things right, you end up with the short end of the stick. I still wouldn’t advocate an affair, as I think that would have just added to the mess and perhaps had the kids blaming you. I hope you can keep a strong relationship with your kids despite the difficulty in seeing them. As a child of divorce I know how important that contact is.

  5. The sad situation has gotten sadder. I don’t think any marriage is infedelity-proof — marriage is a dance between two people and they both have responsibilities to the marriage. My marriage could probably recover from an episode of infidelity if dealt with swiftly and honestly. I’m not sure I would feel willing to work if my spouse had lied to me for decades about continued infidelity. That shows an extreme lack of respect.

    As for once a cheater, always a cheater, I’m not sure that’s true — but I do know that the perception of bein a cheater persisists. I know someone who cheated on his wife, then married his mistress and now (decades later) they are hitting a rough patch and his wife (former mistress) is very jealous and accuses him of cheating. He probably isn’t cheating, but because he did once, the assumption that he will again is always hanging around him.

    Better to just be honest, figure with WHY you feel tempted (usally b/c some need isn’t being met within the relationship and the auto-pilot thing is to find that missing element somewhere else), and then deal with it. Otherwise, things just get nasty and complicated.

  6. Lori:
    Yes I am blaming thte wife in many cases. I can’t tell you the hundreds of guys suffering from little to no sex that I have dealt with. I have also dealt with the reverse where the wife was highly sexed and the husband was not.
    The bible says that neither the husband nor the wife has the right to say no in I Cor 7 except in cases of sickness where there is a legitmate excuse.

    I am quite sure that Tiger Woods wife sexually starved him as well. Most men dont want to cheat on their wives, they want sex from their wives. The wives shut him down so often and worse puts him down for his sexuality with belittling comments. I am surprised that more men don’t cheat. I have known guys who have suffered for years with no sex. The American woman is highly self centered and we have the highest divorce rate on the planet in large part due to lack of sex.

    John Wilder

  7. I am the opposite – the high libido wife and have never cheated. I’m actually shocked at that, too.. The pain of being sex-starved AND being unable to find a friend who even cares (let me tell you, it is a rare woman who wants to listen to her girlfriend complain about not getting enough sex, or her husband NOT groping her)….and then going to church to hear the one-sided, “sex” sermons on how women should give it up more. No mention of the reverse. (Or the sermons on “porn” where it is once again, assumed women are starving their men). It stinks. Thankfully in our case, we found out “why” but it was devastating. My husband has a condition that involved sensory issues and lack of emotional reciprocity. Turns out, for 22 years, he thought sex was ONLY for HIS pleasure….so he turned a deaf ear to my requests, begging, pleading. Walking around the house in sexy lingerie did not get processed as a come on because the way his brain works, he only understands WORDS, not body language, body behavior, facial expressions. This has sent my head spinning because he is a very successful engineer and no one would ever know. At the end of the day, it hurt me the most that he didn’t’ realize all women weren’t like this…that I was special, that some OTHER guy would find me a gift (had they married me) while they endure their sex-starved marriages. We are slowly working through this and because I’m committed to my marriage and God, I stay. But how I never cheated from any man who gave one bit of attention to me, I honestly don’t know. Guess I knew I had to live with myself. My point in writing this is: I know EXACTLY what leads sex-starved men/women to cheat and “talking about it/addressing it” DOESN’T always work. There are some conditions that even 99% of the therapists in America don’t have a clue if they are looking at it and then? What to do about ti? My husband’s charismatic outer mask had every counselor believing HIS rendition and thinking I was crazy. There is something in every human being, I think, that just can’t acknowledge a MAN with a low libido. It HAS to be something the wife is doing. So women, if you know exactly what I am talking about, check in to Asperger Syndrome, which is high functioning autism. That is what we are now dealing with, after both our boys (and husband) were diagnosed as adults. .

  8. Lori,
    To answer your question, I feel my marriage is protected from an affair for many reasons. The most important being that we respect each other and treat each other equally. There is no excuse for an affair, period. I think that marriages can overcome infidelity if real, true, sincere growth happens. That’s not to say that all can be saved, especially if you have been carrying around a lie such as Arnold Schwarzenegger did, or if you parade around with the arrogance of Tiger Woods. You may be able to forgive, but some people will not grow and learn from their mistakes.
    As far as John Wilder’s comments go, he is certainly a very educated individual, but also a very narrow minded man. His comment “Statistics show that over 40% of married women with kids have their husbands on starvation diet of sex once a week or less” is idiotic, in my opinion. In my experience, that of being a 41 years old man and married for 18 years to a wonderful lady, is that their are plenty of men out there (I would suggest a significant percentage of John’s 40% sex starved guys), who have a low level of respect for their wives. The bottom line is that a husband and wife bear equal responsibility for creating a relationship that fosters a good, strong , mutually satisfying sexual relationship. John clearly puts the weight of that responsibility on the wife, which I find to be an unfortunate and somewhat arrogant position.


  9. Kyle, I’m glad you and your wife share a mutual respect for one another. In my research, respect is perhaps the most important thing husbands seek in their marriages. The appreciation, respect and admiration creates a very healthy cycle in marriages, and I hope many more couples see your great example.

  10. Kyle
    You tend to come from your own experience to put me down. I speak the truth and have a lot of experiene dealing with these problems. I actually put more blame on the church because the church causes a whole lot of ambvialence and guilt over sex in women. From the time that they were little girls, they have been told that sex is bad, dirty and wrong and that good girls don’t do it. By the time a woman is ready to embrace her sexuality, she is often so negatively conditioned that she can never just relax and enjoy her sexuality. As an example, my former assosciatge pastor had a beautiful young wife who refused to wear frilly lacy lingerie for him reasoning that it was slutty and because she was not a slut, she had no problem refusing him. Women need to get over their ambivalence.

    I am neither arrogant nor sexist, just a guy trying to deal with the damage that divore causes on kids who are staggeringly affected negatively by divorce. It is so easy to throw out putdowns rather than intelligently discuss the problems.

    John Wilder

    • John,
      Your views are far from normal. I am sure that you can find many guys who are willing to subscribe to them though. The truth is that agreeing on how much sex you have in a relationship is no different than other issues that couples must communicate on. Pressuring one spouse to have sex with the other just out of duty ignores the complicated nature of married life, especially that of couples with kids.
      While the church has its fault in sexual guilt, it would suggest that a much bigger qnd more current issue is that of pornography. I know that men use it much more than women, and I believe thar it gives a completely false level of expectations to men of what sex is all about.
      I think it is unfortunate that you use Lori’s blog to try and further your skewed views. This will be my last comment on it, but feel free to reach me at my personal email.

  11. Kyle, since you did not give me your email address, I must adress your issues here. My views are pretty mainstream. Pornography is a symptom of the problem. Men resort to pornography as a masturbation aid because their wives are not giving them enough sex. I don’t know very many men who woud rather view porn than have sex with their wives.

    You sound much more like a woman than a man. I have dealt with hundreds of men and never has any man told me that my views are skewed or out of the mainstream, but I have had that thrown at me by women who still view sex as bad, dirty and wrong.

    I recently was coaching a wealthy guy who was the brother of a famous woman movie star that you would recognize immediately if I disclosed her name. His wife had a housekeeper and a cook. She never worked and still the guy was lucky to get it twice a month. He was divorcing her after 20 years because he was sick to death of begging his wife to make love with him.
    I suppose you will label that skewed as well, but it is the norm in my practice.

  12. My email address is if you woud like to discuss it further.

  13. I’m going to have to close this discussion, since it’s a little off course, and because I want everyone to try to get along 😉 I will say that what is “normal” and “not normal” has much to do with whom we surround ourselves with. So Kyle obviously has a “normal” marriage and probably surrounds himself with like-minded inviduals. Indeed, there are plenty of couples with healthy marriages and sex lives out there. A marriage coach who deals with sexual problems is likely to see people with sexual problems (no surprise) and so John’s view of how “most men are” may also be skewed. The goal of this blog is to enhance understanding between the sexes and enhance enjoyment within marriage, not to blame women or men for what they “routinely” do or do not do. Thank you both for sharing your strong feelings on the topic.

  14. @Kyle: John has given his viewpoint and provided statistics. You have given “experience”. Yet you call him an idiot. Why don’t you supply your own stats? And you should apologize for being so rude. Civilized people don’t call each other names just because they disagree on something. Please learn to conduct yourself properly in a public discussion forum. Thanks.

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