Signs Maria Shriver & Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marriage Was Never Going To Last

After tying the knot in 1986, Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger became one of Hollywood's most respected couples. Schwarzenegger was an iconic action-film star and Shriver was a respected journalist. In the 2000s, they would shockingly shift from being a Hollywood couple to a power couple in the world of politics. What surprised many was that the political aspirations didn't come from Shriver, who has ties to the Kennedys –– instead, it was Schwarzenegger who wanted to jump from action movies into the role of governor of California. 

Schwarzenegger's jump into politics made him a bigger star, but it put his marriage under the microscope. Over the years, there have many headlines about Schwarzenegger's behavior and many eyebrow-raising details about their marriage. Throughout their marriage, Shriver did her part to help clean up many of his controversies with her political savviness (some even credited her for his campaign success), but in 2011, when news of his affair and love child with their housekeeper broke, it was one mess that Shriver wouldn't stay around to clean up. No one expected their marriage to end in a shocking scandal, but many saw signs of trouble brewing behind the scenes. Let's take a look at a few of the red flags that popped up over the years.

Arnold had an affair before he proposed to Maria

In 2012, Arnold Schwarzenegger released his memoir, "Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story," in which he gave an interesting look at his love story with Maria Shriver. In the memoir, the action star revealed the turning point in their relationship in which he knew he wanted the marry her. It involved what he described as a "hot affair" with his co-star Brigitte Nielsen while filming "Red Sonja." Schwarzenegger, who was dating Shriver at the time, described the affair as a fling that ended weeks after filming wrapped. The actor claimed that Nielsen wanted something more when filming wrapped, but he declined. He recalled telling Nielsen, "It was fun over there, but it wasn't serious. I'm already involved with the woman I want to marry. I hope you understand."

The two went their separate ways and the actor returned back to Shriver hoping to take their relationship to the next level. "The fling with Brigitte Nielsen underlined what I already knew: I wanted Maria to be my wife," he wrote. Shriver reportedly was dropping hints that she was ready for marriage and wanted to start a family with him. He quickly designed a ring and was planning to ask the big question. "And when I wrote down my list of goals for 1985, at the very top I put, "This is the way I will propose to Maria," the actor wrote. That following year, the two married.

Maria Shriver's friends weren't too keen on Arnold

The ultimate test for a relationship is how your friends and family feel about your significant other. Usually, when friends and family don't approve, it can be a bad sign of things to come. For Maria Shriver, when she began dating Arnold Schwarzenegger, it wasn't just the public who were confused about their pairing, people close to her were too. "I did not marry the boy next door. I did not want to. People at first were like, 'You married the other side of the tracks!' They have trouble with the class thing. You are supposed to live a life that they project onto you ...," Shriver told Vanity Fair in 2011. 

Many people expected Shriver to marry a man from a respected political family like the Kennedys. Those expectations meant that the couple received plenty of rude comments at the beginning of their relationship. "When I started going out with him, people were like, 'What?' And he was never bothered by that. The thing I admired about him was that he never tried to play it safe. People say to him, 'You can't do this or do that.' He doesn't care," Shriver gushed. From the outside looking in, it was easy to see the glaring difference between the two. But at the time, Shriver believed that their differences brought them closer together. "I wanted someone different. I married my authentic self," she said.

Maria didn't initially support his political ambitions

In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger had his eyes set on becoming governor of California. He not only had to convince the people of his state that he was the man for the job, but he also had to convince his then-wife Maria Shriver to get on board. Unfortunately for Schwarzenegger, getting Shriver on board wasn't so easy. "That's why I didn't really know if I was going to run because I didn't really want to run if she was not 100 percent behind it," the actor explained in his Netflix documentary, "Arnold" (via People). When the actor initially proposed the idea to Shriver, she was less than enthusiastic about the idea. "I was sitting with [Shriver] in a jacuzzi, and I said, 'What do you think of me running for Governor?' She flipped out," Schwarzenegger recalled. "I almost felt like she was hyperventilating." For Shriver, her husband's campaign would mean she was thrust back into the same political spotlight that she tried to leave behind. 

Eventually, Shriver came around and he announced the campaign on The Tonight Show. "When he told me he was interested, I said I'd spent my whole life getting away from politics," Shriver told Oprah Winfrey in 2008. "I realized that if I said no, I'd be stopping my husband from achieving his dream. It was a catch-22. So I told Arnold that he should do what he wanted to do ..." (via People).

They had different political views

Being a political family is complicated –– being a political family with differing political views is even more complicated. Maria Shriver, who grew up in a well-known family of the Democratic party, was now the wife of a candidate of the Republic party. During his campaign for governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger repeatedly stated that his wife's differing political views were never an issue to him. Per Vanity Fair, Shriver was credited with helping him understand issues on the other side of the political aisle.

In interviews, Shriver claimed that despite her husband being a Republican, he was more balanced and open to different ideas. "The Arnold I know is open-minded — he is not right-wing or not left-wing, but makes decisions based on what he thinks is right for all of California" (via People).

However, the loyalty to their different political parties was still very apparent –– especially during election time. In 2008, while Shriver openly supported Barack Obama's presidential run, her husband endorsed Republican candidate John McCain (per New York Times). They each attended the events separately, to throw their support behind each candidate. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger had a scandal while running for governor

In 2003, during his campaign for governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger found himself embroiled in a scandal. As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time, over 15 women accused the actor of groping them. Schwarzenegger's campaign initially denied the allegations before offering an apology. "It is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right which I thought then was playful," he said per The Guardian. "But now I recognize that I offended people. Those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize because that's not what I'm trying to do." 

While facing allegations of being a womanizer, the actor turned to his wife, Maria Shriver to save his campaign. Shriver appeared at multiple rallies and passionately defended her husband's character. Friends and colleagues were shocked by her public role in his campaign. Per the New York Times, they expected her to keep a low profile. Instead, Shriver played a key role and helped target female voters for her husband's campaign. "You can listen to all the negativity, and you can listen to people who have never met Arnold, or who met him for five seconds 30 years ago. Or you can listen to me," she said in a speech to Republican women (via CNN). "I wouldn't be standing here if this man weren't an A-plus human being."

Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed that he controlled the way she dressed

During his 2003 campaign for governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger's past was put under a microscope. His past behavior with women was investigated and his past interviews were dissected thoroughly. One interview that didn't sit well with female voters was a 1988 interview with Playboy. In the interview, the actor and bodybuilder bluntly stated that he hates when women wear pants. "I still feel that way, and neither my mother nor Maria is allowed to go out with me in pants," Schwarzenegger revealed (via Los Angeles Times). "Maria would never wear pants, believe me." The actor went on to explain why he doesn't allow his wife, Maria Shriver to ever wear pants. "She knows she looks better in dresses. Maria has the kind of look — the kind of face and hair and eyes and mouth and body — that is very royal. Like a queen. And I don't like to see a queen in pants," he added. 

Despite meaning it as a compliment, the comment about not letting his wife wear pants in public did not land well with female voters. Many accused him of having a skewed view of women and believed this was another piece of evidence of his alleged misogyny. Shriver, who was seen wearing slacks many times in public, didn't comment on her husband's bizarre statements.

Maria Shriver had to give up her career

Maria Shriver's journalism career began in 1977, long before her husband's campaign for governor of California. Despite her own political alignment with the Democratic Party, Shriver was known for being objective. However, during Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign, a crisis arose. How could she continue reporting for "Dateline NBC" with a husband who's running for office? Shriver initially took a leave of absence, with hopes of returning. However, her colleagues felt like it would create a conflict of interest. NBC president Neal Shapiro initially shut down those claims and noted Shriver's reputation as a journalist. "She's been a journalist her whole working life, and she has awards to attest to her ability," Shapiro said (via The New York Times). "Just because her husband ran for office doesn't mean it should wipe that slate clean." 

After his win, Shriver returned for only two appearances on "Dateline NBC" before announcing her retirement on CBS News in 2004. While speaking to Vanity Fair in 2011, she described her retirement as forced upon her due to controversy about her involvement in her husband's campaign. "[Neal Shapiro] said, 'Extend your leave.' Then I went back for a month. There was an article in the paper saying I was politically involved, and it went downhill from there ... I had been in TV a long time. I knew what a conflict was. I knew what my integrity was. I said, 'We can work this out.' They said no,'" she explained.

The couple lived separate lives after Arnold left office

In 2011, just five months after leaving office, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver announced their separation. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, the couple didn't reveal the cause of their split but stressed that they would be moving forward amicably. "This has been a time of great personal and professional transition for each of us. After a great deal of thought, reflection, discussion, and prayer, we came to this decision together," the joint statement read. "At this time, we are living apart while we work on the future of our relationship." Days later, came the real cause of their divorce. The Los Angeles Times reported that Schwarzenegger had fathered a child with their housekeeper more than a decade ago. Upon learning the news, Shriver moved out of the family home. 

Upon reflection, when Schwarzenegger left the office, he and Shriver had been living separate lives. The longtime actor was beginning to prepare a comeback in the film and was off traveling the world. Shriver on the other hand was grappling with her father's death and promoting causes important to her, like Alzheimer's research. When their 25th wedding anniversary passed, the couple did not acknowledge it publicly. Another sign of their separate lives was a YouTube video Shriver had posted two months prior to the announcement of their separation, per the outlet. In it, she appeared without her wedding ring and hinted at a transitional moment in her life.

Maria Shriver had suspicions that he had an affair

In his 2023 Netflix documentary "Arnold," Arnold Schwarzenegger recounted the scandal that ended his marriage to Maria Shriver. The actor confirmed his affair with the housekeeper which resulted in a son, Joseph Baena. In the documentary, Schwarzenegger revealed that Shriver had long suspected him as the father of Mildred Baena's son. "Maria and I went to counseling once a week," he recalled. "In one of the sessions, the counselor said, 'I think today Maria wants to be very specific about something. She wants to know if you are the father of Joseph.' And ... I thought my heart stopped, and then I told the truth," via Us Weekly. The housekeeper had worked with the family for over 20 years before the scandal broke. "I had an affair in '96," the Kindergarten Cop star noted in the series. 

Schwarzenegger explained that he wasn't positive that Joseph Baena was indeed his child. "I just started feeling the older he got, the more it became clear to me and then it was really just a matter of how do you keep this quiet? How do you keep this a secret?" In 2011, Mildred recounted the moment she revealed the secret to Shriver. "Maria would ask if I needed to talk to her, and I kept saying no. Finally, she asked point blank. Maria asked me directly if Joseph was Arnold's son, and I just broke down," Baena explained to People.