Maria Shriver says she completely reevaluated her life after her split from Arnold Schwarzenegger and their subsequent divorce.
The Emmy-winning journalist, best-selling author and member of the famed Kennedy clan, 67, appeared on the Making space with Hoda Kotb podcast to discuss her “ongoing quest to learn more about myself.” She said after her divorce in 2011 from The terminator star and former governor of California, she visited a monastery as part of a healing journey and received sage advice. She also spoke of feeling “invisible” during her marriage – something she felt throughout her life within her famous family.
Shriver, who divorced 75-year-old Schwarzenegger, with whom she shares four children, after admitting he fathered their housekeeper’s teenage child, said when her marriage ended it gave her “freedom” to do some soul searching and “go home”. and find out” her truth.
“I did so many things,” on that journey. But one… was that I went to a convent, a secluded convent… to be in silence and seek advice, said Shriver, who was raised a Catholic. “The reverend mother there… she said, ‘I think you came here to ask permission.'”
She said it felt like “a scene from The sound of music… She says, “You can’t come and live here … but you have permission to go out and become Mary.” I sobbed… I never gave myself permission to… be vulnerable, be weak, be brought to my knees. And the world did it to me. And then I thought, ‘OK, God, let’s go. And I’m going to take this and learn all I can about my role and what I need to learn… If the universe hits you like that, I think you shouldn’t focus on the other person [but] … what do you learn from this experience? So I gave myself permission to start learning.”
“I did everything available to heal myself. I still see myself as on a healing journey,” she said, adding, “I will never let myself down again.”
Shriver, who is “single” while her ex has been dating physical therapist Heather Milligan since 2013, said she felt “invisible” in her marriage to Schwarzenegger — a feeling that has haunted her all her life.
“I grew up feeling invisible in an incredibly public, famous family,” said Shriver, whose mother, Eunice Shriver, was the sister of former President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Ted Kennedy. “There were a lot of really big characters in that family… When you’re a kid standing next to the president of the United States, two US senators, the first lady, nobody’s looking at you. You’re background noise And you really take that through the life, and eventually you get into situations where it stays that way until you’ve learned your lesson.’
The lesson, she said, was, “It’s not about other people seeing you you see yourself. And that took me a lot of time, a lot of time to learn.”
When she married Schwarzenegger in 1986, “I got angry with people who … didn’t recognize that I existed when I stood next to Arnold … or my uncle.” Now she sees: “They were teaching me a lesson. That it doesn’t matter if they see me. Doing i see me? Ben i visible to me?”
She was talking about meeting the Austrian bodybuilder who became an actor in 1977 after an introduction by NBC News’ Tom Brokaw. Her family had reservations – and voiced them.
“I grew up in this big Democratic family,” she said. “I was taught to believe that people who were Republicans were the enemy and then I fell in love with a Republican.”
Shriver said she “could see people in my family having judgments about the person I was choosing” because he “hadn’t gone to the same kind of schools as the people I grew up with [did and] wasn’t the same political party and wasn’t this and wasn’t that… Then I moved to Los Angeles and my family was like, ‘Oh my God.’ … My mom was like, ‘You’re in Hollywood and that’s terrible.’ I was like, ‘Is it?’ … I feel blessed to have clearly had the parents I had,” she said, also referring to Sargent Shriver, “but they are very different from me,” despite also sharing many similarities.
Shriver said part of her self-growth was also in trying to be “a different kind of mother” and a “different kind of woman” from hers, and “a different kind of woman” in general.
“I wanted a different kind of marriage than my parents,” she said. I wanted to have a different kind of life than my parents and the end of it all definitely sent me on a journey to reevaluate everything in my life. Every aspect of my life. How did I get where I was? What was my role in it? What could I do better? What had I done that brought me to that place? … I’ve looked at everything.”
Today: “I’m going through the world in a different place and in a different way than I was 10 years ago, 15 years ago,” she said.
Shriver said growing up that she couldn’t talk to her parents about a lot of things. There had been two murders in her family. There was a lot they went through that was never talked about and it had an “adverse” impact on her. As an adult, she sought a journalism career that was “chaotic.” She’s looked at it ever since and asked, “Why was I drawn to chaos? … I actually wrote a poem for myself [about being] addicted to chaos… to show myself that it was me and that I could pull myself out of it.
With her now grown children, she sees her home as a “gas station” for them, where they can come back at any time and get food, love, encouragement, and truth.
She said her children’s relationships – including daughter Katherine’s marriage to Chris Pratt – are “so radically different from those of my generation” in terms of “what people expect from a husband or partner these days”. It’s also “very different from what I went into [in my] wedding.”
Her role as a mother is one she is most proud of.
“I always told myself… I knew my kids would end up in therapy at some point, but I knew they wouldn’t be able to say, ‘She wasn’t there,'” she said. “They could say she was this, this, or this, but I didn’t want them to say I chose anything over them. I wanted them to know they were my priority and I wanted them to feel that.”
Shriver and Schwarzenegger separated in 2011 and it took them 10 years to finalize their divorce, which was finalized in December 2021. Since their split, they have made public appearances together at events in support of their children’s projects.