Secrecy is a common reason in Divorce

The majority of the dirty laundry surrounding Arnold Schwarzenegger’s betrayal of his wife, Maria Shriver, continues to be aired – not too long ago on “60 Minutes” and in his memoir, “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story” which hit book shops last week.

The Terminator, and previous govenor of California, discusses how he cheated on his wife, why he never divulged the paternity of his son he fathered together with his family’s long-time housekeeper and covertly provided financial support for the boy.

arnold and maria divorceThat’s the way I handle things and it always has worked,” Schwarzenegger told CBS News’ Lesley Stahl. “It’s not the best thing for people around me … but some information I just keep to myself.”

While few people may explode their marriage as spectacularly as the movie star/former politician, secrecy is a common reason in a lot of divorces, experts say. Infidelities tend to be intertwined with additional lies, including hidden bank accounts and getawayfor continuing liaisons.

“Secrecy is playing out in the celebrity world, but it happens every day in the real world,” said Michelle Hughes, a divorce attorney in Chicago. “No matter how hard you try, it’s very difficult to keep something a secret. And today – with technology – it’s even harder.”

Schwarzenegger managed to keep his extramarital activities under wraps until 2011, just before he stepped down as governor, despite the fact that rumors about his unfaithfulness had circulated for decades. Shriver neively defended her husband, even while his out-of-wedlock child stayed in their home.

“I’m not perfect,” Schwarzenegger conceded on “60 Minutes.”

Howard LeVine, a divorce attorney for more than 40 years, says these movie stars and politicians are not the only ones who act this way.

“Everyone thinks they’re smarter than anyone else. They’ll be the one person who doesn’t get caught,” said LeVine, whose offices are in the Tinley Park section of Chicago. “It’s all about ego.”

Given the narcissistic overlap of the bodybuilding, show business and political worlds in Schwarzenegger’s life, many observers thought it implausible that Shriver – a former journalist – was clueless about her husband’s dalliances. But Fred Hicks, a divorce lawyer with Chicago-based Katten Muchin Rosenman, asserted people will go to great lengths to convince themselves that the unions are deception-free.

“It’s not a question of smarts or socioeconomic level, but the relationship,” Hicks said. “Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, people want to believe that if your spouse tells you something, it’s true … and it happens all the time.”

One of Hicks’ client refused to believe her husband was having an affair. She believed her husband was a workaholic, but after he hired a detective agency, it took less than a day for Hicks to find out that not only was the husband cheating – but his boss was too.

Schwarzenegger’s surreptitious activities weren’t limited to sex. In “Total Recall,” the 65-year-old actor also said that he traveled to Mexico in 1997 for open heart surgery without telling his wife and kept his gubernatorial ambitions to himself until just days prior to the filing deadline.
However when it comes to secrets, adultery tops the list, say lawyers, and in this electronic era, discovery is easier than ever, the lawyers said. Gone are the days when a spouse had to rifle through coat pockets looking for telltale credit card receipts. Email and text messages now provide all the incriminating evidence a mate needs. There’s even inexpensive surveillance software that may be loaded onto a home computer, capturing passwords and snapshots of the screens for a digital “gotcha.”

“Anyone who emails is crazy,” LeVine said. “They are creating their own destruction.”

One suburban woman, who requested her name not be used, learned that her husband was browsing dating websites – even after they decided to reconcile. “I had to know that we were both committed to working hard on our relationship, for the sake of our children … and I discovered we weren’t.”

It was out of concern for damage inflicted on their four children, ages 15 to 22, that Shriver reportedly asked her husband not to write his book, promoted as a “tell-all memoir.”
Divorce is difficult on kids in any circumstances, but when the betrayal is so public, it’s even worse, said Karen Grais Meyer, a North Shore therapist and divorce mediator.

Tweens and early adolescents are in the developmental stage when they view life through a moral lens. They’ll align themselves with the parent they think was wronged, but that also “puts them in a bind” because they love the other parent, Meyer said.

After such a betrayal, “a daughter may wonder ‘Can I trust a man?’ A son may ask, ‘Who is this person? How could they do this to our family?'”

Of course, an observer also must speculate about the effects of the media blitz on Schwarzenegger’s 15-year-old son with the housekeeper, Mildred Baena. He has referred to the liaison as “a huge screw-up” and “the biggest mistake of my life.”

The round of mea culpas are quite a change for a man used to concealing things.

“Secrecy,” he writes, “is just a part of me.”